WiFi vs Ethernet & Wired vs Wireless Networks: What You Should Know

By: Clay Ostlund
November 28, 2018

With mobility and flexibility becoming increasingly important to your business and its employees, have you taken time to consider what sort of network best suits your needs? Should you continue to rely upon a wired network, or is it time to go wireless? The WiFi vs ethernet discussion is one had more often than you might expect. Both wired and wireless networks come with pros and cons for your business, but understanding the differences will help you make the right decision. Let’s bring clarity to the pros and cons of each networking option. 

When it comes to determining which of these networks for business is better, the conversation has to start with you. I'm certain your workplace already has a network in place. Which one is it? Is it meeting your needs? What problems are you facing with it? These are likely the most important questions to begin assessing your current network. 

Wired Vs. Wireless Networks for Business

WiFi vs Ethernet & Wired vs Wireless Networks: What You Should Know for BusinessOnce you've assessed your current network and identified what is and isn't working for you, take a look at this comparison between wired and wireless networks for businessIn this blog, I'll be sharing the pros and cons of both options.

Pros of Wired Networks

Wired networks have remained a popular choice because they offer two obvious advantages: security and speed.

Security threats are everywhere, and because a wired network relies upon physical connections to access the network, it is that much more difficult to compromise. 

Additionally, robust security measures are more easily put in place on a wired network, increasing its security. With advancements in security solutions, we can determine the who, what, where and when of a data breach on both wired and wireless networks, ensuring proper security is taken into account.

Cons of Wired Networks

Wired networks come with two primary drawbacks: expense and clutter. As the name suggests, a wired network requires cabling or ethernet cords. These cords crisscross offices to establish a physical connection with every device needing network access. 

WiFi vs Ethernet & Wired vs Wireless Networks: What You Should Know for Business

Employees can resent the tangle of wires beneath their desk. It's usually not a functional issue, but troubleshooting becomes challenging when cabling is an issue. In most office environments, workstations and employees use wireless devices, so even with wired networks, employees elect to use wireless.

Wired networks are oftentimes more expensive to install than a wireless network. The cost of wired networks comes in the form of installation charges and cabling. Since each workstation and device in the office that needs a connection requires a wire running to it, the size of your office space affects the cost of a wired network.

Pros of Wireless Networks

With wireless networks, employees don’t have to be physically connected to access the network so your office space remains clutter-free. 

In today’s office environment, it is common for employees to have more than one device – and one or more of them are often mobile. For this reason, the flexibility and scalability of wireless networks appeal to businesses. With a wireless network, it is easy to provide employees with access, which they can use to connect multiple devices. Tablets, smartphones and laptops can all connect to the network allowing employees to access work files on the go, without a physical connection.

People can walk into any library, coffee shop, airport or mall in America and get Wi-Fi access for free. Whether it is your employees or clients visiting the office, people expect Wi-Fi access. The same can be said for your office.

WiFi vs Ethernet & Wired vs Wireless Networks: What You Should Know for Business

Cons of Wireless Networks

There are some extra considerations to be addressed in securing a wireless network. For example, many businesses don't have a secure screening process to sort through those who are and aren't authorized to connect to their wireless network. And the same can be said about authorized and unauthorized devices. Using technologies like Cisco Identity Services engine, we can determine the “Who, What, Where and When” information and apply a dynamic security access list on the fly.

Another concern with wireless networks is coverage. While some office buildings and certain locations can suffer from dark spots, the issue can typically be overcome with the right amount of attention to bandwidth, redundancy and routine upkeep. It is recommended to place an access point for every 2500-5000 square feet, depending on the material construction of the building. To provide a good wireless infrastructure, a solid wired infrastructure is a requirement, as this is the backbone for all wired access. Wireless is just an access method; it still relies on the wired network for backhaul.

A Hybrid Solution?

The best option for most businesses is a combination of the two systems. A wireless network that is integrated into your wired network allows your employees to access the network remotely, while also providing guests with complimentary Internet access on your premises.

It also maintains the benefits of a wired network, such as robust transmission levels and a more reliable connection. These two factors can be particularly critical for businesses that rely upon heavy data transmission. A hybrid system will likely be the best solution for your organization.

Is Ethernet Safer than WiFi? 

Not necessarily. While popular opinion might lead you to believe that connecting to a network via ethernet cable is safer than connecting via WiFi, it just isn't the case anymore. In today's world, there are many additional factors that go into establishing a secure connection. Everything from how up-to-date your operating systems are and the quality of your organization's password policy to the physical and digital security of each individual device that connects to your network has an impact of network safety and security. Wired connections may have been consistently safer in the past, but in today's world, so much more goes into securing a network. 

Request a consultation with a Networking Specialist to get answers to your networking questions and determine what solution is right for your business.

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Topics: Business IT Services