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Is WLAN Right For You?
Levels of Wireless Networks
802.11b WLAN

A traditional, wired local area network (LAN) sends packages of data from one piece of equipment to another across cables or wires. A wireless local area network (WLAN) relies instead upon radio waves to transfer data. These radio signals are transferred between access points installed at key locations in the physical environment (such as on walls or ceilings) and wireless adapters attached to computing systems. A WLAN eliminates cables and wires and takes advantage of the fact that radio waves can pass through environmental obstacles, such as ceilings and walls. Wireless networks offer unprecedented flexibility for computer users, along with remote management capabilities for business owners or system administrators.

There are two primary components of a wireless network design: infrastructure and client adapters. Wireless infrastructure products consist of gateways and access points, which serve as data conduits and, where needed, provide a bridge between wireless and existing wired networks. Gateways are typically used for smaller businesses, while access points serve medium and enterprise businesses. Client adapters provide the links between computers and the network, as well as converting data into a format that the network can use. The adapter selected depends on the type of device being used. Adapters include WLAN PC cards, PCI cards, USB devices, and modules. Another important consideration in a WLAN is the antenna. Antennas serve to direct the radio waves into the desired area in a specific coverage pattern. For each key component of a WLAN, the particular equipment chosen depends on a particular site-with its unique usage patterns and environmental factors.

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