Advantages & Disadvantages of a Network Interface Card

by Steve McDonnell

A network interface card contains an Ethernet adapter for connecting the computer to a wired network. A NIC can provide a faster, more reliable and more secure connection than a wireless network card. However, NICs are less portable and often less convenient than using a wireless radio to access the Internet. That's why many computers, including laptops, provide both a NIC and a wireless radio, which gives you the option to choose the way you connect to the Internet depending on the circumstances.

Speed

A network interface card provides a fast connection to the Internet. For example, a gigabit NIC provides speeds up to 1 Gbps. Unlike a wireless connection, the speed of a NIC should stay constant even as the wires travel through walls, floors or other obstacles. Mixing NICs from different manufacturers on the same network should not affect the communication speed as it may with wireless devices. Tasks such as video conferencing, streaming high-definition movies and some computer gaming are often more practical using a NIC.

Reliability and Security

Network interface cards provide a reliable connection to the Internet that should not vary in performance or availability if the network if functioning properly. A NIC is not subject to wireless interference from devices such as cordless phones and nearby wireless routers that can cause wireless connections to drop and reconnect or become completely unavailable. NICs also provide more secure connections. It's much more difficult to tap into a wired Internet connection within a location than to intercept a wireless communication in the same location.

Portability

NICs are not as portable as wireless cards. When you move a computer that's connected to a network with a NIC from one location to another, you have to disconnect the computer from the network and reconnect it at the other location. During the time it's being moved, it can't use the network to communicate. Wireless radios, on the other hand, can be easily moved from one location to another without interrupting the network connection, provided there's wireless coverage between both locations.

Convenience

A NIC is not as convenient as a wireless card. For example, many hotels no longer provide Ethernet connections in their rooms; Internet service is provided to guests using a wireless network. To use a NIC, you may have to visit the hotel's business center. Other public places where people commonly access their Internet, such as coffee shops, don't typically provide a wired connection for a NIC either.

About the Author

Steve McDonnell's experience running businesses and launching companies complements his technical expertise in information, technology and human resources. He earned a degree in computer science from Dartmouth College, served on the WorldatWork editorial board, blogged for the Spotfire Business Intelligence blog and has published books and book chapters for International Human Resource Information Management and Westlaw.

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