Basic Wireless Concept

In the previous chapters, you learned how switch functions can facilitate interconnecting devices on a wired network. Typical business networks make extensive use of wired networks. Physical connections are made between computer systems, phone systems, and other peripheral devices to switches located in the wiring closets.
Managing a wired infrastructure can be challenging. Consider what happens when a worker decides they prefer their computer system in a different location in their office, or when a manager wants to bring a notebook to a meeting room and connect to the network there. In a wired network, you need to move the network connection cable to a new location in the worker's office and make sure there is a network connection available in the meeting room. To avoid these physical changes, wireless networks are becoming more and more common.
In this chapter, you will learn how wireless local area networks (WLANs) offer businesses a flexible networking environment. You will learn the different wireless standards available today and the features that each standard offers. You will learn which hardware components are typically necessary in a wireless infrastructure, how WLANs operate, and how to secure them. Finally, you will learn how to configure a wireless access point and a wireless client.
Why have Wireless LANs Become so Popular?
Business networks today are evolving to support people who are on the move. Employees and employers, students and faculty, government agents and those they serve, sports fans and shoppers, all are mobile and many of them are "connected." Perhaps you have a mobile phone that you route instant messages to when you are away from your computer. This is the vision of mobility-an environment where people can take their connection to the network along with them on the road.
There are many different infrastructures (wired LAN, service provider networks) that allow mobility like this to happen, but in a business environment, the most important is the WLAN.
Productivity is no longer restricted to a fixed work location or a defined time period. People now expect to be connected at any time and place, from the office to the airport or even the home. Traveling employees used to be restricted to pay phones for checking messages and returning a few phone calls between flights. Now employees can check e-mail, voice mail, and the status of products on personal digital assistants (PDAs) while at many temporary locations.
At home, many people have changed the way they live and learn. The Internet has become a standard service in many homes, along with TV and phone service. Even the method of accessing the Internet has quickly moved from temporary modem dialup service to dedicated DSL or cable service. Home users are seeking many of the same flexible wireless solutions as office workers. For the first time, in 2005, more Wi-Fi-enabled mobile laptops were purchased than fixed-location desktops.
In addition to the flexibility that WLANs offer, another important benefit is reduced costs. For example, with a wireless infrastructure already in place, savings are realized when moving a person within a building, reorganizing a lab, or moving to temporary locations or project sites. On average, the IT cost of moving an employee to a new location within a site is $375 (US dollars).
Another example is when a company moves into a new building that does not have any wired infrastructure. In this case, the savings resulting from using WLANs can be even more noticeable, because the cost of running cables through walls, ceilings, and floors is largely avoided.
Though harder to measure, WLANs can result in better productivity and more relaxed employees, leading to better results for customers and increased profits.
Wireless LANs
In the previous chapters, you learned about switch technologies and functions. Most current business networks rely on switch-based LANs for day-to-day operation inside the office. However, workers are becoming more mobile and want to maintain access to their business LAN resources from locations other than their desks. Workers in the office want to take their laptops to meetings or to a co-worker's office. When using a laptop in another location, it is inconvenient to rely on a wired connection. In this topic, you will learn about wireless LANs (WLANs) and how they benefit a business. You will also explore the security concerns associated with WLANs.
Portable communications have become an expectation in many countries around the world. You can see portability and mobility in everything from cordless keyboards and headsets, to satellite phones and global positioning systems (GPS). The mix of wireless technologies in different types of networks allows workers to be mobile.


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