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Reliability, Security, and Coverage

Most Wireless LANs protocols include mechanisms to improve the reliability of the packet transmissions to be at the same level or even better than Ethernet. If you are using a protocol such as TCP, you will be fully protected against any loss or corruption of data over the air. Copying a file across wireless cannot result in corruption of the file.

Wireless Area Coverage
The propagation of wireless transmissions is influenced by many factors. Walls and floors tend to decrease and reflect the signal, and background noise makes it more difficult to extract. Therefore, the channel quality of the transmission may vary.

Depending on the quality of reception, the error rate will vary, or the system may switch to a more robust and slower mode. Thus, the actual throughput will vary from excellent to average, or, occasionally, less.

Because of the way wireless transmissions are affected by the environment, it is quite difficult to predict the exact reception parameters of the system, and to define the exact range at any given time. Approximations are helpful and, at best, optimistic.

Because they use radio waves or infrared, wireless LANs are usually perceived as a security problem. Network identifiers usually provide protection against casual users intercepting data.

Network administrators ensure security by using encryption. You may want to increase the security of your system. Some Wireless LANs offer encryption which is designed for those concerned users and target security equivalent to a having an Ethernet cable. Some systems offer even tighter encryption packages. Each packet transmitted over the network is individually encrypted. This encryption is totally transparent to the higher layer and the user just needs to set the same encryption key in the access point and all nodes of the network. The ultimate encryption is IPsec or SSL. Ask your administrator about these options.

NOTE: There is not any one unique standard like Ethernet with a guaranteed compatibility between all devices, but many proprietary standards are sold by each independent vendor and can be incompatible between themselves.

Wireless LANs are very appealing. One advantage is relocation - moving or relocating as networks grow or if you move your residence or business. You do not have to leave behind your investment in networks when geographical changes occur. Because there's no wiring, you can take your system with you. When you move or relocate, you can set up the system and save money on installation. Wireless LANs are typically easier to set up than wired LANs because users don't have to deal with making connections among cables.

A handheld device that integrates voice-over-IP communications, a bar-code laser scanner, embedded client software, and a wireless LAN radio card, can tap into a company's inventory database to check on a product while talking with the customer. Clarity is generally good to excellent, although there are variations according to range and areas of roaming.

Mobility for communications is a significant plus. Whenever away from your phone or PC, you still retain your connection to the network. Note that mobility is limited by the range of the Wireless LAN. To extend the range, you must cover the area with access points, which very often include roaming. If you want to move across IP subnets, then consider Mobile IP.

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