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12th Annual Well-Connected Awards: Wireless

Well Connected Awards 2006

It wasn't long ago that wireless data service was considered a boutique technology, a specialized network service used by a few vertical industries or a convenience for the tech elite. But times have changed, and wireless data, in a range of different manifestations, has entered the mainstream.


Or has it? The explosive growth of home wireless, combined with integrated Wi-Fi capabilities on just about every notebook computer, certainly stimulates lots of interest. Likewise, the addition of data-oriented services to legacy cellular voice offerings is gaining momentum as speeds increase and prices fall. However, overall adoption of wireless data in the enterprise continues to lag expectations.

Readers we've surveyed tell us there's plenty of demand for wireless data and mobile apps. Users find the untethered experience liberating and say it's critical to improving productivity. Most enjoy the convenience of high-speed wireless data at home and want this service at the office and on the road. However, the challenges of creating a wireless home network are trivial compared with the issues enterprise IT pros face.

The Number 1 (and 2 and 3) obstacle is security. Yes, new standards such as IEEE 802.11i and WPA have addressed the most significant vulnerabilities associated with first-generation WLANs. But implementing and supporting those standards remains problematic. In addition, wireless security problems extend beyond simple authentication and privacy services and include: policy-based access control; flexible guest-access services; detection and containment of rogue devices; and intrusion prevention. Implementing multilayer WLAN security is neither cheap nor easy. Nevertheless, vendors are making serious strides. Dedicated IDS/IPS vendors, including AirDefense, AirMagnet, Air Tight Networks and Network Chemistry, have revved their products. Infrastructure vendors Aruba Networks, Cisco Systems, Trapeze Networks and others have enhanced the security systems on their WLAN infrastructure offerings.

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