Wireless Access Points

 

Wireless Accesspoint Buying Advice

Wlan Router

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We're here to help you buy a wireless accesspoint. We've got advice and information about all the latest routers. We discuss the features and specifications you need to look for, and explain the difference between the technologies.

It's worth making sure you spend wisely. To make it easier, we answer discussed some important features you should consider when you buy a wlan router:

Alternatively, go straight to any of these to read more:

What is Wireless LAN?

Unshackling the computer user from the desk has been a dream in the waiting. Sitting at any location outside your office or home, and connecting to your office network or surfing the Internet via a laptop has been a true road warriors dream. The seamless integration of a sales executives laptop with the network in his office, or accessing the Internet from a local provider has changed the way business functions. Up until a few years back, this was not possible without a host of accessories and software, as each country or state had their own proprietary telecommunication and Internet access software.But now with the development of Wireless LAN or Wireless Local Area Network, and Wi-Fi or Wireless Fidelity, the road warrior has never had it so easy. Laptops equipped with a processor designed specifically for this functionality can now auto detect the frequency available and log on. This is not only being confined to Laptops, Manufacturers have developed PC Cards that slip onto a Motherboard, thus enabling Desktop Computers to go Wireless. This helps, as additional cable need not be laid to accommodate the new Computers on a network, either at home or at the work place. Not only is it easy now to setup a few machines networked in your home or office but also share common facilities such as Printers, Broadband Connections, Storage, External CD-Readers and Writers.

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Traditional v/s Wireless Networking

Patch Cable

In order to understand the true benefits of a wireless network, we compare the traditional or wired network structure and compare it to the Wireless one. Traditional networking of computers has involved a group of computers being physically connected with the help of network cables, a switch or router to a central server. To this closed group, Internet access is provided, and users can be connected with each other, to a common server, as well as have access to the Internet while at their desk. Most LAN or Local Area Networks, as they are called, have data transfer speeds of 100 Mpbs or Megabits per second to 1 Gbps or Giga bits per second. By using radio waves instead of physical cables, a Wireless LAN performs the same function of connecting users in a closed group. The speed of data transfer using Wireless Networks is not as high as those of Wired networks, reaching a maximum of 54 Megabits per second only in most cases.While the speed reduces, this technology gives access to mobility and takes away the headache of maintaining cables and fixed spaces for employees. Both Wired and Wireless use the same networking protocol for transferring data, i.e. TCP/IP or Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol, so it’s only the last mile connection that gets replaced.
While theoretical wireless speed has increased a lot over the years, practical speeds are often a lot slower than suggested and even on recent modem-routers you will obtain much faster transfer rates with wired vs. wireless, especially if you have a fast internet connection such as optical fibre (80 or 100 Mbps).

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Technology

Generically speaking the term Wireless covers a vast spectrum from small computer networks to the humungous telecommunication infrastructure setup by various telecom operators. Currently, Wireless Networking is based on the IEEE 802.11 standard set by the IEEE or Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. This standard gives a guideline on the protocols involved in a Wireless LAN and the radio frequency that they use. Each development in this standard has given rise to at least four “versions”, namely 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g and 802.11n, as well as a newer 'AC' norm. There is no sequencing of the letters as it is not in alphabetical order, but in the order of release of the specifications of these versions. These standards are also commonly referred to as Wi-Fi or Wireless Fidelity. Most of the specification changes in each of these four standards are with respect to data transfer throughput or the rate at which data is exchanged.

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Definitions and Standards

The antenna that is present on the access point is defined as an enclosure. While there are products that offer an internal antenna, it is preferable to have an external enclosure, as this will enable the broadcast of the Wi-Fi signal quite effectively.

IEEE 802.11a

This standard enables the transfer of data at 54 Megabits per second and has a distance limit of up to 50 feet. This is not compatible with the older 802.11b standard, thus if a network is currently using the 802.11b standard, and wants to upgrade it to 802.11a, new equipment needs to be installed. Has few or minimal interference issues

IEEE 802.11b

This is the predominant standard for Wireless networks and runs on three channels in a 2.4 Ghz spectrum, while transferring data at the rate of 11 Megabits per second, with a limit of 300 feet. Interference from other devices using the spectrum such as Microwaves and cordless phones is high.

IEEE 802.11g

Was the most secure of the Mbpsstandards until 'n' was released and runs on the 2.4 Ghz spectrum, the same as 802.11b. This has the speed of 802.11a, i.e. it transfers data at 54Megabits per second, and it is backward compatible with 802.11b.

IEEE 802.11n

Wi-fi 'n' Mbpsruns at 2.4 Ghz as well as 5 Ghz and has a theoretical maximum speed of 300 Mbps with two antennas and 450 Mbps with three antennas, although in practice you are most likely to be limited to about 130 Mbps. Range is vastly increased and so it is highly recommend to buy equipment that is compatible with this norm rather than just 'b/g'.

