Home Office Networking With Wi-Fi

Project Description

In today’s business environment, computers are essential. Without computers, it would not be possible to efficiently run any organization, particularly the home office. Individuals have to set up systems that can enable them to carry out their duties within the house as well as respond to customer/client requirements from any part of the house. The benefits of wireless (WI-FI) networking cannot be underestimated given the fact that a majority of home office users either exclusively work on laptop computers or, due to the multitasking nature of the household demands, they need to move from one corner of the house to another, perhaps using both desktop and laptop systems (Makki, and Pissinou 107). The aspect of wireless networking which essentially enhances its functionality is the fact that it eliminates the need for cabling around the house (Terry, and Mueller 263). The small home office WI-FI network makes it easy to set up new work stations by simply linking computers to the network. With WI-FI an individual does not have to look for plug-in sockets when installing a new computer to the system because all that is required is the installation of a WI-FI receptor and after inputting a few settings, the system is up and running (Rainer, and Turban 384).

This study was carried out to explore WI-FI-networking in small home offices to investigate the benefits and problems associated with WI-FI networks (in particular the IEEE 802.11). The focus of the research and the subsequent report is exclusively based on a home office environment. By examining this topic from the perspectives of information technology and management information systems, the question of whether it is viable to safely use a WI-FI network in a home office can be explored.

Interdisciplinary Statement

Information technology (IT) is the utilization of computer systems and software applications in the management of information. WI-FI networking falls under the description of information technology since it is to a large extent a component of computer systems. For information technology to apply effectively in a home office setup, several core principles that tie in with the field must be effectively utilized. Several factors related to IT that play into this aspect of wireless networking include maintenance of reliability and the guarantee of confidential integrity. Information technology specialists generally involve themselves in the creation of systems aimed at increasing efficiency in day-to-day activities. Whenever, problems arise with the established technological creations, the same technologies come out to offer solutions which at times include upgrading entire systems. This is evident in the way wireless networks are coming out to replace wired networks.

First, the system installed should be reliable. No system is 100% effective; however, the optimum is always desirable (Tan, and Bing 64). In a networking system particularly for a home office, the aim should be to have the system functioning at the highest efficacy levels possible to ensure that smooth running of the business or enterprise takes place. Secondly, the networking system installed for the home office should be secure. Like any other business or organization, the home office should be able to maintain the integrity of its operational strategies (Shelly, and Vermaat 328).

Confidential information should at no time find its way into the hands of unauthorized personnel because the same data can be used to disrupt the routine functioning of the office or even used maliciously to bring down the enterprise. The aspect of flexibility is also key in the home office environment. Installed systems should give users the option of using the system at their convenience depending on the task at hand. WI-FI networking in particular is designed to give users access to information from various systems within a particular locale in the house by simply connecting to the network from whichever point of the house they are stationed; hence the aspect of flexibility (Conry-Murray, and Weafer 174). A properly functioning information technology setup should also factor in the issue of responsiveness. A home office environment is by far the most challenging setup for any office worker. This is because within the home, impromptu calls for attention to other matters are the norm and an individual will constantly find him or herself working outside the office in another corner of the house. Wireless networking is a system that comes in handy to ensure that an individual can continue his/her work in another section away from the office but within the home whenever the need arises. Finally, the aspects of ease of use, affordability and sustainability of information technology systems installed in the home office cannot be ignored. These aspects are more-so because the home office is basically regarded as a micro-enterprise and therefore the systems installed should fit within the institution’s budget both in terms of initial purchase and maintenance.

Management information systems (MIS) is a combination of technology with management procedures in order to provide workers with the information they need to in order to do their job properly. It is essentially a way of strategically collecting, organizing and storing information in such a way that it can be easily obtained and put to meaningful use by those who need it. MIS plays into information technology in a number of ways. First, there is what is known as web content management. For a home office environment, it is imperative that individuals get exposed to their clients and this can mostly be achieved by way of the internet (Maxim, and David 79). People must know how to organize information that is directed towards their customers and this is particularly by way of websites. Information on the sites and other databases which are open to the public need constant attention in terms of updating. Another aspect of MIS which determined the course of this project was the document and record management. This is because a home office like any other work environment generates and accesses certain records which are vital for effective management. Proper storage of these documents is very important and a decent way of obtaining them which filters out unauthorized access is necessary for the office to run effectively. Record management also goes hand in hand with digital asset management which basically involves acquisition and storage of assets that are in a digital format. These digital assets include videos, photographs, and music.

