Arguably one of the most epic accomplishments of the 21st century was the invention of the computer and the subsequent creation of computer networks. These two entities have virtually transformed the world as far as information processing and communication is concerned. The interconnection capability of computer systems can arguably be described as the feature which makes them most versatile and invaluable to their users. This being the case, the network functionality of computing systems has been exploited by organizations and individuals alike as efficient local and global communications became the defining attribute of success. As such, the creation of networks is key to any interconnected computing system. A network may be created that uses cables (wired connection) or that uses radio waves (wireless network). Each of this connection options has its own inherent merits and demerits. This paper shall argue that wireless networks are hugely beneficial owing to their numerous advantages. To reinforce this claim, a detailed look at some of the merits of wireless networks will be undertaken.
Merits of Wireless Networks
We live in an age where speed and ease of use are desirable attributes. Cardei (2005) reveals that the amount of time required to set up a wireless network infrastructure is significantly less than that required to set up wired networks. This is because some of the Wireless LANs are manufactured as plug and play systems making them easy to install even for novices. Expansion of wireless networks is also easy since the network medium is literally everywhere provided it is within race of the Access Point. Also, wireless networks are easy to move around and as such, an organization can set up an adhoc wireless station for use on a temporal basis for a certain project (Rackley, 2007). On completing the project, the wireless network can be brought down with relative ease and reused at another location if need be. The relative ease in deployment of wireless networks makes them economical since the capital investment is not as daunting and expensive as that for elaborate wired networks.
Wireless networks also afford the use with mobility that cannot be rivaled by wired networks. Gast (2005) states that the main advantage of wireless networks stems from the fact that they are built with the consideration that while data is usually store centrally, most users may want to move while accessing it. So long as one is within the range of an Access Point (AP), he/she can enjoy wireless connectivity. This means that one can move around and still be a part of a network. This is as opposed to a wired network where one has to have his/her device physically plugged into a network by use of a cable. This limits the flexibility of the user and therefore makes wired networks inappropriate for professions where mobility is needed.
Wireless networks are less costly in the long run as compared to wired networks. This low cost is a fairly recent development and Malone (2004) reveals that as of the year 2001, wireless LANs and WLANs were rare and limited to only large institutes as wireless devices such as integrated routers and access points were non-existent and the cost of laptops was prohibitive to individuals and most medium size to small corporations. This resulted in many people shying away from wireless technology since it was not cost effective. However, the hardware cost of wireless networks has greatly reduced over the years to a cost that can be comfortably afforded by even the small organizations. This compounded with the advancement in technology has led to the reduction of infrastructure costs for setting up wireless networks. It has therefore become economically feasible for individuals and organizations alike to join or implement WLAN’s at a cost that rivals the wired network.
In all networks, the assurance of security to data as it is transmitted along the network is a matter of great importance. As such, the network that offers greatest security assurance is preferable to one that is vulnerable to security threats. Wireless networks can use WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) to provide security for the network. This is a wireless encryption standard that provides wireless LAN users with a high level of assurance that their data transmitted over the radio link will remain protected through encryption and authentication (Wi-Fi Alliance, 2004). While it has been acknowledged that encryption is not an airtight form of security as it still has various vulnerabilities, encrypting of communication will protect the users from opportunistic intruders as well as protect any vital information since a hacker will have to sieve through a substantial amount of data for his trouble. However, for organizations whose data is of a highly confident nature and the compromising of the same would lead to dire consequence, extra measures have to be implemented to secure the network.
Demerits of Wireless Networks
Perhaps one of the most significant disadvantages of wireless networks is that they are susceptible to interference as compared to wired networks. At any given time, varying amounts of radio interference exist around us. This makes Radio Frequency Interference an issue with wireless networks. Most WLAN’s make use of the IEEE 802.11b standard that uses an unlicensed radio spectrum. As such, this channel is shared by other consumer devices such as baby monitors and cordless phones. Owing to the fact that most wireless networks are set up in residential area, the WLAN is bound to experience some interference from the consumer devices (Edwards & Bramante 2001). This issue can be overcome by the IT personnel conducting a scan of the area before setting up the network so as to tell if there are any potential problems in existence (Otani, 2002). If too much interference is detected, using of products that operate at a different frequency may help minimize the interference thus increasing the performance ability of the WLAN set up.
Another demerit of wireless networks is that they are much inferior to wired connections in terms of speed (Cardei, 2005). The reason for this is that wireless connections are subjected to many random disturbances over the wireless channel which results in the scattering of the signal. There is also the unpredictability of wireless channels due to the limited coordination among transmissions in a given geographical area which results in high signal interference between transmission (Cardei, 2005). This inefficiency of the wireless networks results in higher costs for data transferring as compared to wired networks which are significantly more stable and have minimal interference.
The numerous advantages afforded by the wireless network have seen it rapidly grow from being used by a minority of the population to universal usage. This has resulted in many telecommunication companies investing heavily in the wireless networks resulting in lowed prices for the consumer and better services. The surging demand for wireless networks has also resulted in the establishment of standards to regulate the networks as well as an increase in the amount of bandwidth available in wireless networks so as to increase their efficiency (Cardei, 2004). These moves have made wireless networks in some instances preferable to the traditional wired network.
However, there are demerits that are associated with wireless networks that threaten to impede the success that they have acquired. Wireless networks are relatively young as compared to wired networks which have been in existence for decades. As such, some of the problems that are being experienced such as interference and low speeds can be viewed as teething problems which are bound to go away are the wireless networks mature. For example, while wireless network speeds were limited to 2Mbps in the last decade, they quickly moved to 54Mbps as the 802.11 standard has been adopted (Lowe, 2007). Once these problems are dealt with, wireless networks will be the most desirable mode of connection for all people.
This paper set out to illustrate that wireless networks are immensely advantageous and should therefore be given preference over other kinds of networks. To reinforce this assertion, a detailed discussion as to the various advantages attributed to wireless networks have been articulated. However, the paper has also noted that the implementation of this communication network is not without its limitations. From the discussions provided in this paper, it is evident that the relative benefits of a wireless network far outweigh the costs. However, one should not forget that the inherent demerits of a wireless network if not properly handled may lead to negative outcomes for the user.
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Gast, M. (2005). 802.11 Wireless Networks: the Definitive Guide. USA: O’Reilly Media, Inc.
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