Choosing the right network for your small business can be tricky. But with a bit of research, you can save money while learning about networking in the process. Many small businesses opt for local area networks (also known as LANs) due to familiarity and simplicity. But there are times when a wireless LAN (WLAN for short) might be a better setup for you.
Read on to learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of WLANs vs LANs so you can streamline performance according to the needs of your business.
What is a LAN?
A local area network, or LAN, connects two or more computers, printers, or other IoT devices to one another through a central hub such as a router. If you’re using a cable-connected computer at your desk in a small office building, you may even be on a LAN right now. Small businesses with just a few devices on a single floor or businesses run out of the owner’s home are ideal candidates for a LAN.
What are the pros and cons of a LAN?
- Affordability: The initial setup for your LAN will cost less, making it easier for small businesses to launch without worrying about high internet bills.
- Security: Keeping your data safe is incredibly important for any business. Having your IoT network set up as a LAN limits data channels to cables when it’s most important, preventing any potentially malicious users from connecting wirelessly.
- Limited mobility: With a LAN, all your devices are glued to wherever your ethernet ports are. This can be troublesome in certain situations. For example, if a great idea suddenly pops into an employee’s head while they’re away from their desk, they won’t be able to share it through Teams on their mobile device (unless they use their own personal data). By the time they sit down again, the idea may have slipped away.
- Affordability and practicality tank as you grow: A LAN might be perfect if you have just a handful of employee computers that need to connect to a printer now and then. But as your company grows, most businesses find the cable and installation costs of expanding a LAN outweigh the advantages.
- Setup gets expensive fast: When you choose a LAN, you’re restricting the data transfer speed of your internet based on whichever cable you use. Depending on your budget, your installation choices could limit your network speed and ultimately, your productivity. Although today’s standard Cat 6 Ethernet cables support speeds of up to 1000 Gbps, this can get expensive fast—especially for a small business.
What is a Wireless LAN (WLAN)?
A Wireless LAN includes a variety of features that cabled networks cannot provide. WiFi is probably the most recognizable example of a WLAN setup. Many people use WLAN at home for streaming or gaming, at school for studying on campus, or for their small business.
What are the pros and cons of a WLAN?
- More widespread connectivity: While you can sometimes expand your LAN by adding a modem to include some WiFi connectivity, you’ll improve versatility and accessibility to a much higher degree by upgrading to WLAN. Your employees will be able to use their favorite devices and enjoy the benefits of fast WiFi speeds anywhere in the office that the signal reaches.
- Mobility and convenience: Your employees will be empowered to do their best work when they can connect wirelessly and get things done without being tied to their desks. New team members will also be able to integrate much more easily when they can simply tap and connect.
- Scalability: As you may already know, there comes a point where your small business is ready to broaden its horizons. This could mean taking on new hires or moving to a larger building, which makes WLANs a great option. Your newly optimized team can hit the ground running!
- Security concerns: Cabled networks have historically been far more secure since they require physical access to compromise. Wireless connections are easier to breach, which is why it’s so important to protect your WLAN with strong passwords and other means of access control.
- Bandwidth competition: If you have a LAN set up, it’s easier to dictate where your bandwidth is going. When you use a WLAN, then one person’s video upload can interfere with someone else’s Zoom meeting. Sometimes, bandwidth competition on a wireless network can cause someone’s signal to drop entirely for a moment. So if you use choose a WLAN, go with the new and improved WiFi 6 for maximum control of network traffic.
How do I choose the right setup for my business?
When debating WLAN vs LAN for your small business, always consider factors such as:
- Your employee headcount.
- The number of devices and data volume they’ll be using.
- The security measures you’ll need.
- Your company’s growth rate.
A LAN is a good choice for up-and-coming businesses who need to prioritize cost effectiveness and in-house security over expansion and higher speeds. But if your business needs more bandwidth, adaptability to mobile devices, and scalability, WLAN is the obvious choice for you.
Your team size is one of the most important factors to consider when deciding between a traditional LAN or a wireless LAN for your business. If you’re just starting out with a small team of employees in a compact office space, you’ll probably be fine with a LAN setup. However, if your company is large, WLAN might be for you.
The layout of your office is a very important factor when deciding between wireless LANs and traditional LANs. For example, if your office spans several floors and your employees are spread out over a broad area, you could benefit greatly from a wireless mesh setup. The wireless nodes scattered throughout your office space will make it easy for your employees to access the signals
Fortify your office security with a Wireless LAN
If you have security concerns weighing on your mind, there are several measures you can take to give yourself some peace of mind. Take advantage of data encryption (such as that provided by WPA3) and great password protection to keep your company’s sensitive information safe while using WLAN. You may want to explore the enhanced security and reliability of WiFi 6 if your organization is spread out enough to benefit from a mesh network.
Choosing between wireless LAN and LAN doesn’t have to be tricky
Now that you know the differences between a WLAN and a LAN, the choice is yours. You’ll enjoy more speed, more security, and a streamlined outlook for your business with wireless LAN options like WiFi 6. However, the cost-effective nature of LANs makes them a tempting option for small businesses just getting on their feet.
If you still can’t decide which route to go down, head over to our blog and check out more articles about how you can take your business network to the next level with Quantum Fiber!
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