Not long ago, wired networks were the norm. But nowadays, everyone is jumping on the wireless network set up bandwagon. Some of my colleagues are so enamored with the advantages offered by a wireless network that they forget to consider its disadvantages. Would you trade the convenience of a wireless network for less security? Before we get into the pros and cons of both types of networks lets give a clear definition of what each stands for.
What is a Wired Network?
A wired network can take many shapes and forms, but it is essentially a network type that uses different types of cables to create connections between devices or provide internet access to the outside world. Ethernet cables play a significant role in the way data is transferred between connected desktop computers and other digital devices.
Larger wired networks will deploy a large number of switches or routers to make the exchange of data between connected devices as seamless as possible. There are different categories of ethernet cables, but that is not the area of focus for this article.
What is a Wireless Network?
A wireless network is designed to connect devices without the use of annoying cables. Since Bluetooth technology emerged wireless networks have gotten stronger in how they are set up. Your local Starbucks coffee shop uses a wireless network to enable dozens of different devices to connect to the internet at the same time. The term “wireless” might not be completely true since the central location of any wireless network requires the use of cables and routers to set it up.
The devices connecting to a wireless network would do so using Bluetooth technology. There are different types of wireless configurations needed to create the control center for any wireless network.
Initially, (WWAN) Wireless Wide Area Networks were commonly used. This type of set up was popular when cellular technology was at its infancy.
Next came the (WLAN) which means Wireless Local Area Network. It functions by using radio waves to enable the connection between devices. Again, at some point, a cable is used to enable the wireless connection between several devices.
The latest is called (WPAN) which is Wireless Personal Area Network. This is the network that brought the power of Bluetooth technology to the masses. Most of the modern wireless networks are designed to use Bluetooth technology to initiate the wireless connection between dozens or even hundred’s of devices at once.
From my research for this article, most of the modern communication networks can be called hybrid setups. I am yet to find a single wireless network that doesn’t use cables to create the control center to enable the wireless connection of devices.
What is more common is that some parts of a large network would be hard-wired, while the other part will use a wireless connection. The use of both wired and wireless configurations is quite common within large organizations like the USA military or large commercial banks.
So, to be clear, the pros and cons would focus on the ways the devices connect to the control center of the network.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Wired Networks
A wired network is still the backbone of many large organizations in America simply because once set up they tend to function most efficiently, with hardly any interruption. The obvious pros and cons of wired networks are:
Good Control over Connected Devices – A wired network offers robust control of who can connect to it. If you have control over what type of digital devices can be used on the network, mischievous actors will probably move on to less secure networks.
Ironclad Security – It is no coincidence that since wireless networks got so popular, data breaches have also become very common. Cyber thieves will find it hard to break into a truly wired network. Most data breaches of wired networks can be attributed to an inside job.
Faster Transfer of Data – One of the most important advantages offered by a wired network is the prompt transfer of data. Unlike networks using Bluetooth technology, the transferred data cannot be easily hijacked. The incredible transmission speed of data between connected devices on a wired network cannot be matched by even the most robust wireless connection.
Costly – An important disadvantage of a wired network is the initial cost outlay. For large enterprises, the design of how the network should look and function can cost a significant sum. Apart from the design cost, the construction of the wired network will also require the outlay of huge capital.
Clutter Everywhere – I am yet to find any wired network without some form of cable clutter. Yes, some of the cables can be cleverly hidden, but some will be in the open space, which can be an eyesore. A good way to avoid this issue of clutter is to implement a sophisticated cable management protocol, which might double the price of installing the wired network.
Lack of Mobility – A wired network might sometimes be hard to work with due to the lack of portability features. While it enables good security, portability will suffer if it offers no workaround for out of the office employees.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Wireless Networks
Regardless of how one feels about it, wireless networks are the future. A wireless network offers so many advantages, but the disadvantages are just as plentiful. The pros and cons attributed to wireless networks are:
Cheaper to Build – The initial cost outlay to create the control center for a wireless network is less than its counterpart.
Connected Gadgets Galore – The number of devices that can be connected to a wireless network is only limited by its capacity. Most of the Wi-Fi wireless networks at commercial establishments can handle simultaneous connections of dozens of devices.
Easy to Expand – It is far easier to expand the capacity of a wireless network to serve the needs of a growing and thriving business.
Password Protected Access – Any wireless network can be set up to require a password before accepting a new connection request from any device. It is also quite easy to monitor how many devices are connected to the network. Changing the password will automatically disconnect every device connected to the wireless network.
Lack of Ironclad Security – The biggest disadvantages of using a wireless network is the security of the data received or transmitted. It is my understanding that the owner of any Wi-Fi wireless network can capture all the data sent or received over the network with ease.
Speed Can be Disrupted – Using a wireless network can be frustrating depending on the speed of the control center. The number of connected devices might also impact data speed negatively.
The truth about a Wireless Network vs Wired Network is that one is not completely superior to the other. It can be said, there is a co-dependency between both. In this modern digital age, rarely would one encounter a rigidly built wired network.
Based on the list of the wired and wireless network pros and cons hybrid versions are now the norm. Take for instance a large commercial bank with millions of depositors, the network that houses the customers’ information should be on a hardwired network.
I can understand why the Central Intelligence Agency would store certain sensitive information in a network that is not accessible by any wireless means. On the other hand, the flexibility provided by a wireless network cannot be ignored.
Wireless flexible networks most often lead to happier employees. Even with the best of encryption technology, information exchanged on a wireless network can be compromised in more ways than one. With so many devices able to access a wireless network, hacking vulnerabilities exist in multiple forms.
Deciding if your network should be completely wired or wireless will depend on the type of information exchanged within the network. The digital online world is not fully hacker-proof, and all the data hacking breaches covered in the news media will only get worse.
Yes, a purely hybrid network set up is the way to go. Very sensitive and highly confidential information is better protected in a wired network. The CIA has one of the best network setups, which is why their data breaches occur mostly internal, rather than external.
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