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Wireless LANs can be implemented fast, and provide mobility and easy access. Here's how you can make it work for your enterprise. by Soutiman Das Gupta

YOUR LAN, which is the lifeline of your growing business, faces new demands to keep pace with growth. Your executives want mobility within the enterprise. Your data may have to go where the 'wire' can't reach and that too in the shortest possible time. It may not be worth your while to invest in a wired infrastructure in your temporary/leased office. And you may have to support different topologies in different areas of your LAN, which requires rebuilding or reconfiguring the wiring systems. The best way to address these problems and keep your enterprise's vital business processes moving is to 'float your LAN in the sky!'

Without wires
Wireless LANs (WLANs) are a great alternative to a wired LAN and can compliment your existing wired LAN by extending its services and reach. It can be considered as a flexible data communication system, implemented as an extension, or alternative to a wired LAN within a building or campus. WLANs use electromagnetic waves to transmit and receive data. This combination of data connectivity, user mobility, and simplified configuration provides numerous advantages. You can use the mobility to support productivity and introduce new service opportunities.

Quick installation allows you to deploy the LAN anywhere and improves flexibility. Wireless LAN systems can be configured in a variety of topologies to meet the needs of specific applications and installations. And although the initial for WLAN hardware can be higher than the cost of wired LAN hardware, the overall installation expenses and life-cycle costs can be significantly lower.

Typical configuration
In a typical WLAN configuration, a transceiver device that can both transmit and receive connects to the wired network from a fixed location using standard cabling. This transceiver is usually called an Access Point. The access point receives buffers, and transmits data between the WLAN and the wired network infrastructure. A single access point can support a small group of users and can function within a range of a few hundred feet, depending on vendor offerings. An antenna attached to the access point is usually mounted at an elevated place. However, it may be mounted practically anywhere as long as the desired radio coverage is obtained.

End users access the LAN through WLAN adapters (wireless versions of Network Interface Cards) that are installed as PCMCIA cards in notebook or palmtop computers, and PCI cards in desktop PCs. It can also be integrated with handheld computers. WLAN adapters provide an interface between the client NOS (Network Operating System) and the airwaves via an antenna. The nature of the wireless connection is transparent to the NOS.

Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at soutimand@networkmagazineindia.com

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