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Users can break away from their desks and stay connected to the LAN.

It seems these days you can hardly turn a page or click on a link without seeing information on wireless technologies. Most of this information pertains to consumer wireless devices or connectivity options. But there is another wireless-related subject area that is well worth learning about.

I’m talking, of course, about wireless LANs (WLANs). There are two things that make wireless LANs a compelling investment during 2001 and beyond. First, equipment costs (wireless networking cards and access points) have come down quite a bit. Second, as the technology matures, available data rates and transmission ranges continue to increase.

WLANs enable businesses–both large and small–to work in many different ways. For example, you might own and operate a small business that has less than 10 computers and perhaps a single server. Wireless networking lets you share information between computers in a peer-to-peer mode or in client/server mode.

If you only need to support end-users sharing files and data, peer-to-peer wireless networking would be an easy and less costly choice than investing in a complete wired network. You might also use wireless networking in client/server mode in the same way that you use a wired network today. The only real difference between wired and wireless networks exists at the physical networking layer.

If equipped with PCMCIA wireless networking cards, you and your end-users can get together–say in a meeting room–and be connected to the network as though you were in your cubicle or office locations. This functionality will let users work together in a more collaborative manner.

WLAN technology can also link to your wired network using an access point device. These devices can help you or your network administrators increase security and better manage access to data, applications, and network traffic.

Security is actually improved by using WLAN technology. Most WLAN products let you control access to the network via the physical device address. This added management takes place before the user can even log on. You can specify which WLAN devices are authorized and allow only those devices access to the network.

At the lowest layers of a WLAN, data is typically transmitted by either hopping across different frequencies or by interspersing special codes within the data. Even if an intruder did get physical access to your WLAN, he or she would have to guess the frequencies or codes used to be able to get at your data.

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