Networking relates to the interconnection of two or more pcs and other communication devices to share resources like information, data, printers, etc. There are two main classifications of networks which include wired and wireless networks (Freed, 2004). In wired networks, the communicating devices are connected to each other by the use of cables while in wireless networks, other forms of technology such as electromagnetic waves are used to facilitate communication without having to use cables to connect the devices. This can also be referred to as remote information transmission. It uses technologies such as the Bluetooth as well as other unguided media such as satellite, radio and microwave transmissions among others (Tanenbaum, 2004). This essay is a critical evaluation of wireless networking, discussing both the advantages and disadvantages of this form of data information transmission.
Advantages of Wireless Networks
Developments in the Information technology sector have greatly enhanced the modes of doing business especially in time management and the timely delivery of results. For example, most of the companies and institutions have allowed their employees to telecommute. Telecommuting is the process through which an employee is allowed to work from his personal computer at any location be it home, vehicle etc without necessarily having to report to the office, where the company’s computers are located (Kurose, 2002). By doing so, assignments given to the employees can be completed during their own free time instead of having them work overtime thereby denying them the pleasure to be with their families, who require their presence at home as early as possible. After completing the assignments, an employee, having been allowed to access the company’s databases, can send them directly from his remote computer so that once the offices are opened, the information can be put into use without any delay. However, this may be difficult or impossible without the wireless connectivity, which facilitates remote transmission of data from one computer to the other (Smith, 2003). There is also the technology of video conferencing and VOIP, which facilitates meetings for example by the board of directors who do not have to meet physically thereby minimizing the cost of travelling or accommodation. However, this mode of communication can incorporate both wireless and wire networks. This is from the perspective that the board members may be connected to the internet by wire or wireless networks but for them to communicate especially if they are in different continents, satellites must be used on either sides of the receiver and the sender of information.
If a company only maintains a wired network, it means that for a person to access the company’s databases, he or she must have a physical connection to the network through the use of Ethernet cables implying that he or she must be within the company’s premises in order to do so (Kurose, 2002). In addition, businesses have also undertaken several measures to trap the wide market provided by thousands of rich people who depend on online shopping. Most of these people prefer making all their business deals from the comfort of their personal computers at home instead of travelling in order to visit the physical premises of their suppliers. This has been facilitated by wireless connectivity and as such, it is true to say that wireless technologies are the pillars and the future of businesses especially in this era where the world is transforming into one digital village.
Wired networks make use of cables to connect the communicating devices and nodes. This means that if all computers in a building, for example containing more than 50 computers, were to be networked, a lot of cabling would have to be done. Apart form this being costly, there would be a lot of space in the offices occupied by these cables such that moving around would be difficult especially if it requires moving furniture from one place to the other (Kurose, 2002). These cables are commonly shielded with plastic outer coverings and this makes it vulnerable to natural disasters such as fire or even being destroyed by organisms such as rodents. In case this happens, it would involve a lot of work in trying to identify the exact point in the network which has been affected unlike unguided transmission which is not vulnerable to such calamities. Most of the computers in the market especially laptops have built in capabilities to connect to wireless networks (Smith, 2003). If not so, the hardware required to facilitate this connection are moderately cheaper than those required in guided transmission. For example, the cost of acquiring a PCI card is approximately $20, which is a fair price as compared to the cost of acquiring and maintaining cabled networks (Smith, 2003). Guided transmission as earlier stated may be difficult to install based on the fact that most of them depend on telephone lines or optic fiber cables, which are being installed in most of the countries and which are crossing even through the oceans. As it may have been observed in the recent past, these cables are facing the threat of being vandalized by people who cut them into pieces for the sake of extracting copper from the wires and then selling it as scrape metal in order to sustain their daily needs. If this happens, it means that users would have to look for alternatives or stay offline until the cables are reinstalled. As opposed to this, it is impossible for any person to interfere or vandalize waves as they are not solid thereby making wireless networks the best and convenient mode of data and information transmission. It is also important to mention that wireless networks enhances morale in the work place as it improves comfort by allowing users to move freely without necessarily having to mind the connectivity. This is made possible by the fact that the network incorporates a variety of devices such as laptops, which are easy to move around with thus making it enjoyable to work.
Wireless networks usually transmit signals through more than one access points, which are connected to an aerial as well as an Ethernet port (Martin, 2001). A modem, which is a device that helps in transforming the signals from digital to analog and vice versa, is connected to the Ethernet port. This is a simple connection which can be done by any person without necessarily having to undergo extensive training on how to do it. From this perspective, it is a lot simpler for a person wishing to move from one location to the other, to establish a connection on his or her own, without hiring the services of an expert. This is as opposed to wired network topologies, which have to be restructured from the scratch if one decides to relocate his business from one building to the other.
