What is Wireless network and how does it work?
Over the past couple of years, we have witnessed the world becoming increasingly more mobile, particularly when it comes to networking. Networking is the act of connecting various devices together so that they can communicate. Remember the conventional ways of networking, where users had to connect physical cables? Well, that’s no longer an option in today’s digital world, mostly because it inhibits movements and flexibility, and also quite frankly, it can’t fully address the majority of the challenges that we face today.
In today’s world, as wireless networks became popular among consumers due to their ease-of-use while traveling around without being constrained by fixed locations, it only made sense that these technologies would eventually replace wired connections when more people began relying heavily on mobile phones instead of desktop computers during work hours. Clearly, the introduction of wireless networking has many advantages. But before we talk about those benefits, let’s take some time to understand what exactly is meant by the term “networking?”
What is networking?
Basically, when talking of networking, we refer to the interconnection of computer devices such as computers, printers, or fax so as to ‘communicate’ with each other, or in other words, operate systematically together. For these devices to transmit media or directions, people used to use wires and cables. For instance, in an office setting that’s under Local Area Networks (LAN), computers are interconnected via communication cables. In such networks, it is possible for one device to be connected to almost every device in that office, all thanks to wires and communication cables. Now, networking can be both wired and wireless.
What is wireless networking?
To put it simply, when we talk of wireless networking, we are basically referring to when devices remain connected to a network without any attached cables. So, unlike wired networks, you don’t need cables to be able to connect to the internet. This is made possible by Wi-Fi signals that are amplified by access points, meaning that the computer can be far from the access point, or router, and still be connected to the network – regardless of where you may be.
Why go wireless?
Wireless networks, regardless of the built-in protocols or the kind of information they bring, do offer some significant benefits to the users. They include:
Convenience – the fact that you can be able to access your network from any location, so long as it’s within the network’s coverage, is the best thing about wireless networks.
Mobility – wireless networking allows you to move around, and still remain connected to the network – so you are not tied down to one place. However, you still need to be within an area that’s within the coverage area.
Productivity – with wireless networks, not only does it give an employee easier access to the internet as well as the company’s key application, but it also boosts productivity, as it encourages collaboration.
Expandability – unlike wired networks where you will need to do additional wiring when you want to add more devices, with wireless networks, you can expand to as many devices as you would want without any hassle – just provided that the network can handle many devices.
Easy to set up – the fact that you are not dealing with wires and cables in wireless networking means that the setup process is often relatively easy.
Cost-efficiency – with wireless networks, you will no longer have wiring expenses, or better yet, the cost will be significantly reduced. This is unlike wired networks where you will have to invest heavily in the wiring.
Security – as wireless networks continue to advance, the security protections continue to evolve as well, which means that your devices are fully protected from any form of cyber threat.
What are the various types of wireless networks?
LAN – Local-Area Network (LAN) is basically a computer network that can only be accessed on a single site, like in an office building. In that space, you can connect a variety of components, including computers, printers, as well as storage devices. LAN does contain a number of components including access points, switches, routers, firewalls, as well as Ethernet cables. Wi-Fi is the most common wireless LAN.
PAN – in simple words, a personal-area network is a type of network that is used on devices of a single person and on a single location. It could involve devices like the individual’s computers, video game consoles, phones, and other peripheral devices. These forms of networks are common in a small space, like an office or a home. The most common wireless PAN is Bluetooth.
MAN – Metropolitan-Area Network (MAN) is a computer network that can cover an entire school campus or a large geographical area, like a town. Technically, MAN and LAN are similar, with the only difference being the size of the area being covered. While LAN covers a single building, MAN covers several square miles. So, MAN is always recommended for large companies that have a large geographical area that they are looking to cover, or in a school.
WAN – WAN stands for Wide-Area Network, which is a form of a network that covers a large area, like an entire city or state, or even country. WAN can contain smaller networks such as MAN or LAN. We can say the internet is a WAN, as it covers the entire world. Also, cellular networks are the most common wireless WANs.
How to set up a wireless network?
Are you looking to set up a wireless network, whether at home or for your business? If so, here is a step-by-step guide on how to do it. Now, first and foremost, you need to get the right equipment, and basically, this is what you will need:
Wireless router – the first thing you will need to have is a router that transmits info between the internet and your network. A wireless router allows you to connect your devices with your network using frequency signals rather than wires.
Broadband internet connection and modem – this is basically a high-speed internet connection, which you can get by contacting an internet service provider (ISP). ISPs could either be telephone companies or cable TV companies. The ISPs will also provide broadband modems, while others offer combination modem/wireless routers. These devices can be found in local electronic stores as well as online.
Wireless network adapter or a network interface card – this is a device that connects your devices to a wireless network. You cannot connect your PC or desktop without a wireless network adapter, but the good news is, adapters come installed in most of these devices, so you don’t need to worry.
