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Beginners guide to Wi-Fi and Wireless Internet

October 11, 2011

Wi-Fi is the name given to wireless technology (or “wireless fidelity”). For our purposes, the term is most commonly used to provide Internet access without the need for wires. Rather than plugging your PC or laptop into your broadband modem, you can access the Internet remotely as long as you are in range of a Wi-Fi access point – either at home or when you’re out and about.

There are many benefits of switching to Wi-Fi – we’ve listed some of the key ones below:

In the Office

If you decide to install a wireless network in your office or home, you will immediately be able to dispense with the wires you’ve always used to connect to the web. New laptops and PC’s come with wireless technology installed, or you can install a network card into older equipment to allow easy Wi-Fi access. You and your employees will be able to work anywhere within range without the need for wires – they can connect to the web, access email and any other networked company systems.

Out and About

You can now access the web from all sorts of “outside” locations – from railway stations and airports, to hotels and your local Starbucks. All you need to access the web on the move is a laptop (with reasonable battery life remaining) and wireless capabilities (either built-in to your laptop, or via a wireless network card).

Mobile Internet

If you’re out of options for free Wi-Fi when you’re out and about, you may well be interested in Mobile Internet.

Your provider will give you a SIM card within a USB modem which you plug into your laptop. Click a button to get started and that’s pretty much it – you’re on the net. It’s not as fast as in an office, but it is getting faster all the time. Most urban areas are covered, but you’re less likely to be able to use mobile broadband out in the sticks, so check on providers’ websites before signing up.

The major providers, such as Vodafone and Orange provide monthly access bundles for as little as £10 a month. You should check the T&C’s carefully though, as you’ll most likely be charged for download amounts above an agreed monthly limit.

Security

If you are installing a wireless router at work or home, you should ensure that you set up a secured wireless network – many technophobes neglect this option as routers are shipped without default security options. You will be given the choice of setting up WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy), or (WPA) Wi-Fi Protected Access. As WEP has been shown to have security flaws, you should try to install WPA security on your router. If anyone wants to access your wireless network, you will need to provide them with the code generated when you set up WEP or WPA access.

How do I get it?

It is very easy to get going with Wi-Fi. Depending on your current broadband supplier, you may need to buy a broadband wireless router (if you have cable broadband via Virgin Media, for example), or an ADSL wireless router (if you have a BT line). Some broadband suppliers will provide you with everything you need (including wireless), but others won’t.

If required, you should be able to pick up a router for under £60. The higher the access range (in metres), the higher the price. If you’re living in a large house or office, make sure you buy a router with the maximum range, otherwise you’ll struggle to pick up a signal from remote parts of your property.