New LAN test bed

You’ve been thinking that some of the new wireless LAN systems might be a good fit for your network because adding clients would become less labour-intensive.

Well, think some more. Why not first test such a system in your spare bedroom instead of the company boardroom? Many exciting products are being released for the home network marketplace rather than the enterprise marketplace-products that are fairly robust for most implementations. In addition, the price reductions required to make these systems attractive to consumers make them an easier fit into your IS budget.

You probably don’t think about home networking too often, but here’s why you should:

You get a chance to conduct low-risk, low-cost trials of new systems such as 802.11 Wireless Ethernet. Only a year ago this was a very expensive proposition, but with the top blowing off the home LAN marketplace, PC cards and access points have become reasonably priced and widely available.

Instead of messing with your office network, why not try the technology with a few technically-savvy, laptop-equipped telecommuters? Connect their broadband digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modem pipes to a wireless system and see if they can be more productive working anywhere in the house.

Sooner rather than later, your telecommuters will need support for networking outside their home cubicles. The traditional model of a single computer connected to an analog modem in the home office is fading fast. More and more homes, especially those with at-home workers, are getting broadband pipes to connect several computers and TVs.

Of course you don’t want to support their kids’ iMacs, but people with broadband access won’t want to get a second connection for their personal use; they’ll want to share the business-paid DSL or cable modem connection. Accepting this and understanding how people will connect multiple computers in the home environment is a good preventative measure to prepare yourself for supporting them. (For most people, it will be phoneline networking or wireless, not traditional Ethernet.)

Security becomes an even greater issue in a home network environment. Take all the security worries you already have-break-ins to your LAN and servers, laptop theft-and add a worker’s PC full of confidential files sitting on an unprotected network with an always-on Internet connection, and you’ve got a recipe for a migraine.

Fortunately, learning the ins and outs of home networking isn’t too difficult for anyone currently administering an office LAN. Remember, these systems are supposed to be easy enough so that people who think WAN is Elmer Fudd’s past tense of “run” can get them up and going in a few minutes. A good primer to get you up to speed is our Smart Homes for Dummies. It tells all you need and more, and maybe even gives you some ideas to daydream about during your coffee breaks.

(Briere is president and Heckart is vice president of TeleChoice, a consultancy in Boston. They can be reached at and checkart@