Setting up modem and internet connection
Once everything is ready, you will need to set up the modem and internet connection. In most cases, the service provider is the one who sets it up for you, but if it didn’t happen, you just need to follow the instructions manual that came with the modem to connect it to the internet. If you are using a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) you just need to connect your modem to a phone jack. And if it’s a cable that you are using, connect the cable to the modem.
Position the wireless router
After connecting your modem to the internet, you will now find a good place to put your wireless router. Keep in mind though that the place you choose should give you the strongest signal and with the least amount of interference. Here are some very helpful tips when it comes to positioning your router:
- Ensure that place it in a central location – in order to increase the strength of the signal received, you will need to ensure that the router is as centrally located as possible within the home. Also, this will guarantee the distribution of the network signal throughout the home.
- Don’t position the wireless router on the floor, walls, or close to metal objects, simply because these are the objects that do inhibit the strength of the signal. We are guessing that you need the signal to be in full strength, right?
- Reduce interference – most of the networking equipment has a frequency of 2.4GHz, which is similar to that of many devices in a home such as microwaves and cordless phones. Now, what this means is that if you were to use these devices together at the same time – let’s say you turn on the microwave and you are probably on the phone through the cordless phone – there is a possibility that your wireless network signal. So, to avoid some of these interferences, how about you consider using a phone with a high frequency. All may be avoiding using all the devices that could cause interference at once.
Secure your wireless network
The last stage in setting up wireless networks is to secure them from unauthorised users. The fact that it is wireless means that everyone within the vicinity can be able to access your network. And that means any hacker can take advantage and get into your computer. So, securing your network is very important, and here is how you can do it:
- Set up a password for your router – for starters, a password helps protect your router. Normally, the router comes with a default username and password, which if not changed immediately, anyone can access your router without you knowing. So, immediately you set up your wireless network, it’s recommended that you change the default details and set up a unique password.
- Secure your wireless network – to protect your network from unauthorised access, you will need to set up a security key, or password, as well. We recommend a Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) security to protect it. However, you need to make sure that your router supports this type of security. You will find some routers supports WPA2, while others support WPS.
- Keep the passwords/security keys in a safe place. You got to protect it from unauthorised access.
- Consider using a firewall – a firewall is basically hardware or software that you can use to protect your devices from malicious software or unauthorised users. Given this fact, using a firewall to safeguard your network will certainly protect your network from malicious software, more so help protect your devices while browsing through the internet.
How do wireless networks work exactly?
Ideally, wireless networks pretty much serve the same purpose as wired networks – which is to connect a group of devices. The only difference is that while wired networks require wires to function, wireless networks don’t, which is the primary advantage, and mostly the reason why everyone should upgrade. After all, who wants a situation where you keep dragging wires all over the place – on the floor, walls, or even ceilings?
Now, as we mentioned earlier, wireless networks use Radio Frequency (RF) technology to operate. This frequency is a form of radio wave propagation that’s within an electromagnetic spectrum. See, when the frequency is supplied to an antenna, an electromagnetic field is generated, which can then be spread through space.
Right at the core of wireless networks is a system referred to as access points (AP), whose primary role is to broadcast a wireless signal that’s sensed and tuned into by devices. Moreover, wireless networks and wired networks are typically interlinked, and as a result, access points act as a gateway to the wired networks resources.
For devices to be able to connect to an access point, they need to be fitted with wireless network adapters or interface cards, which is what enables them to join a wireless network. In most devices, the adapters or interface cards are built-in on the device, but if your device doesn’t have any of them, you can always use an add-on adapter that is attached to an empty expansion slot, thereby making your device wireless-capable.
Are there are any disadvantages to wireless networks?
Of course, you might be wondering, after everything you just read about wireless networks, are there any disadvantages when it comes to using them? The answer is, yes, there are! When it comes to technology, it has its benefits, and it also has its limitations – but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, of course. Now, here are some of the disadvantages of wireless networks:
Costs – yes as we mentioned earlier, wireless networks are typically inexpensive, however, where you feel the pinch when it comes to these networks is during installation and setting up. It is way expensive compared to wired networks.
Dependability – wireless networks are very much susceptible to interference from radiation, radio signals, as well as other high-frequency signals, causing them to malfunction.
Speed – sometimes, when they are overcrowded, wireless networks tend to be slower, which can be frustrating at times.
Security – even though there has been a lot of progress in terms of wireless networks security measures, hackers are also evolving, and that means there is always a risk when using these networks. But with proper measures put in place, you significantly reduce the chance of an attack happening.
We can conclude by saying that, in general, wireless networks are the way to go as we head into the future, and the early you upgrade, the better for you. Remove the baggage of wires from your home or office, and enjoy a network that allows you to operate your devices from anywhere. After all, the comfort and convenience you get is something worth investing in the modern world.