This project put into use principles from both IT and MIS which resulted in the interlinking of the two fields, with an aim of properly analyzing WI-FI networking in a home office setup. Since the home office is essentially a business, it is only important to note that information technology came in hand in studying the technical operation of the systems while management information systems were necessary for explaining the business management angle of the issue (Guizani 143).

Audience Statement

The audience targeted by this report mainly comprises individuals who use as well as those who are considering using WI-FI networking for their home office automation. This study was carried out to identify the most commonly used and most effective networking. An analysis of the same is provided within the body of this paper and later recommendations made to current and potential users of the WI-FI networking systems. Professionals within information technology field are also considered in this report since they are the ones in charge of the installation and maintenance of network systems. The report of this research shall also be of relevance to law enforcers especially the part that explains crimes that can be committed by unauthorized access especially via rogue access points.

Literature Review

The IEEE 802.11 specifications is a simple wireless network that comprises multiple stations, which communicate with radios that basically broadcast using either a 2.4GHz or 5GHz band (Ventre, and Canonico 289). This may however vary depending on the location and in recent days modifications are being made to accommodate the ranges between 2.3GHz and 4.9GHz.

The 802.11 networks are classified into two depending on the mode of operation. These two groupings are the infrastructure mode and the ad-hoc network. According to Belding-Royer “In the infrastructure mode one station is dominant and acts as the master while the rest of the stations borrow feeds from it; the network in this particular instance is referred to as the basic service set (BSS) while the master station is called an access point (AP)” (238). In a basic service type of setup, all transfers of information must pass through the access point. This also applies even in instances when a particular station on the network wants to connect with a peer wireless station. The second form of setup does not have the access point. All stations on the network can link directly to each other regardless of how one is related to the other. This type of network is the independent basic service set (IBSS) and is generally referred to as an ad-hoc network.

Initially, 802.11 networks in the 2.4GHz band were established via protocols acceptable to the IEEE 802.11 and 802.11b standards (Barrett, and King 32). The basic specifications that dictated the classification included the ranges of operating frequencies as well as media access control (MAC) layer characteristics which comprised transmission and frame rates. Later the 802.11a standard came up to define operation in the 5GHz band, which included various methods for signaling. Higher transmission rates were also considered while establishing this standard.

Original 802.11 specifications came with a simple security protocol that was simply referred to as the wired equivalent privacy (WEP) (Molisch 278). Rappaport explains that “the basic operation of this protocol is controlled use of a fixed and pre-shared key alongside an RC4 cryptographic cipher whose function is to encode the data transmitted through a particular network” (365). This basically means that the data are encoded in such a way that they can be transmitted securely. The stations on the network all use a particular key to communicate within the system (Rhoton 87). The most popular and proven-to-work security setup nowadays is provided by the IEEE 802.11i specification which works by defining new cryptographic ciphers as well as encompassing an extra protocol that will be used to provide authentication for stations to access points and exchange keys which help in the communication of data (Tse, and Viswanath 132). One other security protocol specification that has come to be commonly put into use in wireless networks is what is referred to as Wi-Fi protected access (WPA). This came before the 802.11i and was defined as an interim measure in time when the ratification of the 802.11i was being carried out (Coleman, and Westcott 244).

Aside from the above, the other protocol which is worth noting is the 802.11e standard. Like the 802.11i standard, the 802.11e also has a predecessor called the wireless multimedia extension (WME) which was later to be renamed the Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) (Doherty, and Anderson 349). The WMM has come to be defined by players in the field as a subset of 802.11e. It is worth noting that 802.11e and WME/WMM serve to guide the order in which traffic will occur on the network alongside enhanced access by media protocols; a process that helps give priority to the flow of information on the network depending on its relevance (Wheat, and McCullough 67).

