Why Use Cables Today?

Q: Why do I need cables when I can do everything wireless?A: Great question. First, a quick overview of what “wireless” networking really means:When users say “wireless,” they generally refer to “wi-fi,” technically known as 802.11a, 802.11b/g or 802.11n networks. You can use consumer-grade access points (wireless routers or bridges) available at any retail store, or you can use enterprise-grade access points (APs) from Cisco, 3COM, et cetera. The difference between consumer-grade and enterprise-grade lies in manageability, security options and cost of deployment.Wireless is a great solution for small networks. But from a developer or owner’s perspective, the flaws in wireless are:1.) Wireless is NOT secure–WEP was broken years ago. WPA and WPA2, the more recent security standards, have been broken under certain conditions.2.) Like anything else that uses radio waves, wi-fi is susceptible to interference from microwaves, other wireless access points and other radio devices.3.) Older construction methodologies obstruct or block wi-fi signals (ceramic tiles in most bathrooms and most pre-war buildings).4.) Wireless standards are rapidly changing. 802.11a never really caught on; as few as seven years ago, 802.11b ruled the roost with 11 megabyte speeds. 802.11g boosted speeds to 54MB, at the cost of requiring new APs and wireless cards. 802.11n is the current speed and distance champ, but it has not been ratified yet, and it uses incompatible APs and access cards. (Cat5E and Cat6E cables, however, have not changed in the past decade.)5.) Wireless will never be as fast as wired networks (OK, I should neversay never, but given the current state of physics, wired networks exceedwireless speeds by several orders of magnitude). Whereas 802.11n ranges from 54 megabytes to 600M megabytes, wired networks range from 100 megabytes to 10 gigabytes.6.) Finally, in certain industries—such as finance and healthcare–using wireless networks may be legally unacceptable due to security and liability issues.Send your technology questions to Rajesh Goel, chief technology officer at Brainlink International Inc., via Suzann.Silverman@nielsen.com.