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Aug 24

Should you be using Wi-Fi?

Using Wi-Fi with important data is unwise

Is it time to drop Wi-Fi?

It seems like we are hard-wired to believe that Wi-Fi is somehow better, more progressive than being hard wired.

It’s true that in many ways in is more convenient. If you don’t have dedicated hardware in your meeting room that can access shared files, you’ll need to take your laptop for your presentation. (Oh, and seriously? Just take an old laptop, strip it of the inessentials, network it and keep it in the meeting room for presentations.) Need to do some research in a quiet room? Just pick up and go. Easy.

But that’s not the whole story. Being wired has a number of advantages. Chiefly, security and speed.

Security

If you are using Wi-Fi, hopefully you are all using WPA encryption rather than WEP, because WEP is painfully easy to crack.  You don’t need any special equipment other than a suitable Wi-Fi adapter and a free program that’s easily available.

So pat yourself on the back if you are using WPA. Well, the same program referred to above can do the same trick, it just takes a little more persistence and time.

This means that all that confidential data buzzing round the ether is ripe for the picking.

Speed

Large file transfers can take a long time over Wi-Fi. Disruptively long. Plus, depending on how many people are using it at any given time, you could be sharing limited bandwidth with half the office.

And if you are all listening to streaming music at the same time, well…

This can lead to less than ideal behaviour, such as simply not bothering to save to secure networked storage and simply leaving on their desktop. This causes problems with document control and security.

And in my experience, VPN doesn’t like Wi-Fi too much. It places a lot of demand on bandwidth, and if the connection is dropped, so is the VPN. Annoying.

Finally, Wi-Fi is subject to interference from all sorts of devices and structures, as you may have noticed while wandering around your office.

Getting wired

So what’s the cheapest ways of rectifying this problem?

It depends on the size of your office, and the location of your broadband router.

If you are a very small office, then there most likely Ethernet ports on your router. A few cables and you ready to go. (Don’t spend too much on them, there’s very little difference in quality for all the variety of costs.)

Cabling

Having the whole office professionally cabled can be an expensive affair, we are talking thousands. Definitely worth considering if you have the finances to do so.

Routers

If you have spare wi-fi routers, you can use these to connect various machines and printers together. Make sure it’s connected to the internet, of course! Otherwise, they are not expensive, and provide a suitable method for hardwiring your office.

Switches

Switches are slightly simpler devices, but are useful for creating local networks.

Don’t go for ‘docking stations’.  These are those devices that sit on your desk and allow you to simply pop your laptop in, providing your Ethernet connection, power supply and probably hooked up to to a monitor as well. They are rarely compatible, nor cheap, and should you constantly be looking for the best deal for replacements in the future, you’ll soon find them redundant. You can find cheap and efficient cable tidies and organisers, and it might be worth buying a spare charger for when you are on the move.

From a health and safety point of view, make sure that the cabling is carefully placed. Around the edges of the floor, or tidily placed between conjoining desks.

Finally, it’s important that you inform everyone in the office that there is new cabling, and point out where it is. This includes contractors such as cleaners!

 

 

Image courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net