Relying on convenient wireless networks? You may be sacrificing speed, security, and stability. Traditional wired internet has many advantages for small businesses.
When you arrive at the office, you need things to run smoothly. You don’t necessarily need to know why—as long as they work. But when your network internet connection slows to a halt, gets targeted by criminals, or drops altogether, it’s time to find solutions that can get you back to full functionality.
When it comes to network security and speed, the questions you should ask start from the ground up.
- Is the network for your small business wired, wireless, or a combination of both?
- On what equipment does the network run?
- What’s the difference between wired and wireless networks?
While wireless networks have many advantages, Anderson Technologies recommends a wired connection whenever possible. Here’s why.
How Does Wired Internet Impact Speed?
One of Anderson Technologies’ clients struggled with dramatically slow speeds on their wireless network prior to signing up for managed IT services. While the business paid for a 300 Megabit per second (Mbps) connection from their ISP, its laptops only accessed 1 to 12-megabit speeds! Its internet service provider was more than happy to increase bandwidth on the wireless router, but this added expense didn’t improve the usability of the network.
One of the biggest disadvantages of wireless networks is that they lose speed as the number of competing devices increases.
The Anderson Technologies team analyzed the office’s wireless network and discovered it broadcasted on a frequency busy with considerable interference from competing devices in neighboring offices. We upgraded the office’s wireless access point (WAP) hardware, and configured them to broadcast on an unused, clear frequency. As a result, the client’s speed now meets to the 300 Mbps connection they’re paying for.
Wireless networks are constantly competing against natural phenomena like lightning, other wireless networks in the area, and radio interference. All these affect speed and performance. With the expanding utilization of the Internet of Things (IoT), this problem will only continue to grow.
The IoT offers convenient features for security systems, lighting, and even appliances. However, these gadgets depend heavily on your wireless network. Have you ever noticed a loss in network speed around internet-connected devices? This is a common problem. As small businesses increasingly invest in IoT for improved accessibility, they may be unintentionally hurting their wireless network speeds.
Ultimately, wired networks are significantly faster than wireless ones. While Anderson Technologies’ client was happy to approach 300 Mbps speeds for its wireless network, hardlined wires most commonly run at gigabit speeds—1,000 times faster than megabit.
No matter what the provider-rated speed of a wireless connection is, real-world speed is always slower due to overhead, competing devices, interference, and network traffic.
The advantage of a wired network is that it guarantees a faster speed from the beginning, and unlike a wireless network, it won’t lose speed when exposed to interference.
How do Wired and Wireless Internet Connections Compare on Stability?
Compared to a wireless connection, a wired line isn’t affected by nature, equipment, or competing devices. Once installed, a wired network rarely breaks, which provides vital stability to small businesses.
Another Anderson Technologies client previously experienced poor performance on their wireless network. In the middle of important tasks, the network would drop and then slowly come back online, requiring multiple restarts a day—losing valuable employee time and energy.
When Anderson Technologies performed a preliminary audit of the environment, we immediately discovered the problem: poor equipment. The client was running the entire network on home-grade wireless access points (WAPs) which were not providing a true mesh network enabling employees to seamlessly transfer from WAP to WAP as they moved through the suite. On top of that, the WAPs were not situated optimally to provide wireless for the entire office.
Enterprise-level equipment is important for every small business network but especially for wireless connections. This technology is already running at a disadvantage, and subpar hardware won’t provide the wireless network a business needs. Enterprise-grade solutions may mean a significant investment, but the cost of inadequate hardware is often paid in low productivity and constant downtime.
If your business runs mostly on portable systems like laptops and other mobile devices, a capable wired network is still possible by investing in solutions such as a dock for laptops. This piece of hardware connects a laptop to the office’s wired network. They aren’t costly and make a big difference.
Security: How Do Wired and Wireless Networks Compare?
Wired networks also outperform wireless when it comes to security. From the exposure of the KRACK threat to ongoing proximity attacks, wireless security isn’t as robust as we once believed. With a wireless connection, web traffic travels via radio waves, and even encrypted traffic can be captured with close proximity and the right malicious tools. With a hard-wired network, a criminal needs physical access to the hardware.
Of the small and medium-sized businesses surveyed for the Cybersecurity in an Era of Competing Priorities: The State of SMB Cybersecurity in 2021, 32% had been breached in the past 12 months. While bigger targets make the news, this trend means the chances of your network coming under fire are high. Small businesses dealing in confidential internal and client data can’t afford to be hacked.
Despite the fact that threats to small businesses are on the rise, many business owners still don’t consider themselves vulnerable. Half of the small businesses surveyed at a recent conference said their wireless networks were not partitioned from visitor access. That means clients waiting in the foyer and potential cyber criminals lurking nearby access the same network that house confidential client data.
Data sent on public wireless networks is simply not as safe as when a wired network is used.
What’s the Best Way to Optimize Your Wireless Internet?
If you do choose to go with a wireless network, here are some tips for getting the most from your connection:
- Identify busy wireless frequencies and broadcast your network away from that traffic. This can help your network obtain the speed you pay for.
To analyze frequencies and better optimize your wireless network, Anderson Technologies utilizes a solution from Ekahau which paints a real-world picture of where your Wi-Fi is effective, and where gaps in coverage or busy traffic may ruin your connection.
- Keep public and private access to your network partitioned. Visitors and users off the street don’t need to access private data vital to your business. Partitioning your network provides the customer service of a wireless network while keeping your business safe.
- Consider using a wired connection for stationary desktops and install docking stations for laptops. This allows fast, secure, and stable access to the wired network, while keeping a wireless connection available for mobile work.
- Update network equipment regularly.
- Use enterprise-grade equipment.
- Contact an IT services provider for tips catered to your business’ specific needs and goals.
Anderson Technologies is a St. Louis IT consulting firm. Let us help you weigh the options of wired vs wireless networks for your small business. For more information about a network audit, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 314.394.3001 today.