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Reality IT: Wired or Wireless? You Decide

Usually in this column I share my experiences and opinions with you. This time, I thought it would be informative if you shared your insights with me. ACME is setting up a new satellite office in a nearby city and, as you might expect, IT is planning for connectivity and other technology requirements. One major decision is whether or not to go fully wireless at this remote office, and I want to get input from you, the readers. I'll outline the specifics, then I'd like to hear what you think. I'll report on your responses--and our final decision--in a forthcoming column.

There will be about 40 staffers at the new site, almost all sales and marketing types with laptops. The office doesn't have network cabling yet, which is one reason we're considering the wireless option. Cable drops on each wall of the office--each usually with two phone and two data jacks and related network closet Ethernet switches--are pricey. By contrast, a few wireless access points and one Ethernet switch are much cheaper. We're even looking to go with wireless connectivity for printing.

For those of you quick to point out that we would still have to pull lots of wires for the phone system, our telecom manager, Sandra Hook, already had most of our sales staff using VoIP soft-phone clients, eliminating the need even for telephone wiring.

Wireless would also work from a productivity standpoint. The sales and marketing staff are heavy e-mail and ERP users and both apps are available using our Web-based remote-session client software, so high-speed links and local servers aren't essential. Another idea we are mulling over is deploying broadband wireless cards on the satellite office employees' laptops. Our CIO, Steve Fox, is being surprisingly flexible about considering various office and user connectivity options.

I'm sure some of you out there are saying, "Wait a minute--wireless isn't that easy. And you still have to plan for office-to-office connectivity." Well--yes and no.

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