Free At Last

Is your home office a network nightmare-piles of wires, holes in the wall and cabling for everything but the kitchen sink? Take it all wireless!

If you've resisted pitches from companies that want to wire your home from basement to attic for networking and other technological advances because you just can't afford it, here's an alternative: wireless home Local Area Networks (LANs).

Instead of connecting all your computers individually to a phone line (which wired LAN kits require), wireless home LAN products connect just one PC, server or laptop to the phone line, and the rest of your networked computers feed off of that. "[Wireless home LANs are] great for home offices that need flexibility for a mix of laptops and desktops," says Dan Swee-ney, spokesperson for Intel.
Using radio frequencies to communicate between computers, this rather new breed of home LAN means you don't have to drill holes in your walls or ceilings to string cables nor lay them along the floor. You also won't need a phone jack for every computer on the network. With a wireless home LAN, you can surf the Net from your sofa on portables and desktops while simultaneously using a common ISP via one modem along a single phone line or with a super-fast cable modem.

Wireless-based networking products are still in their infancy right now, according to senior analyst Michael Wolf of Cahners In-Stat, a Scottsdale, Arizona, high-tech market research company. But big-name manufacturers like Compaq, Intel and industry leader Proxim believe wireless home LANs will be flying off store shelves once buyers become aware of their benefits. One of the major advantages of wireless LANs is that you can bring your laptop home from the office and not have to worry about hooking it up physically to your home LAN. You can even take it back to the office for weekday work without bothering to disconnect any cables. So if your home office includes laptops and desktops, wireless is the way to go. However, if all your home computers happen to be next to phone jacks, and if you don't need to work in different parts of the house with your notebook, you might prefer to just keep your wired network system, which is less expensive than wireless versions.

In addition to freedom from fixed cable connections, wireless systems provide the kind of mobility and roaming capability you get from your cell phone, allowing you to wander the house and yard without dragging wires with you. And because radio waves can penetrate walls and other obstacles, users have the option of networking on a laptop, say, from the porch to the desktop in the den or to the PC upstairs, all while transferring files and sharing peripherals. If you need to move your home computers from room to room as your business expands, the network will move right along with you.

Jill Amadio is a freelance writer in Newport Beach, California, who has covered technology for 10 years.

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This article was originally published in the June 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Free At Last.

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