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View Full Version : Wireless networking for smallish business - opinions?



robo
12-05-2004, 04:57 PM
Believe it or not, I haven't worked on any sites where they use 802.11a,b or g. I don't know anyone off the top of my head that has.

Someone I know is about to spend $2,000 on upgrading coax network cable to twisted pair and I thought "hang on, why waste money on wire?".

I would like comments from any F1er on this subject, specifically:

-performance
-reliability (for business, especially accounting, this is a biggie
-interference with other office devices (cordless phones, cellphones, jetstream, sky, cordless mice, faxes, coffee machines)
-preference for a,b, or g.
-security (would be on an NT validated domain, but could give access to internet if someone wanted to steal bandwidth, NT box is actually not IP aware (doesn't run TCPIP protocol if I remember rightly))

It would be nice if people could back up their comments and opinions with reasons, but all (proper) suggestions will be gratefully received.

robo.
PS Just because this is for me, does not mean that nice people contributing suggestions would get my attention for any prizes. That would be bribery.
PPS The fact that I have a nice 256Mb San Disk Cruzer Mini memory key to give away as well should not be considered a factor either. Or a Mamacall Netphone.
PPPS There is definitely no cuddly toy or set of steak knives involved, either.

Graham L
12-05-2004, 05:17 PM
I know it's good to be up to date and using the latest gear, but there's still a lot to be said for good old string (wire).

This seems to be a reasonably big installation -- a few hundred metres of cable -- so there are likely to be a few walls/floors/lift wells around. Any of these can cause problems with radio systems. Properly installed wire works all the time.

Accounting information is probably confidential. Every packets going through a radio system are being radiated. And can be picked up by people outside. The Germans were using state of the art encryption (Enigma) over radio in WW2. One of the reasons for this was that they didn't have to spend time laying telephone wires. It meant that every message they sent was written down by the British. And many of them were decoded and read. (Sometimes the BP people were doing so well that they read messages before the intended recipient did.)

From what I read, the encryption on the wireless systems is not too safe. The users might not like the overheads and inconvenience of extra layers of encryption which might be needed to get good enough security. I don't think "bandwidth theft" is a real problem compared to this.

I might be a cynic. Cellphone manufacturers said they were untappable. Ask Charles Windsor about that. And get a medium to ask Di.

godfather
12-05-2004, 05:31 PM
I use wireless here in this home office, for my laptop only though.

It works reliably if you do not want to leave the area of the house, range is about 30m max.

However I know of several colleagues that have constant disconnections from their wireless networks even at very close range. This problem seems endemic if Google is to be believed and only a few of the suggested fixes seem to work for those afflicted.

I too therefore prefer wires for speed, security and reliability.

Murray P
12-05-2004, 05:40 PM
I agree with GL & GF.

The only places where wireless should be considered is where you can't run cable without a major effort or say, for a home office which doesn't usually have supended ceilings/floors/service ducts but does have other occupants who may be a bit miffed if you run cable around the lounge ;).

Cheers Murray P

robo
12-05-2004, 05:52 PM
Cost of new cable plus switch is around $2200.
Cost of new access point and seven network cards is anywhere between $1000 to $2000 depending if we got tri-mode etc.
They put in coax about a year before everyone started installing twisted pair. Just seems silly to put in cable if there is no need.
However, getting the feeling that wireless is great to use for five minutes, in a review situation, or perhaps for surfing and email where security and reliability aren't an issue.
Any contrary views?
robo.

Murray P
12-05-2004, 06:14 PM
"Nobody ever got sacked for recommending Big Blue". Although that may not be as true as it once was, for most business' reliability, safety/security and ease of introduction to the workforce comes first.

One exception is the not uncommon complaint "but it was the @%&* accounts department that advised to run with xyz instead of abc". (with deference to your expertise in that area robo). Although not in IT a large proportion of my business is derived from picking up the peices after cost (only) based decisions have been made.

And, bearing in mind I know sod all about WiFi.

Cheers Murray P

TazzieNZ
12-05-2004, 07:59 PM
I have recently entered into the world of wireless in my corner of the world. I have found pros and cons to it.

At this stage I am only using it for my laptop, I don't really see an advantage using with the desktops as they don't move around whereas the laptop does. I have opted to go with 802.11g and the range isn't as good as I would like but is nothing a booster wouldn't fix.

Part of the problem is that as an evolving technology I still wouldn't use it as the primary form of networking, not yet anyway.

I think the security issues are overhyped, if people take the time to do their homework and set it up properly it can be very secure. The problem is people don't seem to spend the time researching before they set up a wlan.

I made sure that I purchased hardware that supported wep/tkip and mac address registration and also ensured that the SSID isn't broadcast. Even if someone could discover my WAP there would be no way they could get on the network. The extra security does add some overhead to the system but it is worth it.

Summary:
I wouldn't use it for the main network.
I would have an access point for laptops etc.
Spend the time learning about the security options available.

_mike_
12-05-2004, 08:53 PM
My main experience with wireless has been with access points which supplement the main lan, providing access for laptops as per a couple of posts above (and running on 802.11b). The only comments I would make are:

- There have been no issues with interference or reliability in a busy office - printers, faxes, cordless phones, coffee machines and all ;-)

- Lifts, large amounts of concrete and steel do limit coverage.

- In an open plan office, a wireless access point could provide great flexibility. Given the performance of laptops these days, the firm could replace desktops with laptops when it roles out new kit and really have a fluid working environment - though maybe this is not a huge selling factor for accountants, unless they take work home.

- Growth: additional staff would not require more cabling installed if a wlan was in place

- Security: As above, provided the hardware supports encryption and it is enforced, this should not be a negative factor when looking at the wireless option - it simply has to be properly installed.

/just my 2 or 5c/