Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Demystifying Wi-Fi

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Demystifying Wi-Fi

Article excerpt

Byline: Timothy J. Gibbons, Times-Union business writer

So you like the idea of an Internet connection you can use from anywhere in the office? Maybe it's time to consider setting up your own wireless network.

If you have a couple of computers and a little bit of technical knowledge, you're probably looking at an investment of a couple hundred bucks and an hour or so of time.

As more companies target the home and small office markets, setting up a network has become much easier than in the past.

In general, you'll need two main pieces of equipment: On the Internet side, you'll need to drop between $50 and $200 for an access point, a radio that you'll hook your broadband connection into. On the computer side, you'll have to outfit your desktop or laptop with some sort of wireless card, to communicate with the access point, running you $25 to $80 each. (Many newer laptops come equipped with these.)

Before you start plunking cash down for hardware, take some time to think of exactly what type of wireless network you plan on using. Wi-Fi comes in three flavors, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. All three are variants of the 802.11 standard, but differ according to how fast they operate and over how large of an area they transmit.

Standards for the wireless networking protocol are set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, which breaks technology into various numbered categories. The 802.11 committee develops standards for wireless local area networks.

Until recently, Wi-Fi simply meant 802.11b, still the most popular and least expensive way to operate wirelessly. After hooking your broadband Internet connection up to an access point and popping a wireless card into your computer, you can get online from within about 150 feet of the connection, transferring data between your machine at speeds up to 11 megabits per second (although expect, in real life, to get about half that).

Eleven megabits is one of those numbers that, quite frankly, makes no sense to normal people. …

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