Thursday, June 2, 2011

Wireless Networking

Question: What is (Wireless / Computer) Networking?

Answer: In the world of computers, networking is the practice of linking two or more computing devices together for the purpose of sharing data. Networks are built with a mix of computer hardware and computer software.

Area Networks

Networks can be categorized in several different ways. One approach defines the type of network according to the geographic area it spans. Local area networks (LANs), for example, typically reach across a single home, whereas wide area networks (WANs), reach across cities, states, or even across the world. The Internet is the world's largest public WAN.

Network Design

Computer networks also differ in their design. The two types of high-level network design are called client-server and peer-to-peer. Client-server networks feature centralized server computers that store email, Web pages, files and or applications. On a peer-to-peer network, conversely, all computers tend to support the same functions. Client-server networks are much more common in business and peer-to-peer networks much more common in homes.

A network topology represents its layout or structure from the point of view of data flow. In so-called bus networks, for example, all of the computers share and communicate across one common conduit, whereas in a star network, all data flows through one centralized device. Common types of network topologies include bus, star, ring and mesh.

Network Protocols

In networking, the communication language used by computer devices is called the protocol. Yet another way to classify computer networks is by the set of protocols they support. Networks often implement multiple protocols to support specific applications. Popular protocols include TCP/IP, the most common protocol found on the Internet and in home networks.

Wired vs Wireless Networking

Many of the same network protocols, like TCP/IP, work in both wired and wireless networks. Networks with Ethernet cables predominated in businesses, schools, and homes for several decades. Recently, however, wireless networking alternatives have emerged as the premier technology for building new computer networks.

Question: What is Wireless Computer Networking?

Answer: Wireless networks utilize radio waves and/or microwaves to maintain communication channels between computers. Wireless networking is a more modern alternative to wired networking that relies on copper and/or fiber optic cabling between network devices.

A wireless network offers advantages and disadvantages compared to a wired network. Advantages of wireless include mobility and elimination of unsightly cables. Disadvantages of wireless include the potential for radio interference due to weather, other wireless devices, or obstructions like walls.

Wireless is rapidly gaining in popularity for both home and business networking. Wireless technology continues to improve, and the cost of wireless products continues to decrease. Popular wireless local area networking (WLAN) products conform to the 802.11 "Wi-Fi" standards. The gear a person needs to build wireless networks includes network adapters (NICs), access points (APs), and routers.

What is wireless networking? How does it work?

A wireless network uses radio signals or microwaves to broadcast data and information. Rather than being transmitted through traditional coaxial, CAT5 ethernet or other standard wired methods, the data is beamed out over the airwaves.

Wireless networks offer advantages for some. Users with personal digital assistant (PDA) handhelds such as Palm Pilots, wifi enabled cell phones, or users with laptops can use wireless technology to allow them the convenience to move about while maintaining their network connectivity. Another pro is the ability for users to network desktop computers at various locations without having to deal with the hassle or expense of running a wired connection to that spot.

There are some cons as well. First, most wired networks operate at 100mbps, and many organizations have upgraded to the newer standard of 1gbps. In contrast, a large percentage of wireless networks operate at 11mbps, roughly equivalent to the old wired speed of 10mbps. Most wireless network equipment available today is compatible with both 802.11b and the faster 802.11g which operates at speeds up to 54mbps. There is also a new, emerging wireless network standard, 802.11n, which theoretically increases both the speed and the range of the wireless network.

Wireless network speeds are affected by obstructions such as walls and floors. Most wireless network equipment, for consumers in particular, also operates in the 2.4Ghz frequency range. This is the same range as other household devices such as cordless phones, baby monitors, etc. The interference from these devices, as well as microwave ovens and other electrical interference can greatly impact the range, speed and quality of your wireless network.