WI-FI particularly in the home office set up must go hand in hand with management information systems. This is presented in several criteria including strategy support, data processing, management by objectives and the actualization of core competencies.

Strategy Support. Computers are not in a position to come up with strategic decisions all on their own (Barrett, and Todd 132). However, when used effectively, they can help reinforce the process of decision making it more effective and attained within proper time. This is where wireless networking comes in because it provides for the opportunity to address urgent office matters regardless of the location. MIS systems can be utilized in the process of converting data into information that can be put to use when making critical decisions regarding the running of the home office (Goldsmith 172). Should the home office have some subsidiary offices within the house, WI-FI networked computers can help in automation in the sense that the documents can easily be transferred from one worker to another hence improving the efficiency of the whole enterprise. MIS is also very important in the consolidation of large chunks of data into volumes that would otherwise make no meaning to the decision-makers. Wireless networking helps put together information from various databases within the home office and put them to use as need arises.

Data Processing. Computers and all associated technologies have made the job of processing data a very easy one (Syrotiuk, and Chávez 56). Traditionally, the work of collecting data, classifying it and subsequent storage in filing systems took hours and sometimes even days. This was even worse when files and documents had to be shuffled from one office to another for confirmation of details. In a properly WI-FI networked home office system, the person can work from his or her backyard and still manage to send the files to the main center of data storage without having to move to the physical location of storage. This in essence makes for time-saving and eventually cost-cutting measures in the sense that one person can do the work that would have in the past needed at least three people (Rhoton 25).

Management by Objectives. Other than the generation, arrangement and storage of data, management information systems are also ideal in the management by objectives aspect of day to day running of the business (Gast 136). This is the administrative process in which the senior staff and their juniors come to an agreement regarding what objectives the enterprise has to achieve in a given period of time. The goal in this case is to come up with objectives that are realistic and have a particular time in mind when the strategies have to be implemented.

Objectives in this particular strategy can be utilized in the provision of indicators to measure both the performance of individuals in the enterprise and that of the institution itself. The success of any management by objective strategy lies in the regular monitoring of the performance and coming up with timely change recommendations (Lowe 45). In the process of studying the performance of the enterprise, management information systems come out as ideal. Since most of the objectives which are associated with this analysis are usually measurable, they can easily be assessed through computer-generated reports. Wireless home office networking is very important in this instance because in most cases the proprietor is also the sole employee of the enterprise (Terry, and Mueller 63). He or she has to therefore get access to the information whenever and wherever he or she is within the house. With WI-FI this information can easily be transferable from one (their) storage center to another or even used without the user(s) having to change his/her location.

Core competencies. A home office particularly as a business must have core competencies – that is, functions that it can perform better than other competing enterprises (Chandra 452). An exquisite management information system will help push for the agenda of making the home office achieve its maximum potential hence reaping even more benefits for the user. Management information, therefore, provides for the chance to learn the underworking of the market as well as understand the organization of the home office itself.

Effective management of the home office and its constituent structures inevitably translates to increased output. In this way, wireless networking can be seen to improve the efficiency within the home office essentially translating to desirable output.

Security concerns

Easy Access

Nowadays, major urban areas have been given full wireless network coverage. Individuals can roam and still maintain the connection to the Internet especially if the nodes are generally open to the public. However, many nodes come coded with particular information intended to act as a security measure; codes which average users of the systems don’t have the relevant knowledge to break (Terry,and Mueller 193). Many individuals tend to support the notion that it is proper etiquette to generally leave access points open so that other people can use them. In essence this ends up allowing free internet access to the public.

Wireless LANs are easy to find and many schools of thought do not consider this a security threat. WI-FI (802.11) requires that networks regularly illustrate their presence via specially installed frames which are called beacons (Blogh, and Hanzo 218).

Unfortunately, the information that is used by an individual when connecting to a network is the very same information that he or she can use to launch a malicious attack on the particular network (Langendoerfer 297). Once an individual with malicious intentions gains access to the network, there is no telling what harm can be caused. Some may hack their way to confidential information which they can easily use to bring down the enterprise either directly or indirectly via competitors. Others might just corrupt files on the system eventually leading to paralysis of the home office which may end up resulting in the need for purchase of new equipment.

