Don’t be bound by cabling

The new equation in the networking space is that wireless LAN (WLAN) equals no cables to install equals less expense equals less hassle. WLAN is not just computing minus wires; it makes adds, moves and changes much easier.

Whether you are a business or home user, your network need not be difficult

to move or expensive to change. WLAN equals unfettered computing — we are no longer limited to areas with a cabled network connection. You can now move from place to place, working when and where you want. Unfettered access is better appreciated if you have a site where wiring is difficult, detrimental or next to impossible to deploy. If you are at a temporary construction site, exhibition site or convention centre and need to deploy temporary networks, or the setting requires frequent relocation or office rearrangement and access to network resources or roaming are a must, then WLAN is nirvana.

If you have sensitive data going down the airwaves, ensure that the required authentication and encryption mechanisms are configured. Take necessary security measures to protect your network traffic, including network access and data protection. Remember preventing disaster is better than finding a cure for it, so strive to combine wireless and wired security policies to simplify implementation and maintenance.

If possible, make sure you have several lock-in mechanisms in place to protect your WLAN. Doing so will get you instant secure wireless access to corporate intranets and the Internet.

I recommend paying close attention to security, as no network is 100 per cent safe and no security system is perfect. But you can always minimize the risk and lock the system down if you follow some simple tips and techniques for your WLAN. To start with, make sure you change the following periodically: Default SSID, default password for the administrator account and WEP keys. Periodically enable the WEP 128-bit encryption and MAC address filtering and disable the SSID broadcasts.

Layer your security measures, lock-in mechanisms and never place full trust in any single security mechanism because sedition or malicious ingenuity could eventually compromise that mechanism.

It is also a good idea to perform regular network audits to identify rogue access points, as you would not want to leave an open door for unauthorized access. If an IPSec or a SSL -based virtual private network (VPN) is already deployed in your organization, extending it and deploying it across the wireless LAN is a good idea. It offers additional security by creating a tunnel that shields your data from the outside world. That is, it’s a secure end-to-end tunnel between users and the network. Perhaps you could incorporate it in your security policy as a mandatory requirement that wireless clients should use VPN to access the corporate network through any wireless access point.

Send out a message to users that malicious or unintended intruders into your WLAN are never welcome.

WLAN is marching forward, it has come a long way from the days of the IEEE 802.11 standard for 2 Mbps being enhanced over time. Today you have many flavors and enhancements such as IEEE 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11i covering the entire array from 5 Ghz to 54 Mbps and 2 Ghz to 11Mbps to 54 Mbps radios to the security standards for authentication and encryption protocols.

Symbol Technologies’ Spectrum24 4131 access point is a Wi-Fi-certified 802.11b unit operating in 2.4 GHz to 2.5 GHz band. It comes equipped with features such as dynamic rate scaling for maximum range and throughput and a top speed of 11 Mbps. It has a 10/100 Base-T Ethernet port for connection to the wired network. For security it supports MobiusGuard security suite- 40,128 bit WEP encryption, KeyGuard TKIP encryption, Kerberos V5 based mobile security; EAP/TLS and RADIUS. It is designed to detect presence of unauthorized access points. For traffic management, it has a bandwidth management packet engine and a quality of service manager. It also supports IEEE 802.11d international roaming, point-to-point wireless bridging, automatic transmit power control and mobile IP. Under management and diagnostics it supports system wide upgrades from a single access point which is accessible by serial or telnet or HTTP. Support for event logging, data packet tracing, SNMP diagnostic capabilities are included and it aids simplified optimal network management.

The 4131’s enhanced packet prioritization allows you to set high priority or standard priority for various types of traffic classified as voice/video traffic, phone traffic or FTP traffic. Enhanced interference avoidance allows setting for adaptive interference processing and bluetooth co-existence.

I should make a special mention of the single-port power injector that came with the unit. It is a cost-effective power-over-Ethernet solution supplying power directly to the 4131. The power injector connects to the Ethernet switch and 4131’s power adapter.

WLAP function supports simultaneous access point-to-access point bridging and wireless client-to-access point connection — a method that can save you cash, and so is the focus of my testing.

Operational testing

I used a pair of Symbol 4131 systems operating in the 2.4 GHz band at speeds up to 11 Mbps in point-to-point wireless bridging mode. I interconnected two buildings. The wireless LAN Bridge can interface with an Ethernet network and connect directly to the required access point.

The power injector was very useful as it facilitated correct placement and orientation of the 4131 access point for better coverage. It eliminated the need for an AC cable and power socket next to the access point. As a matter of fact, I placed the power injector alongside the 4131’s power adapter in the data communication cabinet. I turned on the enhanced packet prioritization feature and set high priority for the VoIP traffic and all other traffic as standard priority. Without a hitch, I connected several devices from the other facility and ran VoIP traffic and corporate user traffic.

During the course of my testing I found the 4131 easy to deploy and a very versatile wireless access point for its support for the WLAP mode.


The environment in which the WLAN is deployed affects the range and transmission speed, so remember to do a pilot that will convey the suitability of WLAN in your environment and how it addresses your business needs. Before you go wireless, carrying out a coverage study is a must to avoid holes in the coverage pattern.


Don’t be bound by cabling restrictions any longer. Symbol’s Spectrum24 4131 access point can help you transition between a wireless network and a wired network.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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