Byte-Size Tech: Wired vs. Wireless

Mark Anderson and Ryenn Gaebler of Anderson Technologies walk through a comparison between wired and wireless network connections. Stick around to the end because Mark has some tips for optimizing your wireless speeds, stability, and security.

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Ryenn Gaebler: Hi, everyone. Thank you for joining us for another episode of Byte-Size Tech. My name is Ryenn Gaebler. I’m a Client Success Manager here at Anderson Technologies.

Mark Anderson: And I’m Mark Anderson and so pleased to be with you all.

Ryenn: Today I want to talk about the internet. A question from many of our clients is, “Why isn’t my internet functioning the way I would like it to?” It seems to come down to three major areas: speed, stability, and security. What I’ve learned is that a lot of this can depend on whether or not it is a wireless network or a wired network. Could you tell us a little bit about that and how that type of network impacts speed?

Mark: Sure. So what you can think of very simply with these two types of networks is very traditionally, in a business setting, a gigabit speed is what you could expect to have on your wired network. So that’s 1000 megabits per second, right? On your wireless network, the theoretical limit of the latest wireless standard, which is 802.11N is 600 megabits, that’s when everything is running absolutely beautifully. I’ve had clients, though, when we’ve gone and done a speed test on their wireless networks have speeds anywhere from one to 16 megabits per second. So quite a difference there compared to the theoretical limit of 1000 megabits on the wired side.

Ryenn: I know obviously a lot of clients depend on the internet for daily operations, so how does that translate into stability?

Mark: What you can kind of think of is a wired network is almost a set it and forget it kind of a scenario. On the wireless side of the equation, however, there are all kinds of factors that could come into play that would impact the stability of the network. We’ve seen it time and time again, in clients’ networks, the number of devices that are competing for that radio signal, how the individual wireless access points are configured for the strength of the signal that they’re putting out, how many IoT devices you have in the environment, whether you’re in a building that has a suite on top of you, one behind you. There’s all kinds of things that can impact the ability for your laptop to get a good strong signal to the wireless access point that happens to be close to you, and have that done reliably.

Ryenn: So I’m sensing a theme here. But, Mark, if you would tell us a little bit about how that affects security.

Mark: Security is incredibly important for all businesses. Just picture a little mental experiment with me: I’m looking outside the window here, if I show up at 8pm when no one is in the office, and I’m standing outside your window, I could have a wireless network scanner on my laptop, and I could detect all of the different radio frequencies that are in range of my scanner. Again, the suite next door could do the same thing. Someone could go to the restroom down the hall and do the same thing there. So you have to really make sure that you’re cognizant of the fact that your wireless network is broadcasting very broadly all over the place, right? It wants to have good coverage. The importance of having a guest network configured with one set of passwords, and then a private network configured for you internally and all of your data with a very hard to guess password is very critically important. How does that compare to the wired side of things, right? In order for someone to gain access to your wired network, they physically need to be within your suite and plugging into, say, an RJ45 connection in a wall somewhere or the network switch somewhere or they need to gain access to the building’s phone closet, if you will, and tap in physically there. All of those things could obviously be done, but they’re much more difficult to manage without being detected, versus me driving up to the parking lot with my laptop in my car and just turning on a network scanner. So, the much more physical aspect of the wired network versus the more exposed aspect of the wireless network really makes a big impact on security.

Ryenn: That’s wired internet getting a three out of three advantage over wireless. But I do know that many businesses, including ours, benefit from the flexibility of having a wireless connection available. To kind of wrap this all up, what are a handful of tips you can give for getting the most out of your wireless network?

Mark: Sure, that’s a great question. You’re right, we all live in the real world, and we need these modern conveniences to help us save time, right? It’s just really important to make sure that the wireless access points that you have installed are truly enterprise-grade, so that someone could walk throughout the office environment and just bounce from radio to radio without them even knowing that it’s happening. That would be really important. Then for those like you and I that have laptops, investing in docks so that that dock when you go to your desk has a hard line connection to it. You’re getting that full gigabit speed while you’re in the office. But then the convenience of when I want to go home and maybe do a little bit of work after hours or what have you, just close your laptop case and immediately with just one wire disconnect and take that laptop home. That’s really a great thing to consider doing. And then maybe finally, you could if you wanted to after having done all of those things, if you still don’t feel like your network is quite up to scratch, you’re not getting the performance that you think you should, there are tools such as from Ekahau is a brand that we really like, where you can, given a very specialized device and a piece of software, you can walk through your environment, and it is reading, if you will, the radio signal strength and a whole lot of other information that is in the air. It’s amazing the information that you can find by doing that, and that really exposes some weak spots and then allows you to tune your environment to get the very best out of your wireless environment.

Ryenn: Fantastic. Thank you, Mark. And of course, if any of you have questions about how to do these types of surveys or dig into this a bit more, please talk to your IT service provider. They can, share all that with you. And if you don’t have an IT service provider, please reach out to us. We’re always happy to help. With that, we thank you all for joining us for another episode of Byte-Size Tech and we’ll see you next time. Thanks so much.

Mark: Thanks, guys. Bye.