Rogue Access Points

Access to wireless networks goes hand in hand with the simple deployment of unauthorized connections. Of all the major threats that a network can face, threats to the access point pose the greatest danger. Strangely, this infringement of security measures is reinforced by ignorance of the system installers who do not take time to assign a code for getting into the system (Rackley 374).

Rogue access points are wireless access points that have been installed on a secure network without solicited authorization from an administrator of the local area network (Chong 124). Rogue access points can be a great security threat to institutions and even individual home office setups because anyone who accesses the network and its constituent stations can ignorantly or maliciously go-ahead to install an inexpensive wireless router which can potentially end up allowing uncontrolled access to unauthorized persons (Kwok, and Lau 563 ). There are several measures that can be taken to curtail the negative impact of rogue access network points on a network. These include individual knowledge of access points as well as IPSec encryption. The proper knowledge of private access points will be necessary when identifying points that have been installed without proper authorization. IPSec encryption is essential as it will help track down rogue access points (Furht, and Ilayas 238).

The presence of many wireless access points can be detected in the area surrounding a typical enterprise facility and these may include the managed access points present within the secure network as well as access points in the neighborhood of the enterprise or office (Flickenger, and Aichiele 425). The wireless intrusion prevention systems serve the purpose of scanning the entire network constantly to ensure that no rogue access points are riding on the network.

Their procedure for identifying authentic access points involves two major steps:

  1. A review of the access points under management is conducted and those points which don’t fall into this category are isolated.
  2. Access points with connections to the secure network are studied and compared with records to establish authenticity (Conry-Murray, and Vincent 181).

An access point that is unauthorized but has connections to the network is a generally referred to as a wired access point while that which is unauthorized and lacks connection to the main network is an external network. Those which are found to bear some risk to the network are called honey-pot rogue access points (Rainer, and Turban 138).

For users of a network to obtain sufficient security against such kinds of threats, they are simply required to create new safeguards into their individual network surroundings.They may also be required to make sure that any person who utilizes particular networks is properly enlightened when it comes to good security practice. An average user can easily buy an access point at any local store that stocks computer parts, and easily connect it to an existing network without prior authorization. The cost for many access points is so low that it does not require months of saving to purchase one (Muller 163).

End users are on average not proficient in matters of security; therefore in most cases they may not be aware of threats which are brought about by wireless Local area networks (Ulick 97).

Unauthorized Use of Service

Research has shown that a large number of access points are usually put in place without making many modifications or changes of settings; a situation commonly referred to as open access (Lowe 45). Two major problems can be associated with open access. Aside from charges of bandwidth, some legal problems may be associated with the use of service. Most networks however do not demand their users to deploy heavy user authentication. The business model for a home office scenario is usually targeted at ensuring financial success. However the prevention of unauthorized access is an absolute business requirement especially when it comes to the protection of customer data (Rhoton 137). With wireless networking gaining popularity on a daily basis, consumers are becoming more enlightened when it comes to security issues. Most people are making the effort to know how to modify the settings that come with their networking equipment to keep away users who would like to illegally ride on their networks. Consumers are also demanding that manufacturers of wireless networking devices provide hardware and software that is all-encompassing; both addressing the budgetary needs of the consumer as well as providing proper security against unauthorized access (Guizani 263).

Cost Analysis

The cost of buying and installing new routers ranges from $60 to $142. A high-quality router costs $80 and it covers about 500,000 sq. ft. If consumers choose to buy two of the $80 routers (Netgear WPN824 RangeMax Wireless Router), the total cost would be $160. The installation cost for routers would be around $150 per hour. So, the final cost for the wireless router including installation would be $160 plus the $150 charge per hour. Installing a router takes between one and two hours.