IEEE 802.11AC -- coming soon

While 'n' should be fast enough for just about anyone's needs, the future will bring us 'AC', with theoretical speeds of 1 Gbps and even better range. At the time of writing, however, it is probably pointless searching for equipment with this norm or even waiting for it. Norm 'n' will do the job just well for a while, we reckon.

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Access Points

Access Point

Wireless Access Points are the most crucial ink in a wired/wireless network. It is these wireless access points that communicate the data from the wired medium, i.e. the physical cable to seamlessly transfer to the wireless medium, i.e. radio signals broadcasted on a set frequency. Access Points are available in various combinations of a radio base station to transmit the data to the adapters, a gateway for connecting to the Internet, a 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports to connect to Computers with data cables and a USB or Parallel port to connect a printer to be able Wi-Fi enabled. While no manufacturer offers an access point with all the above features, look for the one that suits your requirement the best.

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Security

The main issue that faces the widespread acceptance of such networks is Security. Companies are wary that outsiders can hack or eavesdrop into their wireless network by using similar equipment and bandwidth. Both, hardware manufacturers and software developers are resolving these issues.

802.11b

This used to be the predominant standard for Wireless networks and runs on three channels in a 2.4 Ghz spectrum. Based on the DSSS or Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum, this transfers data at the rate of 11 Megabits per second, with a limit of 300 feet. Interference from other devices using the spectrum such as Microwaves and cordless phones is high.

802.11a

Based on the OFDM or Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, this runs on 12 channels in the 5 Ghz spectrum. Although it transfers data at 54 Megabits per second it has a distance limit of up to 50 feet. It is not compatible with the older 802.11b standard, thus if a network was using the 802.11b standard, and wanted to upgrade it to 802.11a, new equipment needed to be installed. Has few or minimal interference issues.

802.11g

Was the most secure of the three standards until 'n' appeared, and runs on the 2.4 Ghz spectrum, the same as 802.11b. This has the speed of 802.11a, i.e. it transfers data at 54 Megabits per second, and it is backward compatible 802.11b.

Developing further on the above standards, 802.16a or Wi-Max will makes its appearance soon.

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Technical Features

Wireless data transfer rate

Data transfer rate

The rate at which data gets transferred is based on the three standards that have been laid down. This rate is measured in Mbps or Megabits per second. 802.11a supports a data transfer of 54 Mbps, 802.11b supports a data transfer of 11 Mbps and 802.11g supports a data transfer at both 54 Mbps as well as 11 Mbps.

LAN Ports

In order for the access point to be connected to an existing network, most offer at least a single 10/100 Mbps port. This is required if wireless access capabilities are required to be added onto an existing Ethernet network.

Max network data transfer rate

Hooking the access point onto an existing Ethernet network is quite simple with most of them offering a 10/100 Mbps dual speed network port. This dual port support for both 10 Mbps and 100 Mbps enables the access point to determine the speed of the network seamlessly, and use the speed of the network without any manual configuration.

DHCP Support

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol is used to dynamically assign IP addresses to various devices on a network. With this, no device on the network has a fixed and permanent IP address, and instead of an administrator, software is used to keep a track of the addresses. This makes adding new computers or devices to a network simple and without any specific configuration.

Bluetooth Support

Bluetooth is a short-range radio technology aimed at offering a simple means of communication between various devices. This runs on the 2.45 Ghz band and enables data transfer speed of 2 Mbps. It’s most popular usage is found in transferring data between PDA’s, Cellular phones and PC’s.

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Optimizing PriceRunner

Searching for an Access point for your Wireless network through PriceRunner can be narrowed down based on various search parameters like, Name, Price, Enclosure Type, 802.11n support, Wireless Data Transfer Rate, LAN Ports, Max Network Data Transfer Rate, DHCP Support, Bluetooth Support.If you are unsure of the IEEE standard that your network uses, do not select the parameters IEEE 802.11b, 802.11a and 802.11g support. Instead choose the relevant data transfer speed in the Wireless Data Transfer Rate parameter and the search will bring up the corresponding IEEE standard. This is the best way to look for an Access point for beginners. For those who need to accommodate their existing cable based network, select the LAN Ports parameter. You can choose a maximum of 4 LAN ports and work out economically fitting a new Access port into your existing network topography.

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Conclusion

Most wireless networks will be based on the IEEE 802.11g or 802.11n standard, as they are easy and inexpensive to setup and Hot Spots or public zones where Wireless access is free are also based on either of these two standards. Since security is an issue with most wireless network users, look for adapters that support a 256-bit encryption as compared to the lower bit that comes as the default. With Wi-Fi you can say good-bye to laying data cables in your house or office.

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More products under ad

Manufacturer

Type

Enclosure type

802.11n

802.11g

802.11b

802.11a

LAN ports

Max wireless data transfer rate

Max network data transfer rate

DHCP support

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