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Wireless Access Point Frequently Asked Questions

Is it better to install a wireless access point or a second router?

September 22, 2020

Schools, churches, computer laboratories, campuses, and office buildings are all examples of operations that benefit from business-grade Wireless Access Point implementation on their local area network. Local area generally refers to space within a building or campus, and network refers to the interconnectivity of technology devices within that area. A Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) allows devices to link wirelessly within range. When people think “wireless,” most think Wi-Fi. Many tend to believe that Wi-Fi networks are synonymous with WLANs; however, Wi-Fi networks and WLANs are fundamentally different. Put simply, all Wi-Fi networks are WLANs but not all WLANs use Wi-Fi.

Interestingly, Wi-Fi doesn’t stand for “Wireless-Fidelity,” it is simply a trademarked term for a type of Wireless Access Point that serves to clients on the 802.11 standard. A WLAN is capable of using more types of access points than Wi-Fi. Understanding the importance of access points is critical for knowing how to install WLANs properly. This article will explore some frequently asked questions about Wireless Access Points and the best practices for setting up a wireless network in large buildings or campuses.

What are Wireless Access Points used for?

Wireless Access Points are used to provide consistent Internet access to wireless devices across rooms or building locations. They reduce the possibility of session interruption since the signal they serve is directly cabled to an organization’s main Internet source. For example, if a company wanted to provide Wi-Fi in their reception area, they could install a Wireless Access Point near the front desk and run an Ethernet cable through the ceiling back to the router in the server room.

Are Wireless Access Points the Same as Routers?

Wireless routers can function as access points, but not all access points can work as routers. You can use routers to connect with outside network systems on the Wide Area Network (WAN) and manage the communication of devices connected within your LAN. They establish a point of WAN connectivity, acquire, distribute, and dispatch data in multiple directions, and ensure security. A Wireless Access Point, on the other hand, is a sub-device that connects to your main router, bridge, switch, or Internet hub via an Ethernet (Cat5, Cat5e, Cat6, Cat6a, Cat6e or Cat7) cable in order to serve a wireless signal to a designated area.

Is It Better to Install a Wireless Access Point or a Second Router?

Short answer, it depends on an organization’s needs. For homes and small businesses, multiple routers connected via repeater or bridge can be a sufficient wireless solution; however, special attention should be given to each router’s SSID. SSIDs are simply the technical term for a network’s name. If you want to provide a unified network signal bridged between multiple routers, we recommend using identical SSIDs. Overlapping Wi-Fi signals can create issues on a network; therefore, matching SSIDs should minimize signal interruptions that can occur when wireless devices connect from one router to another.

Enterprises and organizations that need to accommodate numerous desktops, laptops, mobile phones, and tablets of both employees and guests certainly necessitate more than just routers. They require networks of business-grade access points and switches that provide the freedom and flexibility to scale the number of devices their network can support. Just as with routers, SSIDs can be the same across Wireless Access Points.

What is the Value of Multiple Wireless Access Points?

Since Wireless Access Points are hard-wired via Ethernet to a company’s main Internet hub, they ensure the same Internet quality is possible anywhere an Ethernet cable is run. The cables snake above ceilings and in walls back to a company’s main server room where they connect to an Ethernet switch that consolidates the cables’ incoming and outgoing data back to the main router.

How Should Wireless Access Points Be Configured?

Wireless Access Point devices can be configured by default as a Wireless Access Point or as a bridge. Configuring as a Wireless Access Point involves connecting the device to an existing router whereas configuring as a bridge extends the range by repeating an existing wireless signal without being connected directly by cable to a router/modem. The advantage of setting up Wireless Access Point devices as bridges is that it eliminates the need to run furlongs and furlongs of cables. The disadvantage is that while bridges indeed extend the coverage of a Wi-Fi router, they do not increase its available bandwidth. Furthermore, structures such as walls, staircases, elevators, and metal ducts weaken signals dramatically. Setting up Wireless Access Point devices directly via Ethernet connection prevents signal degradation because bandwidth remains consistent from router to access point. 

Should I Install a Wireless Access Point or a Mesh Network?

To answer this question, consider two goals with your project: the ease of installation, and the performance you require from the setup. Mesh networks are considerably easier to install but don't perform as well. They jump from node to node in your space and may experience an interruption in coverage. Wireless access points require professional installation, but the hard-wiring considerably improves performance. 

Who Can Help?

The best step an organization can take to ensure optimal WLAN configuration is to hire FlexForce-certified technicians. These IT networking experts specialize in installation, maintenance, repair, and project management solutions. Contact BLM Technologies today for WLAN configuration services and IT support. 

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