Russ Levanway, CEO, Tektegrity

You can find a wireless connection just about anywhere these days, and it sure is convenient. But is wireless the best choice for your company’s network?

It’s tempting to configure an entire office to work from a wireless network, especially if you’re in an older building that hasn’t been wired to accommodate a network. Why bother wiring a whole building when setting up a system with wireless access points seems so easy?

First, you should know that a wireless network will never offer the speed or reliability of a wired network. Wireless works great in situations where you need intermittent or short periods of connectivity and is great for laptops and other wireless devices.  However, running your computer all day, every day off a wireless network can result in significant trade-offs in terms of speed and reliability.

Also, configuring an efficient wireless network is not as easy as it “ought to be.” While a small office or home office may be able to get away with a consumer or home grade system, the number of connections it can accommodate will be limited. Physical issues such as building construction and configuration can also interfere. A consumer grade system will not offer the coverage, performance, or expansion potential found in a commercial grade wireless solution.

Adding access points to expand a consumer networking system can result in overlapping signals, confusing your devices. Also, in most cases your computer or wireless device will try to connect first to the most recently used access point. If you had a strong signal in your office, but are now at the other end of the building in the conference room, your machine will still try to connect through the slower degraded signal coming from the access point near your office. The fact that the conference room has a separate access point does not mean your computer will connect to it automatically.

Making the move to a business grade wireless networking system makes a huge difference. One that offers a single wireless ID across all access points will allow your machine to hop between them with no interruption and get you closer to the speed and reliability of a wired connection. Of course, a solution like this can be a significant investment.  Depending on the building and existing infrastructure, you could spend nearly the same on a business-class wireless network that you would on a wired one.

Also, let’s not forget about security. A wireless network is inherently less secure than a wired one, even though today’s encryption technology is better than ever. If you rely on a wireless network that’s more than a few years old, ask your IT professionals to review its security. Older encryption technologies are vulnerable to being compromised or hacked.  Also, make sure the wireless password is secure and cannot be guessed easily by someone walking by your office.

Wireless technology is amazing and powerful. It’s wonderful being in a meeting room that provides a connection for everyone attending. It’s great for mobile devices and a nice convenience for visitors.  That being said, we generally don’t recommend a wireless solution as a complete replacement for a wired one.  And because all wireless solutions are not created equal, we strongly recommend getting expert advice on the best type of system to deploy in your office.

For most of TekTegrity’s clients, the ideal network offers a combination of wired and wireless access, allowing each user a connection that works best for their usage, equipment and work style. Your IT professionals can help you identify and review the best options for your organization.

Russ Levanway is the CEO of TekTegrity, an IT Managed Services Provider serving the Central Coast and Central Valley. The organization’s Total Systems Management™ (TSM) service model provides preventative IT support at fixed monthly fee levels. For more information, visit www.tektegrity.com.