Unless your home or small office has been hard-wired for a local area network (meaning network wiring in the walls, wall network ports, and a central switch or other connectivity device in a closet), the reason to create a wireless home network is fairly self evident. And while many homes and small offices may have started out with one shared computer that had a dial-up Internet connection, lower-cost computers and the availability of extremely fast broadband Internet connections make the creation of a home network highly desirable and affordable.
Wireless networking provides an excellent alternative to wired networks and provides enough bandwidth (up to 54Mbps) for sharing printers and files, and even gaming on the network. Because the WLAN requires an access point for the various wireless-enabled computers to communicate, the access point can consist of a wireless router that can also serve as an intermediary between the WLAN and a broadband Internet connection. The router allows all the computers on the wireless network to share the same high-speed Internet connection.
WLAN (wireless local area network) A network that is limited to one localized site (thus the "local" in the name).
Access point A hardware device that acts as the central connecting point for wireless-enabled devices. Access points can also provide LAN ports so that computers on the network can be connected to the access point using traditional network cabling. WiFi routers contain access points so that the WiFi-enabled computers can access the network and take advantage of a high-speed Internet connection where the WiFi router serves as the intermediary between the home network and your Internet connection.
WLANs also provide your users with mobility, which is in sharp contrast to a wired LAN. Users with a notebook computer that is wireless-enabled can roam anywhere inside and outside of the home or small office, just as long as they stay in range of the wireless access point (distances of more than 150 feetand in some cases 300 feetcan be achieved).
The costs related to creating a WLAN are actually quite reasonable, especially where only a few computers will be connected. And most new notebook computers come with a wireless network adapter as part of the base price.
Even if you have already networked your home or small office computers using network cabling, you might want to clear away the "spaghetti mess" of cables. And if you have older network connectivity devices such as hubs and network adapters, replacing these devices with newer WLAN devices will actually increase the data rate on the network.
It definitely makes sense to go wireless if you already have multiple computers in a home or small office that are not networked. As already mentioned, networking allows you to share files, printers, and the Internet connection. When adding computers to your home or office, you certainly should consider buying a new computer with a wireless network adapter.
Even if you already have a "wired" home network, you can still go WiFi and add new computers to the network by outfitting them with WiFi network adapters. Because most WiFi routers also provide switch ports, you can connect wired computers directly to the WiFi router. The WiFi-enabled computers on the network connect using radio waves. So, whether a computer is connected by network cabling or radio waves doesn't really matter in terms of the computer taking advantage of the high-speed Internet connection provided on the network and the ability of all the computers to share resources such as files and printers.
One last word about taking advantage of WiFi networking: Although WiFi networking is easy to take advantage of, the fact that your data travels on WiFi radio frequencies means that security can be an issue for your network. Other people can "listen in" on your wireless communications unless you take steps to secure your network. It makes sense to use the security features provided by WiFi-enabled devices such as wireless routers. For more information on WiFi security, see About Basic Network Security.