Wireless Office?

stcatechies used Ask the Experts™
I am working with  a small business with roughly 15 netbooks and 7 desktop computers.  They are using a shared drive, a couple of network printers and one G series wireless access.  I  am wondering  if going completely wireless would be an affordable and reliable solution.  We could get wireless adapters for the desktops and not have to pay to have the building wired.
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The speed of the line is 54Mb (or maybe 108mb if you have a fancy one).
These are the maximum figures.  Once you have any other signals in the area - and this would include other peoples wireless boxes, cordless phones and even microwave ovens it drops in speed.
You are then sharing this 54 (or maybe 20 Mb) between all devices.  If one person is downloading a big file or streaming video or sound then it will leave next to nothing for the other people in the office.

Wire where possible and use wireless for people moving round or in meeting rooms or for some of the staff in hard to reach places.
Wireless is not really suitable for office use full time.
Yes ... wireless IS a useable full time solution for all users.You only need to deploy it correctly.

First of all - 802.11n supports 300 - 450 Mbps theoretical speed, But will still be faster than most wired (Which is 100Mbps)

And you need to use the 5Ghz band (802.11a/n) where you have 12 to 15 non-overlapping channels, and no microwaves, telephones or any other equipment.
But for security reasons - you need to deploy 802.1X authentication, preferably using certificates - or secondly using EAP-MsChapV2 and domain username and password, and authenticating both computers and users.

If you follow all those guidelines, you'll have a network - wireless - that is both faster than most wired, and even more secure.

When it comes to equipment: You should be able to do with one AP - but should consider 2 or 3 for redundancy.

Look into Aruba Instant: http://www.arubanetworks.com/product/aruba-instant 
I have yet to see a wireless network actually function as well as a wired one. That includes N's THEORETICAL speeds. With a decent switch total bandwidth to all attached devices is considerably more than 450 Mbps.

Can you "get away with" going wireless? Possibly. It depends on how many users move how much data and when they do it. You have to make a financial decision on how much a flakey network would cost your company's vs the cost of some wire. Remember file backup is not optional and that tends to move a lot of data. Choose wisely.

Wire works. Wireless... sometimes.... comes... close...
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it is absolutely rubbish saying that wireless only sometimes work. Yes, there are quite a few non-functioning wireless networks around, but that is not because wireless is an unstable and unusable technology - it's because it's been deployed wrong, and possibly with wrong devices.
Saying wireless tech is unstable and unusable based on that, is to say that wired networks is crap, just cause you tested one, where there was a 24-port cheap HUB functioning as Core Switch.
Follow these steps and you'll have a 100% stable wireless networks, with possible higher spee that wired, at least considering the number of devices you have.

#1. remember that wireless i broadcast technology, and isn't stopped by the boundaries of your office walls. That means you need to do a Site Survey first. Look into inSSIDer from www.metageek.net
Site Survey - look at all networks that are visible from you office. They might create interference for your network. In the 2,4 ghz area, there might be crowded, at least considering that fact that channels 1, 6 and 11 are the only ones that not overlap.
If your network is running at channel 6 - and so is 3 or 4 other networks - then the 4 or 5 of you share the available air-time (bandwidth) - and if that is the fact, then you might have an unstable unusable network.
#2. For gods sake, buy proper equipment !! If you buy a DLink DIR-455 router for home use, hoping that will do that trick, you might have an unstable network. Look into Aruba (my preferred choice), Cisco, Meru, Avay, Trapeze (Juniper) or HP ProCurve
#3. Deploy at least 2 AP's both for load-balancing and redundancy
#4. Choose a proper security mechanism, 802.1X with computer and user authentication
#5. Use 802.11a/n using the 5Ghz frequency - where there's little or no interference

If you follow those steps, you'll have a working wireless environment.

