For the vast majority of companies technology is little more than a necessary evil, which is only relevant in terms of what it can do to deliver business benefits.
This is certainly true of wireless local area networks (Lans), and it's important to keep this fact in mind rather than falling prey to the considerable hype surrounding the technology.
One thing is clear: the market is growing at a rapid pace. Wireless Lan products will enjoy sales growth of more than 60 per cent through to 2006, according to recent research from market experts at Infonetics Research.
The analyst said that international revenues from wireless hardware - primarily based on the 802.11 standard ? would reach $2.72bn in 2006, up from $1.68bn in 2002.
In the case of wireless Lans, at least some of the hype may be justified. The all-pervasive nature of networking among competitive businesses, and the fantastic growth in internet and online service adoption, are facts that cannot be ignored.
Using wireless Lans company employees can access network information without having to be tied to a desk with an Ethernet plug.
This has obvious benefits for companies with limited space looking to implement hot desking. From an infrastructure point of view wireless Lans can save big money.
Network managers don't need to install or move Cat 5 cabling to create access points. This is especially important for a growing company taking on more and more employees.
With a traditional wired infrastructure, a new connection would need, at the very least, cabling between the client and server or hub/switch every time a new client is installed.
With wireless Lans all the network manager needs to do to add a new computer to the network is place a wireless PCI card into the PC and configure access to the wireless access point.
In addition, wireless Lans allow network connectivity in areas where wired connections would just not be feasible.
Wireless Lans will usually offer reduced total cost of ownership. In calculating any costs and benefits it's vital to look beyond the initial capital outlay for hardware and work out the total incremental costs across the life span of the equipment.
While it's certainly true that the initial investment required for wireless networking hardware will be orders of magnitude higher than the cost of traditional wired hardware, overall installation expenses and operating costs will generally be significantly lower.
So over the long term, cost benefits outweigh initial investment. These savings will tend to be greatest in dynamic environments requiring frequent moves and changes in network infrastructure.
In addition to these cost benefits wireless Lans offer advantages in term of improved scalability. The systems can be configured in a variety of topologies to address the needs of specific companies or departments.
Because the set-ups are easily changed, they can grow from a simple peer-to-peer environment suitable for a small workgroup, right up to full infrastructure networks supporting thousands of users.
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