Commercial buildings need networks to attract tenants and work efficiently. Business tenants will not move into a building unless they know they can quickly assemble state-of-the-art enterprise networks in their space. Although connectivity demands long ago ended the debate over whether to equip a facility with a network, another discussion goes unsettled. Property managers and system administrators now argue over whether to rely primarily on wired or wireless networks. Here we will review the characteristics and advantages of both connection media, so managers can better decide which type of system should have precedence.
Wireless networks offer convenience. With the latest wireless technologies in place, employees with smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches can connect to enterprise networks, contributing to the “Bring Your Own Device” trend in major corporations. Within the company, wireless technology simplifies the placement and movement of computers, printers, and other devices. As employees change desks and floors, they can bring their computers and phones with them without waiting for IT techs to run new cables.
Wired cabling connects wireless access points and routers to enterprise backbones, but networks that primarily depend on wireless use fewer cables and less manpower. Easier and faster physical installation makes wireless networks less expensive to install than systems that depend mainly on wired connections.
Despite the cost advantage, security problems make wireless networks vulnerable to attacks and abuse. Administrators have a tough job on their hands trying to prevent wireless signals from covering hallways, sidewalks and floors outside the control of corporate IT staffers. Hackers and unauthorized users can penetrate wireless networks from within and without, prompting the need for a seemingly endless array of hardware and software countermeasures.
Network speed and bandwidth also concern network administrators who rely primarily on wireless connections. Although technology continues improving the capabilities of wireless signals, slower connections often frustrate users. Sometimes, during periods of peak use, wireless access points refuse or drop connections, often causing frustration.
Although networks that depend primarily on wired networks cost more in labor and materials to install, they offer advantages that make them an appealing choice in commercial settings.
First, wired networks provide improved security. Hackers and unauthorized network users must either have a physical connection to the grid or gain access from outside networks through corporate firewalls. Besides making things difficult for attackers, those who dare try leave more tracks in log files, making them easier to find for criminal and civil proceedings.
Wired networks additionally offer security advantages by preventing access to corporate data from employee-owned wireless devices. Although such devices can add to productivity and efficiency, their absence from the enterprise network can avoid a variety of data breaches.
Speed also makes wired networks appealing. Data speeds in excess of one gigabit per second or faster enable enterprises to process unprecedented amounts of data. When needed, businesses can deploy fiber optic cable on wired networks to achieve speeds measurable in terabits per second.
Finally, wired networks offer security and speed benefits alongside disadvantages that can cost much in productivity. Wired networks take more effort to modify or expand to accommodate new or relocated employees. The increased cost of manpower and equipment can strain IT budgets.
Speed, Security, and Cost
Corporate decision makers should understand that speed, security and cost concerns drive their decision about whether to primarily depend on wired or wireless networks. Those who need high speed, high security and low cost should focus on deploying wired networks. Companies that need flexibility, however, might find they need to emphasize wireless systems.