Wireless technology ranked No. 2 on the list of strategic technology investments for 2004 in AMR Research’s annual Information Technology (IT) spending study (see “The IT Spending Report, 2003-2004”). For many organizations, this means a build-out of wireless Local Area Network (LAN) infrastructure. While security concerns have not disappeared, improvements to the standards and a much better awareness of the limitations have minimized the reluctance to deploy. However, the question still remains: Are wireless LANs a replacement for existing wired networks? Should companies make build-outs of new space completely wireless and forego the wired infrastructure?
The Bottom Line: Wired and wireless LAN technology are complementary; wireless is not a replacement technology, and the companies that use it most effectively overlay it with wired networks for maximum flexibility and performance.
What It Means: The question is not about either/or; it’s about how to use the strengths of the two technologies together to provide the best combination of performance and flexibility.
Here’s what each offers:
- Wired network--Provides dedicated bandwidth at speeds greater than what wireless supports today, which is especially vital for data-intensive applications like engineering. Installation is straightforward, and maintaining the wire is well understood.
- Wireless network--Provides shared bandwidth with improving speeds. Installation requires a site survey and tweaking of access point configuration to achieve maximum coverage.
In the majority of instances, organizations are combining the network topologies, though there are a few exceptions. For example, a shop floor that needs network access but must be regularly reconfigured to support manufacturing demand or a warehouse where wide-open spaces make physical cable drops difficult.
Case Study: Take AMR Research’s recent move to our new location in Boston. We have deployed high-speed wired networking to each office location in the facility and are overlaying wireless technology for common areas like conference rooms and customer meeting spaces. The result will be an environment designed to support collaboration and the mobile needs of our employees.
Conclusion: The benefits from using wireless technology to support a more collaborative work environment are clear, but carefully consider your requirements before deploying your next network. In most cases, the combination of wired networking performance and wireless networking flexibility will be the configuration that optimizes collaboration and productivity.
AMR Research originally published this article on 5 May 2004.