The repeater is designed as a bridge to boost the signal for increased distance and to operate as a transmission point for relaying signals around lines of sight barriers. The cost of repeaters that range up to 40 miles is between $70 to $400. The StarTech.com HDMI Extender/Repeater is about $130, and covers about 39ft. The installation cost would be $150 per hour. Buying a repeater is not ideal for a home office because repeaters are generally used for network coverage for outdoor purposes.

The cost of new antennas for each router ranges from $4 to $300 depending on the type and brand of router. There are different types of antennas available on the market such as omni, parabolic, dish, yagi, patch, or sector. Omnidirectional antennas give the best signal coverage among all these.

From a business angle, this makes a lot of sense because as much as establishment of the wireless network may initially appear too costly, the benefits will end up paying for this setup cost. As a matter of fact, whenever the person wants to change houses, he or she does not need to set up connectivity again as the wireless connection kit is easily transferable. This and other conveniences that come with the WI-FI networking systems all compound to make the entire investment worthwhile.

Methodology Statement

The research was based on secondary data collection. Data are extracted from various journals, articles and books. The criteria of selection for the literature was the relevance to the research topic as well as the year of publication. Both public and private libraries as well as online libraries were visited to access the data.

Wireless networking is a modern-day reality that could not be effectively analyzed without obtaining information from real case scenarios. Home office setups and small business environments were studied to compare the types of installations that have received prominence in recent times. This definitely made for some interesting research and it effectively came round to form the back-born of the paper.

Information from the books explains the internal machinations of wireless networks. This was very crucial information that made the research report appeal to both professionals and the general public. For the latter, it may require that some of the information obtained from the books and other publications be broken down into simple language and at the same time illustrations drawn from the commonly applied functionalities of wireless networking systems.

Empirical data were collected from recent studies and numbers and figures used to show the density of wireless networks in a particular region and how they could effectively be secured from intrusion by unauthorized users. Like with any other professional field of study, computer technology research has to be conducted in such a way that it offers credibility to the practitioner. In such a scientific field, the strength of any report lies in the figures provided to support theoretical data and particularly the numbers obtained from real-life scenarios to support collected evidence. With this knowledge in mind, effort was made to obtain relevant information to the particular topic in question and this was accompanied by proper citations.

Analysis

For individuals who are interested in setting up a wireless (WI-FI) connection especially in a home office setup, considerations have to be made based on principles of both management information systems (MIS) and information technology (IT). To best establish a network connection using the wireless method, the client has to scout for the best available technology which is easy to use and can at the same time easily deal with unwarranted connections. This is a part of the process that will depend on both IT and MIS especially since the cost of the equipment is also a factor in the equation. However, like with any other investment, it is often advisable to overlook the aspect of immediate cost as long as the quality of service is assured. This quality assurance will eventually pay off and in most cases, the returns are a lot more than what had initially been put into the project.

The best way to come to a decision as to what system to install is by studying other people’s networks and assessing them for reliability and effectiveness. This may call for the input of an IT specialist, particularly to explain the different performance enhancement features that can be utilized.

In the preceding parts of this report, the benefits of wireless home networking have been highlighted. It has been discovered that the primary advantage of WI-FI is that it provides for convenience and hence, by extension, provides effectiveness in the successful running of a home office. From the research conducted and analyzed, it is evident that wireless networking cannot be ignored. It should be regarded as the revolution that will altogether reduce the need for laying bulky cables during construction to accommodate internet and local area connectivity. Individuals who move to a new house and would like to set up home offices no longer need to bring in someone to do some additional wiring in order to take care of their office networking demands. All they have to do is to purchase the WI-FI kit which in most cases comes with an installation manual.

