Many companies are making the leap to wireless networks in the office for both financial savings in overall equipment and sheer convenience for their employees. They also often provide mobile PCs with wireless capabilities to their employees so that they can be productive anytime anywhere, hence enhancing the company’s bottom-line.
In this article, I will explain what WiFi is and how it works. I will also discuss what you need to start working wirelessly as well as what you can expect to gain from doing so. Finally, I’ll discuss the precautions you should take when working on the go.
What is WiFi? Learn the lingo
Wireless, or WiFi, technology is another way of connecting your computer to the network using radio frequency and no network cables.
Wireless works similarly to cordless phones; they transmit data from one point to another through radio signals. But wireless technology also requires that you be within the wireless network range area to be able to connect your computer. There are three different types of wireless networks:
- Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN): WLAN are wireless networks that use radio waves. The backbone network usually uses cables, with one or more wireless access points connecting the wireless users to the wired network. The range of a WLAN can be anywhere from a single room to an entire campus.
- Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN): WPANs are short-range networks that use Bluetooth technology. They are commonly used to interconnect compatible devices near a central location, such as a desk. A WPAN has a typical range of about 30 feet.
- Wireless Wide Area Networks (WWAN): WWANs are created through the use of mobile phone signals typically provided and maintained by specific mobile phone (cellular) service providers. WWANs can provide a way to stay connected even when away from other forms of network access. Also, be aware that additional charges are often associated with the usage of WWANs in some locations.
How do I get started?
The only thing you really need to go wireless (in addition to a mobile PC) is a wireless PC Card. Depending on the age of your mobile PC, the card is either built-in or needs to be inserted in the PC Card slot and includes an antenna. In addition, you can also use wireless keyboards and mice, which can provide more freedom and flexibility when you’re working in your office.
It’s always good to research the available hotspots in the area you’re planning on visiting.
As you head out in this brave new world of wirelessly connectivity, here are the steps to follow to connect to a wireless network (whether at home, at work, or on the go):
1. Locate available networks: Right-click the wireless network connection icon in your taskbar, and then click View Available Wireless Networks.
Find the wireless network you can use.
2. Connect to one of the available wireless networks in range: In the Wireless Network Connection dialog box, click the name of the network you want to connect to and click Connect.
Choose the wireless connection you want to use.
Note If you’re using Windows XP SP2 and the network you’re connecting to is security-enabled but does not support Windows Provisioning Service, you may be prompted to enter a key.
3. Get things done: Windows XP will briefly change the network’s connection status to Acquiring Network Address, and then to Connected. You are now free to surf the Web, download and respond to e-mails, or put the final touches to the presentation you’ll be giving later in the day.
Working wirelessly: What’s in it for me
Working wirelessly can offer you the following benefits.
- Flexibility: The lack of cables that comes with wireless networking enables you to roam with your mobile PC. You can roam from your office to a nearby conference room for a meeting, or from the couch in the living room to a kitchen for a snack. For example, if you’re working wirelessly in a meeting you can printout a report for a co-worker without having to leave the meeting.
- Time-saving: If you’re waiting for an important response you can use your mobile PC to monitor your e-mail even when you’re in meetings or at lunch. As soon as you get the data needed, you can promptly forward it to your customer rather than wondering whether the information has come in while you were away and having to run back to your office between meetings and other commitments.
- Increased productivity: Working wirelessly enables you to turn down times between meetings or while in transit into productive time. For example, you may be attending a conference and just found out that one of the sessions you were planning on attending has been cancelled. Rather than waste the next hour, you can check e-mail, start compiling your trip report, or order your son’s birthday present.
- Easier collaboration: Using wireless mobile PCs, you can easily share files and information with others. For example, you can collaborate on a presentation with colleagues during a flight delay in an airport lounge, or you can share the syllabus of a course while attendees so that they can take more digitally during the class.
What should I worry about when working wirelessly?
When working wirelessly from hotspots and public places, you are responsible for ensuring the security of your files and your mobile PC.
To make network access easier for their users, public hotspots typically leave all security turned off. This means that any information you send from a hotspot is most likely unencrypted, and anyone within range of the wireless LAN whether at a next table or in the car park can access and use your Internet connection, and look at your unprotected information.
WiFi gives you the freedom to go anywhere and still be connected to your office, your family, and other important aspects of your life. Your virtual office can now be an ice cream parlor in a seaside resort. Embrace and enjoy the flexibility that WiFi affords you.