What IS Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi ( /ˈwaɪfaɪ/) is a popular technology that allows an electronic device to exchange data wirelessly (using radio waves) over a computer network, including high-speed Internet connections. (ref.: Wikipedia).
So, Wi-Fi basically allows communication between devices (computers, printers, routers…) WITHOUT cables.
No Cables – Hurrah!
With no spaghetti syndrome or cables to trip over, Wi-Fi is often the cheaper and more aesthetic networking solution offering straight-forward communication with devices like game consoles, printers, Internet TV etc. plus it gives you the additional freedom to surf, and print, away from your desk.
How secure is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi’s earliest encryption, WEP, and Wi-Fi Protected Setup (turn it off!) feature found in some older routers have given Wi-Fi a bad name as they could be easily hacked.
However, networks using the latest WPA2 encryption are now generally considered secure – provided they are set up correctly and password protected! With most routers working straight out of the box, users are often unaware about the importance of setting up a secure password.
- Password protect your router
- Password protect your Wi-Fi network
- Be extra vigilant when using Wi-Fi hotspots public places
An unsecured Wi-Fi network leaves your data, passwords and files at serious risk and allows “piggybacking” (someone else using your connection without your permission). This can not only reduce your internet speed dramatically but could also get you banned by your Internet Service and Email provider as you have a duty to protect your connection from being abused.
How Safe is Wi-Fi?
There has been a lot of controversy about the safety of radio waves and it seems that the jury is still out on this; more long-term studies are required.
Yet, as it stands, the World Health Organization (WHO) says “there is no risk from low level, long-term exposure to wi-fi networks” and the UK Health Protection Agency reports that exposure to Wi-Fi for a year results in the “same amount of radiation from a 20-minute mobile phone call.”
Depending on the Wi-Fi standard used, ranges of 100 metres could theoretically be achieved – there are even whole Wi-Fi enabled cities (i.e. Beijing) – but realistically, obstacles in our homes – like thick brick walls, metal cabinets, microwaves and even water – vastly reduce this range.
Interference can also be caused by overlapping channels from other devices used in the same area, especially in high-density areas, such as large apartment complexes or office buildings with many Wi-Fi access points – where connecting on different radio frequency channels might bring improvement.
Upgrading antennas and installing “repeaters” can also improve the range. Some technologies make use of the home wiring of power lines to extend the Wi-Fi range.
The future of Wi-Fi
With products for the new super fast 5Gbps wireless standard WiGig set to launch in 2013, making data-heavy processes such as video streaming or synchronization even easier – Wi-Fi or at least a similar wireless technology, is likely to play a big part in our future.
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