I've run 2000 teenagers wirelessly on Meru, i've 30 IT-Consultants with advanced and high-load use, wireless with ARuba, I've run a conference hall with 500 users with laptops, iPads and smartphones - streaminig video online, wireless with Aruba --- I can give you several examples ...

I have worked with RF for over 40 years. I own and use a decent spectrum analyzer. Brand names signify little to me, performance does. I never have seen a wireless system that was 24/365 as reliable or fast as a wired one in the same price category. I have built and used good wireless. But it is expensive. In many cases more expensive that wired (or fiber) but a good choice when physical, political or other barriers prevented anything other than wireless. However I could never give any guarantees on any wireless system that uses unlicensed spectrum like WiFi in the ISM bands. While it usually works there is no recourse if interference causes problems.

Jakob_di's proposal of 2 Aruba APs and other HW to implement connections for 7 desktop computers could easily exceed the cost of wiring those PCs. The original intent was to save money. Sorry Jakob I don't see your proposal doing that.

@lewisg: I mean no disrespect - but I'm able to design and setup a wireless system that would be just as reliable and just as fast as wired, within the physicla boundaries of the wireless medium, and i guees you would to - given your experience.

i didn't see the sentence about the wireless being a way to cut cost.
But still - if the building has little or no wiring, the cost of wiring a switch might be just as expensive as 2x Aruba APs ---- (around $1400 - 1500)

But one important factor is this: How would the improved mobility affect the work of the users !! And that would turn out positively in almost every project ...

I'm able to design and setup a wireless system that would be just as reliable and just as fast as wired, within the physicla boundaries of the wireless medium, and i guees you would to - given your experience.

Nope wireless is at best 1/2 the speed of GbE on cat5e. Not to mentioned wireless is a shared, not a switched medium so individual bandwidth decreases with each additional concurrent user.

I assume the netbook users are happy with the current wireless. If not then upgrading the wireless could be a good idea and then it MIGHT make sense to wireless the 7 desktops. However in my experience desktop users are the heavy haulers of data and as such wired makes more sense. Remember that they are using a shared drive and unless that shared drive is being backed up on the machine where it is located that can be a LOT of data to move and verify.

Running wires just isn't that hard and in many places can be done for less than $200 a drop even on a small job. They likely don't need 7 drops since several of the desktops could be in long patch cable range. Besides you are going to have to run at least one (or two) cables for wireless APs. Once the wire guy is there whats a few more?
>Besides you are going to have to run at least one (or two) cables for wireless APs. Once the wire guy is there whats a few more?

Not insignificant.  Even with drop ceilings and surface raceway (ugly, but easy), you'd see 125-175/drop depending on the distance and difficulty of the drops.  You don't buy three and get one free.

But, pulling double the number of cables to the same drop should be cheaper than individual drops everywhere.  A single drop could have three ports for far less than three different drops.  Also consider that a single drop can be expanded with a small $35 10/100 switch and cheap patch cables.

It all depends on the layout.  Have a floor diagram and description of the existing drops?

While I favor wire (I spend time crawling under my house too), wireless can be a valid proposal for small business "infrastructure".   Hard wiring becomes property of the building owner on day one.  Wireless equipment and patch cables stay the property of the tenant.  Also consider that cabling could be considered tenant improvement, and your accountant/CFO may have an opinion.

Before more robust wireless equipment was available, some of my networks consisted of long patch cables, hubs, switches, and diagrams to prevent cascading problems.  It wasn't pretty, but with a short-term lease, we weren't going to spend money for the benefit of the landlord.

Looks like me and @lewisG never will agree on wired vs. wireless.

But LewisG pointed out one line that I did miss, and that is keeping cost down.
a proper wireless would cost around $1200 - $1500 - wih 2 AP's and a decent PoE switch.
So if you compare wiring the building yourself vs. buy wireless, wiring would be cheaper.
But then again --- consider how wireless possibly could change the employees way of work.

Maybe the extra cost would be worth it in terms of extra income ??


Thanks all

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