Wireless Network Vs Wired Network: Pros And Cons
Wireless networks, such as cell-based systems and Wi-Fi, are nearly ubiquitous in modern life. Simply opening your network settings on any smartphone will show you just have many Wi-Fi networks are nearby. On any given city block, there could be over 15 different Wi-Fi networks, and that doesn’t include any hidden or private networks in the same area. The speed at which Wi-Fi has proliferated is astounding and some people may forget that a wireless network is not the only network option. A wired network may be “old school”, but a hard-line system has some advantages a wireless network lacks. The inverse is also true; a wireless network has features a wired network doesn’t. Both network options have pros and cons. Choosing between a wired or wireless network largely depends on your needs and situation.
Defining the Technical Differences
Before we delve into the advantages and disadvantages of both network options, it is important to establish the technical definitions and setups of each network style. Both network options use specialty telecom equipment.
Most wired networks use Ethernet cables to connect computers to routers, which allows those computers to access the Internet and transfer data between connected computers. In a small wired network, a single router may be enough to connect a handful of computers. Larger wired networks require multiple routers or switches linked together to connect multiple computers. Many common devices, such as iPads and smartphones, are incapable of using a wired network because they lack an Ethernet jack.
A wireless network uses radio waves to connect devices such as computers, phones, and tablets, to the Internet. A wireless network relies on a router to connect to the Internet and any devices wanting to connect to a wireless network need to be Wi-Fi capable. Most modern computers come with Wi-Fi capability, but older machines will need a plug-in chip that lets them connect to a wireless network.
It is important to note that a router can have a separate Wi-Fi access point allowing a user to create a wireless network in addition to Ethernet ports used to create a wired network.
Wired networks are entirely dependant on cables. Not only does the router need an Ethernet line, but so do all the computers connecting to the network. This makes wired networks highly immobile as a computer can only reach as far as the connecting cable allows. If you are in a building that has Ethernet cables running through the walls, finding a port to plug into might not be difficult. However, fewer and fewer buildings are being constructed with Ethernet by default as Wi-Fi works fine for most modern buildings. It is possible to run Ethernet cables through a building after construction has finished, but it is not a simple task and can be expensive.
Wireless networks are far more mobile. You can generally pick up your laptop in the kitchen and go to your bedroom without losing connection. However, wireless networks do have a limited range and simply having a wireless network active in a building does not mean the entire building is covered. To fix this issue, network repeaters strategically placed throughout a building will create a wireless network mesh allowing you to stay connected.
Wireless networks are also far more likely to be free around town. Many public businesses like coffee shops and libraries offer free public Wi-Fi, so you can stay connected away from home or work. It is highly uncommon to see wired networks outside of private offices or homes, meaning you will not find a Starbucks offering a free wired connection.
Wired networks are generally faster than wireless networks, as modern Ethernet connections are capable of reaching up 5 gigabits per second while Wi-Fi connections tend to cap out around 1 gigabit per second.
Wired connections are also less likely to be affected by interference that can drag down Wi-Fi speeds making wired networks preferred in situations where a fast and reliable connection is paramount. Everyone from stock traders to video gamers use a wired network to ensure the speed and stability of their connection. However, most people are perfectly satisfied with wireless network speeds and stability making them more commonly used.
Both network options come with security risks, but wired networks are considered more secure than wireless networks.
Wired networks are reliant on firewalls to keep user’s data safe. Since data in a wired network is contained within Ethernet cables it is much harder to compromise a wired network and as long as the router is protected, the network should be safe.
Unsecured wireless networks are easily compromised by criminals and a data breach can have disastrous results. Just like a wired network, it is a good idea to set up firewalls to protect your wireless network. To further secure your wireless network, use a strong password, hide your network name, and set up a separate network for visitors.
Wired and wireless networks both have their place in modern society. Wireless networks allow for mobility and convenience, but they lack the speed, stability, and security wired networks offer.