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A wire-free shopping spree

The tools you and your business need to make the successful leap to the wireless life.

So you’ve decided to make the leap to wireless? Well, welcome to the unwired world! Like any adventure, journeying to wireless requires some gear, a dash of expertise, and a lot of hope that everything goes as planned. Here are some tools to get you started right:

ProSafe Power over Ethernet (Netgear)

PoE gives home users and companies reliable power over physical infrastructure for networked devices as well as older systems. That means there are no extra cables, or need to find yet another power outlet, since a VoIP phone, access point, or other device can be powered up over the Ethernet cable.

This is especially a blessing in locations that are difficult to wire through traditional methods. For wireless implementations in small businesses, Netgear recommends the ProSafe WG302 802.11g Wireless Access Point, which has detachable antennas, management control, and up to 108Mbps in high-speed networking “turbo” mode.

AirPort Extreme (Apple Computer)

If you run a Mac shop, Apple has a wealth of options for going wireless. And of course, they’re artfully designed. The quickest way to go wireless is with the AirPort Express , a small device that harnesses 802.11g for data rates of up to 54Mbps.

As a bonus, it also works with 802.11b, so older Macs that can support an AirPort card or a Windows PC with a Wi-Fi compliant card can be connected.

Another option is the AirPort Extreme Base Station. Unless the Express, which has limited range, the base station is geared toward small companies in a larger space. Multiple users can access the Internet, even on a dial-up connection, as well as share a printer or a wired network.

Firebox SOHO 6tc Wireless (WatchGuard)

If you’re going to be wireless, you have to pay a bit more attention to security. After all, when data is sailing through the air, it’s best not to have just anyone be able to grab it. The Firebox is a firewall specifically geared toward small businesses, and comes with a 10 user license pack.

Its security features include stateful dynamic packet filtering, which looks at IP packet headers to find out where the packet came from and how it got to the network. With this kind of filtering, it can give more control over user access and set controls on who can surf the wireless network byways.

Also, it has a Web-based user interface, so even if you’re on a business trip, you can control the firewall from your hotel room.

Wireless Ethernet Bridge (Linksys)

Meant for a small network, the bridge extends wireless connectivity to any Ethernet-ready network device. That includes printers, scanners, desktops, or notebook PCs.

Some companies use bridges like this to get rid of dead zones in their wireless implementations, boosting the amount of transmission between wired and wireless segments of a LAN. The antenna on Linksys’ bridge covers distances of up to 1,000 feet.

Wireless 2350 WLAN Broadband Router (Dell)

The marketplace is chock full of routers, but one unique aspect of Dell’s is that it comes bundled with a year of service and a year of tech support. That’s pretty helpful when trying to do the initial steps of an installation.

The router itself has data transfer rates of up to 100 Mbps, and has four 10/100 LAN ports, giving it more flexible connectivity to Ethernet networks. For security, it boasts Wi-Fi Protected Access encryption, and for interoperability, it has backward compatibility with 802.11b networks. A user can even toggle between “b” and “g” modes on the router.

DWL-926 AirPlus Xtreme G Wireless Network Kit (D-Link)

Often, small companies can benefit from buying a wireless starter kit if they don’t have the time to play around with individual components. Linksys is particularly good at putting these kits together, as is D-Link.

The DWL-926 has a high-speed 2.4GHz wireless and cable router that will become a network’s central point. A wireless adapter that’s included will connect a laptop to the wireless network, and additional adapters can be purchased separately from D-Link to support additional laptops.

The kit features a built-in four-port switch, which lets a company connect four computers right to the router. Not to forget security, the kit has 128-bit WEP encryption that locks down communication as well as provides user access control.

If a company has a host of traveling employees, the DWL-926 provides a handy configuration utility, which gives users the ability to discover wireless networks and create connectivity profiles that can be access for quick sign-on.

Because the kit is specifically geared toward small businesses, D-Link has strived to make it especially easy to configure and use through the use of setup wizards that walk you through the configuration process.

802.11g Wireless Network Access Point (Belkin)

A glance through the wireless product marketplace will bring up a wealth of wireless access point products, from both large and small manufacturers. Since they’re usually fairly inexpensive, it’s usually a smart choice to go with an established vendor that has good support. Belkin fits the bill in both cases.

Its wireless access point is fairly straightforward–when connected to a gateway, the device is designed to increase a network’s coverage area for expanded roaming capabilities. It has a simple setup, and uses the 802.11g 2.4GHz standard to give you a working range up to 1,800 feet.

Also nice is Belkin’s focus on having the access point work in mixed networking environments, which is helpful if you’re putting together a wireless network from a variety of vendors.

OfficeConnect Wireless 108Mbps 11g PoE Access Point (3Com)

Another vendor that isn’t likely to go under anytime soon is 3Com, which has also been focused on making wireless products for a breadth of environments.

Its OfficeConnect access point is meant to be a very cost-efficient way to extend mobile access to wired network resources.

It can also be used to create robust networks in small and medium businesses, or remote sites. One especially nice attribute is that it supports up to 64 wireless users, so even if your office isn’t yet in the double digits, you’ve got plenty of room to grow.

Some notable features are: rogue access point detection, which identifies unauthorized APs; access control screens for management; and functionality as a bridge supporting point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, repeater, and client modes.

So what are you waiting for, with all this nifty gear? Cut the cord, already.

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