While the wired world has given us fast network connections, it chains us to the desk and just isn't convenient any more. Think of the number of times you have been in a meeting room or sat in a cafe unable to jack into a wall socket to get some work done.
Fortunately, the days of being chained to the desk are coming to an end thanks to the wireless local area network (Lan). The name is exactly as it sounds and means that the physical cable of old is ditched for more mobile-friendly radio waves.
Wireless Lans first arrived in the mid-1990s and delivered a paltry 1Mbps of bandwidth through the IEEE 802.11 standard. Unfortunately, as well as being slow, kit from different manufacturers wouldn't work with each other.
Things turned around with the introduction of the Wi-Fi standard, which ensures compatibility between all products bearing the name. It is also likely to be the name by which you know wireless Lans.
With compatibility in place, work soon developed on the 802.11b standard. This bumped up transmission speeds to a respectable 11Mbps and is the most common form of wireless Lan. Recently, the 802.11a standard was created to increase transmission speeds to 54Mbps, but don't hold your breath for it in this country as the Radio Authority has yet to pass it.
In the meantime, the mass proliferation of 802.11b equipment can show us the benefits of the technology. Dumping the need for a cable makes working a lot easier.
In a meeting room, for example, delegates can simply turn on their laptops and get a connection without having to trail cables across the floor. Extend this technology to a reception and guests at your company can get some work done using your internet connection.
However, it is a double-edged sword. Wireless Lans have little respect for walls and will happily broadcast outside your building. A hacker with a little knowledge could stand outside and use your bandwidth to hook into the internet.
Security, therefore, is a key factor. The media has been quick to jump on the technology and call it insecure. But, like any new technology, it is only insecure if the correct steps to secure it are not taken.
For confidence in the technology look no further than BT Wireless which is currently installing hot-spots across the country. These allow the weary traveller to hook wirelessly into the internet, for a fee of course. Hot-spots will cover places including hotels, Starbucks coffee shops and train stations.
This use of wireless Lans is one of the key benefits of the technology. With very little effort any mobile worker can get access to a fast network to enable them to work.
The problem of working out how to get hold of email on the move can effectively be eliminated. For anyone who's ever run up a huge phone bill using a mobile phone to connect to the internet, this can only be a good thing.
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