Wi-Fi: Believe the hype

You've been told...

You've been told...

There have been enough stories penned this year about Wi-Fi wireless networks for you to know the technology is at the top of the infamous hype curve. But real world experience tells us - and possibly you too - that in this case the hype is justified. Wireless networks - usually those using the 802.11b standard commonly referred to as Wi-Fi - are changing the way we live and work. This broad statement encompasses corporate, domestic and public networks and is the reason why we have launched a special report on the subject - www.silicon.com/wi-fi. Richard Baguley's 'A day in my wireless life', an account from a user in San Francisco, does a good job of teeing up what’s ahead for us Europeans and other articles will focus on the major issues and opportunities. But amidst all the positivity from equipment companies, analysts, the media and even service providers - a large proportion of whom will end up being the same mobile operators who spent billions on 3G licences - there are concerns. Take the case of the lazy sysadmin we heard about today. (Yes, we know there may be more than one.) He was among a team looking after a well protected server room. Big steel door, cages, software and other protection to the max - you get the idea. Only he decided to attach a Wi-Fi hot spot to the room's ceiling so he could then, with the help of a PC card and his PC, monitor the systems from his desk. Of course, without taking precautions, he had just rendered all that physical and wireline security useless. As our tips story makes clear today, lack of a corporate wireless security policy and laziness are inhibitors to the take up of this technology. The market may be booming - by 2006 three-quarters of laptops will be Wi-Fi-ready and hot spot-plus-card sales are well into their millions already - but there are hundreds of thousands of companies on the touchline, itching to get involved, but deterred by the scare stories. Our advice is simple. Take the WLAN plunge but do so sensibly, with security in mind and a central wireline back-up. And oh yes - read our latest special report to stay abreast of the news and views.