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LANs vs. WLANs: Which network designs are used for each company size?

Which network design is easier to implement, LANs or wireless LANs? Our network administration expert explains this and which designs best fit particular functions and areas of your organization.

Do you consider LAN to be the best choice for small area? If so, why?
I do consider that a Local Area Networks ( LAN) is the best choice for small areas. There are several considerations that I would make to assess this decision, but LANs are in fact designed for small areas. With this question, I assume there's a little bit more to the question. Typically when asked, there's some confusion about wireless versus wired LAN environments. So I'm going to go with a massive assumption that is what you're inferring.

In today's ubiquity of technical availability, LAN's provide the users quick, efficient access to local resources and a route to the Internet that is also quite simple to set up and maintain by IT staff. There are several pros and cons to my choices for wired versus wireless technologies used to implement the LAN.

My personal preference is wireless technologies as I am absolutely abysmal at running and cabling. I could frighten you with stories of my feeble attempts to get all of my cabling done correctly. I'd get the patterns correct but the ends would never line up. And if you're as OCD as I am, this would be a massive problem. While this personal story is a little humorous, it brings up a valid point to implementing a wired LAN environment. In wired environments, the equipment is easy and cheap but requires cables to be run and switches to be configured. NICs on servers and workstations need administration as well as DHCP scopes. The overhead to managing and wiring things tends to be a little more difficult than setting up a wireless network.

Setting up and maintaining wireless networks is a little easier. You don't have to match pretty little blue and white striped wires to plastic ends. With wireless networks, the initial setup is much simpler, but be sure to set up the SSID's and security properly. Troubleshooting wireless networks tends to be the hardest thing to do in that signaling might be weak and disconnections may run rampant. A vast array of new features in the wireless access points (WAPs) and administration of these devices has made provisioning WAP's a breeze. There are some new additional tools on the market that provide great visibility into troubleshooting. It also simplifies the administration of trying to find cables in conference rooms and roam around with laptops, providing a mobile workspace. And did I mention you don't have to run cables? Wireless LAN (WLAN)technologies are where I would invest in my infrastructure for end-users. I would implement wired technologies for servers.

So yes, LANs are designed for small areas. WLANs are ideal for end-users while wired LANs are suggested for server connectivity.

This was last published in November 2008

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