Before the invention of the mobile telephony which utilizes wireless connectivity, communication by telephones was only offered by public switched telephone networks, whereby all the telephones had to be connected directly to one telephone exchange by the use of wires (Goggin, 2005). A lot of time was wasted especially due to the fact that not many users were able to install these phones in their homes and as such, they had to make use of pay phones or telephone booths, which were located at strategic points in the urban areas and some parts in the rural areas. Apart from this, it meant that one had to wait in long queues for him to access the phone and more time to wait for calls from other people thereby meaning that he had to stay close to the telephone booth until the call was made. However, this mode of communication has been overtaken by the mobile telephony, which uses wireless connection. Using this, one is able to call from any location as long as there is network coverage of the company he is subscribed to regardless of the time or distance (Goggin, 2005). For example, there are areas which cannot be accessed through wire networks such as mountains, rivers, oceans etc and which does not offer permanent settlement for people. Such places may be for example war fronts which harbor military activities, who must maintain contact with their bases so as to report on any developments. Without the wireless technology, these officers in the fighting grounds would not be able to request for help or back up when the need arises. In this technology, each user is assigned to a unique frequency channel, which he is given the liberty to manage his calling charges by recharging his account with air time depending on his immediate needs.
As it has been happening in the recent past, this technology is advancing to a higher level such that even banks are joining hands with mobile providers to enable their customers to perform mobile banking (Goggin, 2005). This is a method by which a subscriber is permitted to conduct bank transactions such as transfer of funds, payment of bills, checking his accessible money balances in his bank accounts, etc. All these benefits can be credited to the wireless technology because some of the telephones such as those which are public switched cannot perform these operations. It may also be important to note that mobile telephone users can also access internet connections as well as entertainment from channels such as the DSTV, as well as news from other television networks, all of which are enabled through satellite connections (Goggin, 2005). The blue tooth technology has also helped greatly in the transmission of data such that a person with a hand set which is blue tooth enabled can send or receive data such as photographs, ring tones etc without much effort. He can also send the same data from his phone to the computer for editing or production without the stress of carrying cables in his pocket to interface him with the computer.
Disadvantages of Wireless Networking
As it has been discussed herein, wireless networking has a lot of advantages as compared to guided transmission. However, it is also true to say that there are also several disadvantages related to this mode of networking. As it may be observed, network coverage is sometimes limited by distance such that one may not be able to connect to other devices in the network. For example, a person trying to connect his device to another using Bluetooth may not be in a position to do so unless he or she is within a distance ranging from approximately 150 to 300 feet from the other device (Smith, 2003). This may create a lot of inconvenience especially if the data being transmitted is of great urgency to the receiver. This is as opposed to guided transmissions whereby connection to the network is not deterred by distance.
Unguided transmission operates in the form of waves, which transmit through the air. This means that there is a possibility of interference by weather or other solid obstacles such as walls within the path that the transmission is taking (Martin, 2001). For example, a remote control is one of the commonly used devices in our homes, which uses this technology in form of infrared. If a person intends to use his remote to switch on his television set, he has to point the remote directly to the television so that it can respond to his command. However, if there is an obstacle for example a person standing in between the person holding the remote and the television, it would be impossible for the television to respond to the command issued through the remote. This is to say that signals in this mode of networking are transmitted in a direct line of sight from the transmitter to the receiver. It is the reason why antennae installed in our homes have to be directed to a certain direction in order to receive a clear signal. As a result, it is also possible to find that areas that are way down below the line of sight such as valleys or basements in buildings may lack connectivity to the networks whereas those devices connected to wire networks in the same surroundings have access to connectivity (Martin, 2001). Similarly, it is possible to observe that, when there is heavy down pour televisions usually display poor quality pictures and sound. This is due to the distortion of signals as a result of the harsh weather conditions.
Wireless networks are also considered to be highly vulnerable to security threats such as hacking. This is due to the fact that they mostly use radio frequencies for service delivery. To access the services, a user is required to have antennae and from this perspective, it has been noted that the strength of most of the antennae used by users are of significantly low quality and strength (Kurose, 2002). This implies that a person willing to install one that is of higher quality than others may have the benefit of intercepting signals directed to other users unless they make use of firewalls and encryption. For example, there have been cases in the courts related to this issue whereby some of the radio stations complain that other stations are interfering with their frequencies such that when one tunes in to one, he hears communication from two or more stations on a single channel (Tanenbaum, 2004). Similarly, the fact that it allows for telecommuting also makes it possible to hack information from company’s databases without the knowledge of the network administrator or even cases of virus infection as it allows one to send data directly from his or her personal computer, which may be infected with the viruses. These threats are less prone to wire networks based on the fact that a hacker would have to tap directly into the actual cables for him to be able to interfere with the functionalities of the network, which is easy to detect and to prevent by restricting physical access to the computers. Furthermore, it may be easy to manage the flow of viruses in a wire network since employees may be restricted from carrying removable storage devices from outside, which may be infected with computer viruses.
