Whether you are setting up a network in your home office or at your place of work, there is more to going wireless than simply plugging in a Wi-Fi® router. Properly planned, the only wires you should have to contend with are your power cords and battery chargers. Further, security should be a priority when you set up a Wi-Fi network. Unlike cables, anyone can try to gain access to your computers and the data they contain, even from the parking lot across the street.
Think Beyond Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is an integral technology when it comes to a wireless office, but it's not the end-all and be-all of reducing the number of cables on your desk. Bluetooth is built into most computers and many devices, including tablets and printers. With a range of about 30 feet, it can give you wireless connectivity anywhere in the room without dragging down your Wi-Fi router. Using a laptop is also a good way to reduce your cable clutter, but if you don't have a need for a laptop's portability, consider an all-in-one PC. These come in a variety of sizes with the computer strategically placed behind the LCD screen. With a wireless keyboard and mouse, the only cable this leaves is the power cord.
When most people think about wireless network components, they think of their laptop, tablet and even a wireless mouse and keyboard, but not everyone considers the printer. In fact, if you bought your printer in recent years, there's a good chance it has a Wi-Fi adapter built inside already. If it doesn't, check your printer's documentation to see if it can be upgraded to Wi-Fi or Bluetooth with an expansion card. Another option is to connect the printer to a desktop you won't be moving around much anyway, and then share the printer from the computer. As long as the computer and printer are turned on, you can access the printer through the computer over Wi-Fi.
Use WPA2 Encryption
On a business Wi-Fi network, there is no reason to use anything less than WPA2 encryption. This has been the standard for Wi-Fi networks for many years and is supported by any computer running Windows XP or later. The older WEP encryption is still an option on many Wi-Fi routers, but it essentially gives your network no security, since anyone with the right software—which is easily accessible online—can hack into your network.
If for some reason you have computers that don't support WPA2 encryption, it would be better not to connect them to your Wi-Fi rather than limiting your network's security. Remember to use a strong password that is difficult for anyone to guess. No amount of security can protect your data if you use a password like "password" or "pass123."
Protect Your Data from Guest Access
If you decide to open up the free guest access option on your Wi-Fi router, make sure you properly isolate it from the rest of your network. Even the most robust security measures can be easily compromised when a new method of access is opened, says Micheal Dine, a senior network architect who specializes in data security and has audited wireless networks around the world. "It's the lack of security of the Wi-Fi that's often the problem," says Dine. "It's not so much from their internal network but from a guest wireless service."
While opening free guest access on a Wi-Fi router may seem easy to do, it can also make your data vulnerable to attack. "Using simple tools, like free apps you can get on any smart device, the entire network is vulnerable," he explains. "You can just sit in the parking lot and access servers that you wouldn't be able to reach over the Internet." If you are going to offer free guest Wi-Fi, Dine recommends isolating the guest wireless from the rest of the network using a firewall.
Optimize Your Wi-Fi Signal
Depending on the construction of your home or office and the furniture you have, getting a strong Wi-Fi signal from your Wi-Fi router and each device may be easier said than done. Large metal objects like filing cabinets, metal doors and metal desks can cripple your Wi-Fi signal. Even metal studs inside a wall can interfere with Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi indicator on a computer, smartphone or tablet can tell you if the signal is relatively strong or weak–however, gauging the strength by peering at three or four small bars can be difficult.
For a more precise look at your Wi-Fi signal strength from one place to another in a room, download any of the free Wi-Fi tools available from the app store on your smartphone or tablet. These apps will tell you precisely how strong the Wi-Fi signal is at any location. You can then move the router or the device as needed to get the best signal possible in your office.
Photo Credits: Describe the Fauna/DemandMedia
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