What Is a Wireless Access Point?
Wireless access points connect wireless devices to a network. Learn about the benefits and key considerations when implementing them.
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Laptops, smartphones, tablets and other Wi-Fi wireless devices have become ubiquitous in our home and work environment. This was the case even before 2020 arrived, and the demand has only grown since the whole world changed.
Now more than ever, these wireless devices are essential to support digital transformation while enhancing employee collaboration and productivity. However, the increased number of wireless devices can impact a wireless network's performance. Wireless access points can help accommodate the proliferation of wireless devices and maintain a high level of network performance.
Read on to find out what a wireless access point is and how it can help you.
What is a wireless access point?
An access point is a piece of networking hardware that connects wireless-enabled devices to a network, serving as a transmitter and receiver of radio signals. Access point hardware is made up of a CPU, radio transceivers, antennas and software. These components together form a wireless local-area network (WLAN). The WLAN allows users to connect their devices to a network without the use of wires and cables. Today’s access points support various Wi-Fi standards (802.11b, 802.11g/n, 802.11ac) and can be integrated into a wired router or work as a standalone gateway to a larger wired network.
Types of wireless access point configurations
You can configure wireless access points to meet various networking requirements. The following are some of the most common configurations you are likely to use in an enterprise setting.
Standalone access points
A standalone access point is connected directly to a wired local area network (LAN). You can connect multiple access points to one LAN and distribute them throughout an office building or facility. This way, users can go from one area to another without losing their network connection.
Repeater or mesh access points
You can configure access points to wirelessly extend the range of another access point. The repeater acts in a dual function to relay signals from your wireless devices to another access point that is wired to the LAN.
Benefits of using a wireless access point
Compared with wires and cables, wireless access points offer a more convenient and cost-efficient way to connect computers and devices in a network. Employees won't be tethered to an outlet and can roam freely within a large office, a building or an entire campus without losing connectivity.
Wireless access points make it easy to add new users to your network. Guests can join a network securely by simply using a password. You can also segment users to control access to network resources and assets.
Lastly, wireless access points can be managed individually or centrally with an access point controller to streamline IT workflows.
Wireless access point solutions
There are many wireless access point products on the market. Here are a few popular OEM solutions to consider:
- Cisco Meraki: This is a cloud-based controller architecture that assists IT administrators with secure, scalable and easy-to-deploy networks that can be managed from anywhere with a single dashboard style interface. It offers a complete ecosystem of secure firewalls, switches, access points, cameras, sensors and gateways to support the most common enterprise network needs, along with easy troubleshooting and visibility of network traffic.
- Juniper Mist: This access point solution is focused on the convergence of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth LE and IoT use cases. It is purpose-built to collect metadata for an AI engine which can perform analytics, automated configuration optimizations, detailed location tracking and event correlation for troubleshooting.
- Aruba: This solution offers cloud-based and on premises controller options as well as AI-driven technologies to automate and secure networks. Its complete ecosystem of secure firewalls, switches, controllers, access points and sensors are agile and easy to deploy.
Key considerations when implementing a wireless access point
Setting up an enterprise wireless network can be a large-scale undertaking.
Furthermore, wireless access points require a wired network to connect users and generally need Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches to operate them. Additional controllers, software licensing and external antennas may also be necessary. This means you will always need to account for the cost and effort required to purchase the hardware and software to set up the network.
Wireless networks can have other challenges versus a wired network such as the number of wireless clients, wireless signal coverage and noise or interference from other access points in the area. To reap the benefits of wireless access points, while minimizing speed and connectivity issues, you need to determine the optimal locations for installing access points and configure the wireless channel, power, security and segmentation settings appropriately. This can be a challenging task in some buildings and facilities.
To ensure a frustration-free installation process, work with a professional team so you can get expert support in selecting the best equipment and configurations for your needs.
Learn more about how World Wide Technology can help your company get the most out of wireless access points.