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Review: Small Office, Big WLAN Security

Pity the small and medium-sized office. On the one hand, they -- you? -- need enterprise-class wireless LAN account management, policy enforcement and security. On the other hand, they don't have enterprise-scale IT budgets.

This last year, however, has brought a wave of outsourced services for SMBs (small-to-medium-sized businesses) designed to offer top-dollar WLAN security and infrastructure capabilities without all the dollar signs. Now, instead of paying $20,000 server software systems, smaller enterprises can pay far, far less per year, depending on the number of users and access points.

I tested three straightforward outsourced 802.1X providers. They allow a SMB with anywhere between a few employees and a few hundred to inexpensively and simply manage a secure wireless network using existing consumer-grade access points with individual accounts or even individual digital certificates.

Flavors of Outsourced 802.1X

802.1X lets a computer with appropriate client software connect to a wireless network with just enough access to prove its credentials. In the technological alphabet soup of the modern day, there are a number of ways to secure the 802.1X connection to make sure that those credentials sent via EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) messaging aren’t exposed in the clear to snoopers who could then gain access.

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