September 2, 2014

Wireless Networks vs. Ethernet Networks. Is there Still a Debate?

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The move towards wireless networks seems inexorable. Mobility is rapidly starting to trump all other considerations when it comes to networking (well, not security, but those other considerations), so the question becomes are there times when an Ethernet, hard-wired LAN still makes sense for a business? The short answer is absolutely, depending on the business requirements.Ethernet Network Cable

In a recent conversation with Chris Williams, a wireless and networking specialist at Carousel Industries, we discussed the pros and cons of each technology and the role each could play in your organization in 2011 depending on your needs.

Ethernet Networks – The Need For Speed

The old workhorse of the enterprise, Ethernet networks, are still capable and reliable. Some of the benefits include:

  • Proven and Understood – Ethernet networks have been around for years, IT teams are familiar with them, the protocol is well understood, they are fast and secure. What’s not to like about that?
  • Speed - In today’s modern workplace, VOIP traffic, video, multi-channel communications, rich media and the management of large files locally and over distance, all demand more and more speed and throughput from the network. Ethernet networks with Gigabyte speed handle these requirements with barely a hiccup. If your organization manages large amounts of local data, relies on high performance computing or you are managing more intense data streams (voice, video, etc.), the benefits of Ethernet based speed go a long way.
  • Highly Secure – Hard-wired systems are inherently more secure. Although new wireless controllers and technologies are rapidly catching up, Ethernet networks are understood, easily manageable by the IT team and well protected behind modern firewalls.
  • Already in Place – For many companies, the capability and capacity of an Ethernet network is already in place. Cost of keeping it in place = $0

Not everything about Ethernet is ideal. Some of the downside of relying on Ethernet includes:

  • Stuck to Your Desk – You’re not going anywhere with your laptop, unless you’re walking around with an ethernet cable and plugging in. We all did it for years, but employees don’t want to be dealing with the hassle in 2011.
  • No Mobile Devices – Smartphone and Tablets are not Ethernet ready, so if you want to connect them to the local network, Ethernet is not going to cut it.
  • More Costly to Implement – Who wants to be drilling holes in walls, running cables over drop ceilings and installing new jacks? In a new office, the cost is much higher than wireless

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Best Practices:  Smartphones and Consumer Devices on the Enterprise Network

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Wireless Networks – No Strings on Me

For modern workspaces, more and more organizations want their employees to be free to move around, collaborate and use the networked devices that make sense. For this, wireless is the answer. Some of the benefits of wireless networks include:

  • Mobility – Work where you want, connect via your Smartphone or Tablet, allow guests to access the Internet.
  • Security enhancement – The security on wireless networks has come a long way in the last several years and is now on par with that for wired networks. With wireless enforcement points and internal wireless firewalls on the centrally managed wireless network controllers, businesses can now expect a high level of security and support that was not available five years ago.
  • Low Cost of Implementation – If your organization is opening a new office, deploying wireless can significantly lower implementation costs.
  • Issue Remediation – With so many companies like Aruba, Juniper and Meru working on providing enterprise-level wireless backbones, whenever a new issue does arise, a solution is not far behind.

The potential downside of Wireless networks include:

  • Throughput – The primary downside of Wireless is related to speed. If you are running VOIP, video and multi-channel communications for your enterprise over the air, you may start to run into throughput issues. Having a clear understanding of your traffic flow, what data and resources your users are accessing, local vs. remote traffic requests and future IT deployment plans can provide you with a clear understanding of your throughput requirements and insight into whether current wireless technology can support your needs.
  • Radio interference – In certain locations, you can potentially run into radio frequency interference. Think being next to a number of radio towers or satellite transponders. Interference can play havoc with your wireless deployment.

As always, when considering enhancing or replacing your physical infrastructure, it is critical to start with a systems assessment and a clear understanding of your organizational goals. To speak with a networking or physical infrastructure specialist at Carousel, contact us today.

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