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Wireless Networking

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Wireless Networking

The term wireless networking is a technology that enables two or more computers to communicate using standard network protocols without network cabling. The industry standard mainly used for wireless networking is IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers) 802.11. What this standard is could be described as a wireless network with hardware that requires the use of technology, which deals with radio frequencies as well as data transmission.

There are two kinds of wireless networks, Ad-Hoc (Peer to Peer), or access point (base station). Ad-Hoc (Peer to Peer) consists of a number of computers each equipped with a wireless networking interface card. Each computer can communicate to other wireless enabled computers. They can share files and printers, but may not be able access wired LAN resources unless one computer acts as a bridge to connect to a wired LAN.

Access points (base stations) can be hardware based or software based. The hardware based access point is a separate component connected to a wired Ethernet network and or server via an interface card. Software based access points can be a computer operating with software installed and is connected to a wired Ethernet network with an interface card. The benefits of software access points are there are fewer components, easier to set up, more cost effective, and have more built in features.

Many manufacturers of wireless equipment can function with each other using IEEE 802.11 standards. There are two different methods for wireless communication, Frequency Hopping (FH) and Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS or DS). It is important to check which of these two methods are being used because they can not work together. The latest version of the IEEE 802.11 standard is 11 mbps and 5.5 mbps (mega bits per second), with support for the older standard of one mbps and two mbps speeds. This new standard only covers Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum, not Frequency Hopping types. It is expected that the price of wireless networking interface cards to become inexpensive like the Ethernet cards.

If your computer is connected to a wireless LAN, you can communicate to a wired LAN. You would need some sort of bridge between the wired and wireless LAN. You would need hardware or software based access point. Hardware access points are available with various types of network interfaces such as Ethernet or Token Ring, but may need extra hardware if the network requirements change. If networking requirements go beyond just interconnecting a wired network to a small wireless network, a software based access point would probably be the best solution.

A software access point does not limit the type or number of network interfaces you use. It is very flexible in providing access to different network types such as different types of Ethernet, Wireless, and Token Ring networks.

As mentioned before, software access points can offer more features like Internet access, web caching or content filtering, which are useful to some users and administrators.

The range of a wireless network is finite. With this limitation overlapping of access points are needed for seamless use. Use of wireless networking indoors can range from 150 to 300 feet; outdoor range can be up to 1000 feet (depending on vender of equipment). Other variables of performance are the environment and building construction. The further you are from an access point the performance will also degrade.

Multiple access points are needed for roaming building a steady network connection by monitoring the signal strength from in range access points and locking on to the one with the best quality. The amount of connections that can use an access point depends on the manufacturer. Some are limited to ten and other more expensive access point's support up to one hundred connections. Using more computers than recommended will degrade the performance and reliability



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