Compatibility is also an issue that is important to note when installing wireless networks. This is due to the fact that most of the technologies used in this networking are new to the market and as such they may fail to function properly especially if the equipments are from different manufacturers (Tanenbaum, 2004). For them to function, it becomes necessary to avoid mixing them when setting up the network otherwise they may result to problems when trying to trouble shoot in order to rectify the problems which would be encountered in the process. Installing and maintaining wireless networks as earlier stated is cheap in the long run. However, the capital required to procure the hardware and make them run is much greater than the requirements of a wire network. For example, not many people can afford to install communication masts as well as satellite dishes on their own. As a result, they are compelled to request the services of private communication companies to provide them with the necessary legal and technical assistance, which is costly. For wired networks, one can set up a local area network on his own as long as he or she has the computers, servers and the right cables required. If he wants to connect to the internet, he would only be required to install a PSTN in his building and the connection would be initiated. In addition to cost, it is true to say that wireless networks offer much slower connectivity of approximately 8Mbits/sec while using ADSL thereby implying that if a user’s needs require faster connectivity than this, he would be compelled to install the wire networks (Smith, 2003).
Wireless communication has also helped greatly in aviation especially since it allows for direct communication with experts back in the airport such that they are able to receive directions and warnings before hand so as to avoid causing unnecessary loss of lives (Freed, 2004). It is difficult to imagine how the field would operate without this technology based on the fact that it would be unrealistic and impossible to install wires in airplanes for communication with the control base on the ground. However, this has also caused a great challenge to the industry as it is now possible for terrorists to attack and hijack the airlines especially if they get access to the control room or directly hack into the communication frequencies thereby taking control of the airplane. An example of what would happen has been filmed in Holly wood in the movie titled The Hunt for Eagle one, Crash Point by Marc Darcascos. In this movie, terrorists, who belong to the al-Qaida, attack the premises of a certain airline and steal a certain communication device which they modify to be compatible with their technology such that they become able to block direct communication between the pilots and the base at the airport. They then seize a private news broadcasting station where they utilize the satellites to take over communication with the pilots. In the end, they crash down several airlines into their set targets, most of which are on densely populated cities around the US. Even if this is fiction, it gives a foresight as to what would happen if terrorists manage to tap or hack into such a delicate information system.
Though it has not been scientifically proved so far, there is fear that due to the electromagnetic fields involved in the wireless transmission, there is possibility of the development of cancer among persons who are exposed to these fields (Martin, 2001). As a result, people including eminent persons in the academic fields have in the past refused to allow installations of these networks in their premises, quoting health implications as the main reason.
Wireless networks, which can also be referred to ad unguided or unbound transmission is a type of network that uses waves to transmit data and information, contrary to the wire transmission which as the term suggests incorporates cables it data transmission. This mode of networking has various advantages and disadvantages as compared to the guided transmission. To begin with, it is important to note that wireless transmission takes various forms ranging from satellites, microwave, radio transmissions etc. some of the advantages include; enhancing mobility. This implies that devices connected to wireless networks can facilitate movement such that users can access them from any location regardless of the distance from office or home. This is a factor that has enabled most of the businesses to allow their employees to perform their duties from the comfort of their homes and sending the completed assignments directly to the company’s databases as opposed to wire networks, which requires the users to be static in their work stations. It is also easier to establish a connection if a person decides to relocate from one building to the other unlike in guided media which requires an expert to repeat the same procedures while establishing the same type of topology, which was being used in the previous location. It also makes communication much easier and efficient for example by replacing the earlier PSTN, which were time wasting and inconvenient. Nowadays one can use his mobile telephone from any part of the world as long as there is connectivity. It has also enabled communication in the aviation industry, which is important in coordinating air traffic. However, it also has its short comings which range from vulnerability to hacking, high initial cost of establishing the networks, possibility of lack of compatibility with the existing systems due to the fact that most of the technologies being used are new in the market and thus require special hardware and soft ware for them to function, possibility of interference by extreme weather conditions, physical barriers as well as stronger transmission equipments.
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- Goggin, G. (2005) Cell Phone Culture: Mobile Technology in Everyday Life, Routledge
- Kurose, J. (2002) Computer Networking: A Top-Down Approach Featuring the Internet, Addison Wesley
- Martin, M. (2001) Understanding the Network, Sams
- Smith, C. (2003) Wireless Networks, McGraw-Hill Professional
- Tanenbaum, S. (2004) Computer Networks, Prentice Hall