As if it isn't hard enough keeping track of all the next-gen Wi-Fi terms (802.11n, draft-n, and so on), you then have to figure out what the heck they mean. In the Wi-Fi space, draft-n is the new, faster, stronger, more reliable form of Wi-Fi. More than 25 percent of the Wi-Fi devices shipped in 2008 supported draft-n, says Edgar Figueroa, executive director of the Wi-Fi Alliance. He points to ABI research that estimates by 2012, 90 percent of all devices will support it.
Fortunately, old and new versions can work and play in harmony. So while "there probably won't be a time when it'll be absolutely necessary to upgrade," says Figueroa, "the market is naturally moving toward the best technology." And next-gen is where it's at.
Draft-n gear can provide significant improvements to your network, including five times the throughput (up to 250 Mbps) and twice the range (up to 200 meters). So if you're trying to decide if it's time to upgrade your office to draft-n Wi-Fi, consider these questions:
- Do you have 15 or more employees using entry-level gear or 40 or more employees using enterprise-level gear?
- Are you expanding your office size?
- Does your office setup have hard-to-reach coverage areas--for example, numerous floors or rooms within a building?
- Do you frequently use real-time or high-bandwidth applications, such as web conferencing, VoIP or streaming HD video?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it might be time to upgrade. The good thing about draft-n is that it's backward compatible, meaning it works with previous versions (and vice versa). This allows for an easier, gradual transition. So if you're not in the financial position to upgrade all your Wi-Fi devices at once--who is really?--you can switch out a few, or even just one, at a time, Figueroa explains. "Yet that device offers benefits to all the old devices already using the network."