In 1996, Nancy and Rick Cummins purchased a laptop computer primarily so Rick could have a more portable solution for bringing work home. This gave the couple the chance to try out yet another option for home networking: wireless. Wireless networking typically links computers and related equipment through high-frequency radio waves. Its major advantage? It isn't dependent on the location of phone jacks and electrical outlets, so it allows you to access the network (with a laptop) from almost anywhere in your home.
The Symphony cordless home- and small-office network from Proxim (www.proxim.com/symphony) gave the Cumminses the flexibility they desired. Says Nancy, "I've been able to access invoices and databases [on the desktop computer] with my laptop while watching my children swim in the pool outside. The versatility has been a real benefit."
Radio frequency (RF) solutions like these use an RF band (2.4 GHz) to transmit data. Through a process called frequency hopping, the radio transmission moves fairly quickly across differing frequencies while the data is being transmitted, offering a very secure solution. RF networking also delivers impressive speeds: Symphony, for instance, supports file and printer sharing, as well as shared Internet access, on a cordless network at 1.6 Mbps.
For untethered networking of desktop and laptop computers, the Symphony wireless network requires desktop computers to have an ISA card ($149); notebooks require a PC card ($199). For Internet access, the Symphony product line offers two solutions--you can either plug the Symphony cordless modem ($299) into an existing phone line for 56 Kbps Internet access, or use an ISA card coupled with free Symphony Conductor modem-sharing software to utilize the existing modem in your PC or laptop.
Wireless networking solutions like these offer very few limitations. With a wireless connection between your laptop and desktop computers, you're free to surf the Web, check e-mail and access files from virtually anywhere in your house. Keep in mind, however, that you'll pay for this convenience--wireless solutions are slightly more expensive than other home networking options.