Business Slow – Maybe a Good Time to Upgrade Your Wireless Network

By | December 15, 2010

It is not true everywhere but in many companies work slows down between mid December and mid January. While a festive time and it’s easy to relax, it’s also a great time to get some projects done. One thing you might consider is upgrading your wireless network.

Over a year ago the IEEE’s Standards Board ratified the 802.11n Wi-Fi standard. The main advantage of 802.11n over the “g” and previous Wi-Fi standards is speed. The “n” standard takes advantage of MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) antenna technology for much faster performance. In addition, the MIMO technology is more reliable meaning fewer “drop offs” because there are multiuple antennas working. In other words, if a signal doesn’t get through it can be sent in another way with another antenna. Another advantage is range, which allows you to reach further.

Since the standard has been out a long time we have been seeing prices fall for routers as well as for USB receivers that can plug in to your existing computers and allow you to communicate faster and more reliably.  I recently upgraded a wireless network from the “g” standard to the “n” standard. It cost less than $150 and made a huge difference to everyone on the network. The one surprise was that despite the longer range it was not better at penetrating walls. In fact, there is evidence that the single antenna 2.4GHz “b/g” Standard has better “wall penetrating” qualities.

But if that is not an issue and you go shopping for an 802.11n router, keep in mind: there’s also a “dual mode” 802.11n option. Both the older 802.11g and newer 802.11n operate on the 2.4-GHz radio frequency band. But the dual 802.11n routers run on both the 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz frequencies. The 5-GHz frequency is an even better one to use, especially for large files, as we often see in print production because there is less electronic interference. Also consider the difference between the 150n and 300n routers.

It does not matter if your wireless network is at home supporting games and Netflix or if it’s at work supporting sales and shipping staff — is not that tough to get up and running with the latest wireless routers. But don’t forget to set up all those tedious security protocals and do your homework for a highly rated router. But there are great deals and this is a good time to do it. Anyone have any recommendations for routers?

Howard Fenton is a Senior Consultant at NAPL. Howie advises commercial printers, in-plants, and manufacturers on workflow management, operations, digital services, and customer research.

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