Benefits & Disadvantages of Wireless LAN

By Steve Lander

Wired and wireless networking work great together.
i Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Wireless networking has established itself as a must-have technology. At its best, it lets your team work from anywhere within its range while letting them add devices without having to call a contractor for new wiring. At its worst, it's slow, unreliable and insecure. In many business applications, it's at its best when it's used in concert with traditional wired Ethernet.


It's hard to beat the convenience of a wireless LAN -- or local area network. It gives you great flexibility in where you can locate employees, servers or printers. This can lead to easier collaboration and to better utilization of your entire office, since the whole area becomes potentially productive space. Wi-Fi also helps to clear the clutter of network cables from desks and conference room tables, keeping your business looking more professional.

Lower Installation Cost

Since you don't need cables, you also don't need network connection jacks. This saves you from the expense of having a network technician or low-voltage electrical contractor come out every time you need to add a device to your network. In addition to reducing expense, it also reduces the interruption to your office.


Transmitting your data wirelessly is inherently less secure than using wired Ethernet cables. If you're using Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 security, you're better off than if you use Wired Equivalent Privacy or an unsecured Wi-Fi network, but WPA2 can still be compromised by someone who is really determined. In addition, if an outsider can get the password from an employee or guess it, your wireless network could end up being laid wide open.


Gigabit Ethernet has a theoretical top speed of one gigabit per second. Wireless-G tops out at 0.054 gbps; Wireless-N tops out around 0.45 gbps; and Wireless-AC, which, as of the date of publication, is not yet widespread, theoretically tops out at 1.3 gbps. However, although wired network connections can approach 90 percent efficiency, wireless networks usually achieve about one-third of their rated speed in best-case scenarios. Your office's Wi-Fi network is subject to interference from such things as too many devices using it, the microwave in your break room and from walls, desks, and other physical obstructions. In addition, much of its bandwidth gets spent on transmitting error correction data. All of this adds up to significantly inferior performance to wired Ethernet.

Best of Both Worlds

Wired and wireless networking can coexist nicely. If it's practical to use a wired connection, use it. That will help to keep that device off the wireless network, saving bandwidth for others who need to use it. This strategy can be especially valuable with network attached storage servers and printers since both can generate a great deal of network traffic.