WiFi is a globally used wireless networking technology that uses the 802.11 standard. The term WiFi is an abbreviation of ‘wireless fidelity’. The technology used in WiFi was developed in 1997 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). This technology was later commercialized by the Wi-Fi Alliance, a trade group.
The basic system of WiFi is very simple. In a WiFi enabled network, computers with WiFi cards connect wirelessly to an access point or router. This access point or router is internet enabled the usual way, connected to the internet using a cable or DSL modem. Any PC or laptop with a WiFi card, which is within a radius of 200 feet (60 meters) from the access point can access internet. However a distance of 100 feet (30 meters) is considered ideal for good quality access. An area surrounding an access point, providing wireless access, is called a wireless hotspot.
The technology used in WiFi is easiest to understand in terms of radio. It is quite similar to walkie-talkies, the only difference being in the strength of signals. An ordinary walkie-talkie can handle only limited data in the range of 1000 bits per second, and operate at 49 MHz. In the case of WiFi radios, the signal strength is much more, so they can handle much higher data rates. WiFi radios typically operate at a frequency of 2.4GHz.
There are three versions of WiFi radios currently available- the ones that work with 802.11b, 802.11g and 802.11a standards. While the first two- 802.11b and 802.11g- transmit 2.4 GHz, the radios operating at 802.11a standard can transmit at 5GHz.
Another important feature of the WiFi radios that enables higher data rates is the coding techniques used. The 802.11a and 802.11g standard radios use Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) technique while the 802.11b uses Complementary Code Keying (CCK) technique.
Due to the higher frequencies and the encoding techniques, WiFi radios can transmit a very high amount of data per second. The 802.11a and 802.11g standard radios transfer between 30-54 megabits per second and the 802.11b standard typically conveys 7-11 megabits per second.
The WiFi Alliance has developed certification standards for laptops and other electronic gadgets like PDAs. Most of these appliances are today WiFi certified. This means that these gadgets are interoperable regardless of the brand.
The technology of WiFi was developed to enhance the convenience and increased productivity that portable computing and communication systems ushered in. In today’s scenario, the workforce moves about a lot on business. They typically carry laptops, PDAs and other gadgets and need to access the office network from wherever they are. WiFi is a hassle-free, cost effective and quicker way of deploying a network. It also makes greater flexibility possible.
A WiFi enabled work environment helps workers to stay connected for longer and even interact with the co-workers effortlessly.
Security- The Risk Factor
A wireless access point has the risk that anyone can access the information if they get within an accessible distance. Therefore it is important to take security precautions while setting up a WiFi network in your organization. The degree of security depends on the nature of information your organization handles. If it is highly sensitive information, you will need to go for customized security measures.