Wireless Internet access, sometimes referred to as a “hot spot,” is a local area network (LAN) run by radio waves rather than wires. Wireless Internet access is broadcast from the central hub which is a hard-wired device that actually brings in the Internet connection. The hub, located at the main computer system or server, broadcasts Internet connectivity to clients, which is basically anyone within “hearing” range who is equipped with a wireless LAN card.
In the home, a desktop system setup for wireless Internet access will broadcast connectivity throughout the immediate area. Any family member with a laptop or desktop in another room can connect wirelessly to the Internet to share the main connection. Neighbors may also be able to access your wireless connection, which is why most wireless LANs are configured with password security. In this case, any machine that wishes to get wireless Internet access must first complete a “handshake” with the LAN, in which the password is requested. If the proper password is not supplied, access is denied. While initial security technologies were weak, security protocols for wireless Internet access have vastly improved with Wi Fi Protected Access (WPA) and Wi Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) options.
While wireless Internet access is very convenient in the home, it is doubly so in the workplace. A wired network is not only very time consuming to install throughout a building, it is also very expensive. Ethernet cables used to connect client machines might need to be routed through walls, ceilings and floors. In the past, this disadvantage was sometimes overlooked due to the advantages of greater security and faster data transfer speeds through ethernet cables. However, these advantages have been largely mitigated. Wireless LANs can be installed in virtually minutes by nearly anyone, are extremely inexpensive, and data transfer rates rival hard-wired Ethernet LANs. Furthermore, WPA2 encrypts all traffic on the LAN, addressing the problem of eavesdropping.
One of the most popular applications for wireless Internet access is the public hot spot. Internet cafés are one example of places where one can sit with a laptop and sip coffee while cruising the Internet, checking email, or doing research. Cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs) equipped with Web browsers can also utilize wireless Internet access points through public hot spots. Some localities provide free wireless Internet access for residents and visitors, such as in the city of Hermosa Beach, California. Since wireless LANs use radio waves that distort over long distances, the radius of the signal is limited. The further from the hub, the weaker the signal. Therefore cities that provide access will cover a specific area within the city where people can park to gain access.
Technology for wireless LANs is improving constantly. If designing a new wireless network, be sure to get network cards, a hub and wireless modem that support the latest protocols and security measures. Follow instructions carefully when configuring wireless Internet access and you’ll be up and running with a secure network in no time!
Source: by R. Kayne- Wisegeek