Maximum number of laptops for an access point?
Posted on 2004-08-30
A client is contracting with a company that has an operations room with a pit.
The company's users are clamoring for wireless connections for the 15 laptops that will be working in the pit.
My client has recommended against the wireless connections due to performance concerns. He has asked me for more information to either backup his claim or go forward with the request.
I am concerned about performance AND security of the installation. My gut feel is that for high demand (low response time and/or high bandwidth) and for information security, hardwired is still the way to go in this situation.
The wired connections will be 100Mb ethernet for each machine with an ethernet switch. Information security if concerned with physical security of the site.
With a wireless installation I am concerned about performance. The laptops would be competing with each other for access to the access point or points. I am not clear if any of the 802.11 protocols can handle 15 or more machines in a relatively small space and provide performance on par with wired 10 or 100 Mb UTP. My worst case situation is where all 15 attempt to access time critical information at or nearly at the smae time and collide to dead on the wireless access.
Add to the above I am not sure if there are other wireless networks in use. If they exist they could cause additional performance problems.
Given the maturing state of wireless, I am concerned about making the wireless network secure from snooping outside the room and/or the building. Are the new wireless protocols due out soon (this fall?) mature enough to make the traffic secure from casual snooping? (A serious effort will succeed even if the setup is hardwired.)
No selection has been made of 802.11a/b/g equipment. Assume new equipment will be purchased.
Laptop equipment is unknown, but I would expect new or recent models.
Specific application is unknown, thus performance requirements are fuzzy. Given the demands being made by the users, I expect them to be very picky and unaccepting of any perceptions of poor performance.
- Is there a rule of thumb for the number of accessing nodes (laptops) to an access point for the different wireless protocols (a/b/g)?
- How does thi number vary with bandwidth requirements, particularly high bandwidth demand?
- Are the current wireless protocols enough to prevent a casual snoop attempt? Are the new protocols significantly better?
- Are there any performance impacts to the security protocols?
I can see I've built a case for recommending the hardwired enviroment, but I am willing to be pursuaded to the wireless setup.