When getting your small-to-medium business (or SMB) off the ground, it can be easy to just grab a default wireless router, set up a network, and never give it another thought.
The thing is, some wireless networks are different from others, and mastering those differences can help ensure you’ve made the right choice for your business’s continued success and growth. So what exactly are these differences? BACS has the answer.
The different kinds of networks can sound a bit like Alphabet Soup; Wireless G, Wireless N, Wireless AC… however, each type of network does have its own unique signifiers that set it apart from the others. Let’s take a look at the various wireless transmission standards, how they differ, and how that will affect your business, whether it’s a small startup or a large enterprise.
What Are the Different Wireless Standards?
Here are the different kinds of wireless networking standards available today:
Wireless G (802.11g): Average speed is 54 Mbps with an average range of 125 ft
Wireless N (802.11n): Average speed is 300+ Mbps with an average range of 230+ ft
Wireless AC (802.11ac): Average speed is 1+ Gbps with an average range of 115 ft
So, which wireless networking standard is right for your business? It’s not necessarily the choice with the highest speed or range right off the bat. Here’s a closer look.
Wireless G: Best For Very Small Networks
Wireless G was first introduced in the early 2000s, just when constant connection was becoming truly essential for large enterprises (but before it had become essential for almost any business in existence today). The Wireless G networking standard is a common signal, compatible with just about everything — laptops, desktops, and mobile devices that have their own WiFi adapter built in. Generally speaking, if your router is an older model or marketed for ‘general use’ and not necessarily business use, it’s likely to be a Wireless G. In fact, some antiquated devices that utilize Wireless B (an older variation on networking standards) are compatible with currently Wireless G devices.
Wireless G routers are really only a good option if you plan to maintain only a very small network. Small businesses with 5 employees or less may find that a Wireless G works for them, without any added investment necessary. However, should your business grow and begin to take on more employees, it’s time to look at Wireless N.
Wireless N: Best For Small to Medium-Sized Organizations
Wireless N gives organizations the opportunity to provide more over-the-air bandwidth to the machines that authenticate onto the network. For a business that is in the process of growing, this could provide some much-needed extra flexibility.
A Wireless N router typically features two antennas, giving consumers the ability to utilize up to 300 Mbps. Advanced Wireless N routers are able to add a third antenna, which will allow the device to provide up to a 450Mbps connection!
Most modern wireless adapters are compatible with Wireless N. Although Wireless G operates exclusively on the 2.4Ghz spectrum, Wireless N can operates on both the the 2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz spectrums simultaneously. Businesses can mix and match these antennas, in order to gain additional range.
Large Enterprises May Like Wireless AC
Wireless AC is a new wireless transmission standard that is based around maximizing bandwidth. Wireless AC is sometimes called Gigabit WiFi because speeds can blaze past 1 Gbps.
The downside to Wireless AC is that its relative newness in the market means that it is not supported on many of the regular WiFi adapters found in PCs, laptops, and mobile devices (even if they’re brand new). You may find that your enterprise is required to purchase and maintain a special type of wireless networking adapter to communicate with any router broadcasting on Wireless AC.
This may end up being an added expense that your business isn’t willing to take on. It really comes down to a balance of your need for speed (and access to bandwidth) vs. the cost of the initial investment in this networking standard. Wireless AC compatible WiFi cards can be difficult and pricey to find on the market. It is important to keep this in mind as you begin to build out your enterprise WiFi offering.
A guest who shows up to your office, whether for a sales call or a scheduled meeting, may not have a WiFi adapter that would be able to work with Wireless AC. This could lead to one of two uncomfortable scenarios:
The user is unable to connect to the network at all, or
The user is able to access the network, but only at a lower transmission standard, so their networking connection would be slow and prone to dropping out entirely.
Keep in Mind the Pros and Cons
If your business requires that you offer Gigabit WiFi (Wireless AC), you can expect to spend a significant amount of time researching, testing, and deploying specialized hardware that will achieve your organization’s core objectives. When Wireless AC is the right choice and is implemented within an enterprise-level business, it comes with a huge payoff! Most organizations will maintain Wireless AC standards in high-use areas like conference rooms, training areas, or computer labs.
Implementing Wireless N for your Business
Wireless N can definitely be a workhorse for the right business. Wireless N is able to transition over several generations of WiFi adapters, thanks to its backwards compatibility with cards that only utilize Wireless G.
The drawback here is speed. Wireless N just can’t keep up with Wireless AC. When you have large groups of people trying utilize the signal of a single WiFi router, you’ll likely have end users who complain about delays when they connect to website or when they are simply trying to fetch files from common network file servers.
One of the largest pros is cost. Wireless N tends to involve a significantly smaller investment than the new Wireless AC generation of wireless routers. Wireless N is commonly included on most modern WiFi routers, so the technology already maintains wide support and is easily found and purchased on the market.
When businesses need to expand their Wireless N network, they can do so by simply bridging together multiple wireless access points to create an enterprise WiFi solution for your office space.
Does Wireless G Have a Place in Today’s Business World?
Most WiFi routers on the market today support both Wireless G and Wireless N connections. If you’re looking at a router that only supports Wireless G, you’re likely looking at an antiquated device from the early-to-mid 2000s.
Currently, Wireless G networks are not recommended for offices that have more than three to five employees. For small businesses that have been around for a few years, it’s entirely possible that your current network is still running off a Wireless G router in your office. It’s one of the best-selling routers of all time, and frugal small business owners aren’t usually willing to replace anything that hasn’t broken.
These devices can still be commonly found in homes, hotels, schools, and places of business.
Nonetheless, if your business is looking to sustain growth or compete in a modern marketplace, it is likely time for you to upgrade to Wireless N.
So What’s the Right Decision?
For most SMBs, we come down solidly on Wireless N being the right choice. Its backwards compatibility, cost-effectiveness, and ability to work rapidly with just about any other network makes it a good, solid choice for a growing business that can’t quite manage the investment involved in Wireless AC.
When performance is of the utmost importance or your enterprise is dealing with very large, heavy-use networks, consider implementing Wireless AC. It’s a costlier solution with some additional planning to purchase and install, but the speed and power benefits mean that a large enterprise may find that Wireless AC brings a worthwhile return on the initial investment.
Interested in whether or not your business needs to upgrade? Schedule an IT Assessment with us and we’d be happy to take a look at your network, giving you our professional opinion on what the right Wireless standard for you would be, whether or not we locate security vulnerabilities that could leave you falling victim to ransomware or worse, and work with you on the kind of managed services that let you stop worrying about network details and get back to what matters — your business. Give us a call at (650) 887-4601 or contact us online by clicking the banner below to schedule your IT Assessment today!