However, WI-FI and wireless networking come with their own limitations. These are:

  1. Security issues: WI-FI networking generally gives very little security against unauthorized connections. This is particular with the ad-hoc mode where it is almost impossible to automatically disable the SSID broadcasting signal. Individuals who would like to connect to such a device could easily gain access as long as they can identify the range of the signal. Unauthorized connections to the network generally choke the bandwidth to the extent that the overall performance of the network to the home office owner is greatly reduced.
  2. The transmission in WI-FI systems usually happens almost exclusively in the 2.4 GHz spectrum. This makes it prone to interference from wireless devices that are Bluetooth enabled and other devices such as microwave ovens. Individuals living in close proximity to one another can also receive interference from each other’s wireless networks. This interference can greatly reduce the transfer time over the individual networks and sometimes entire systems can be paralyzed as a result.
  3. Because of the high-end nature of most of today’s technological media, WI-FI networking has come to be pushed beyond its capability. The high-definition video files as well as some of the audio formats generally take up a lot of bandwidth and consequently take a lot of time in delivery. An average wireless network will neither have the required speed nor handling capacity to transfer such files without flaws. This problem further intensifies if multiple devices are connected to one access point because the splitting of bandwidth has to occur at this region.

Recommendations

For individuals intending to set up a home office in recent times, WI-FI networking has to be one of the key investments. This is particularly so because the home environment is a very tough one to work in based on the constant interference by demands from household chores.

As far as the setup is concerned, the infrastructure mode is recommended over the ad-hoc network. This is because, in the infrastructure mode, the signal strength lies on the higher side. The bandwidth is also in the region of 54Mbps (Heltzel 85). This is as compared to a maximum bandwidth of 11Mbps for the ad-hoc mode. Security-wise, the infrastructure mode is safer than the ad-hoc mode. This is because ad-hoc devices generally don’t have the potential to automatically disable the SSID broadcast signal. Infrastructure mode devices can easily block access to nodes by unauthorized users and are therefore more desirable.

For individuals willing to personally set up their wireless home networks the most recommended wireless routers and cards are those from Linksys. The Linksys WRT54G Wireless Router is generally preferred though an alternative is a WRT54GS router that comes with a speed booster, which like Linksys utilizes high-speed protocol. These routers come with a number of Ethernet ports for the wired networks aside from the wireless support functions. For the computer side of the network, there are two options. A wireless network card can be installed into the motherboard of the computer or a wireless network USB adapter can be used and this is particularly for laptops and notebook computers. The Linksys 802.11g network Card and the Linksys 802.11g USB adapter are recommended for this side of the home office network installation. For notebook computers, however, the wireless network card comes already in-built into the computer.

Project Limitations

One of the major limitations of this project is the expense involved. Like any other scientific project, this research project will require constant traveling to various regions to obtain sufficient data to back up the arguments raised. In some cases, it may require purchasing the equipment used for wireless networking to use them as test samples for efficacy. Publishing the work comes with its own costs as well. It has always been suggested that work carried out for scientific research should essentially be published and presented to the public for review and criticism. This however is a challenging concept especially for an upcoming researcher which might require the evaluator to personally pay for the research and its publication.

This project also depends to a great extent on secondary data; the kind of data that has been published as a result of a rigorous research process. This might tempt the evaluator to skip the practical aspect of analyzing installed systems especially coupled with the difficulty of getting individuals to allow you into their homes to carry out systematic reviews on their home network setups. Difficulty in accessing the various manufacturers of the Wi-Fi systems used have them explain the advantages of their systems over their competitors may cause the findings of the project to be viewed as biased hence losing some credibility in the view of critics.

The findings presented by this project to some extent have a very limited shelf-life. Technology is one of the major aspects of modern-day influences that undergo rapid mutations. This basically means that the in the next few years, the Wi-Fi networking systems described above may have undergone some enhancement changes that would see this review lose relevance.

Conclusion

The American home has become a convergence center for competing technologies as well as their suppliers. With the growth and advancement of technology, people have started to develop the need for flexible, simple, and reliable home networks and this will continue to increase with time.

The home network of the future will most likely be fully wireless because this technology provides the required convenience and long-term cost savings. In addition, the system helps avoid the complexity that comes with a wired network system. Therefore, if a process does not have the desirable advantage of being maintenance-free and bearing the potential of ease of use, there is a chance that it will not be well received.

Though there are certain security issues that come with WI-FI technology (IEE 802.11), they can be overcome by implemention of certain key measures, which have been discussed earlier in this report.

This paper has provided intensive data on the study of wireless networking systems and has illustrated how they are used in serving the needs of the user. The operations of wireless networks have been critically highlighted using data obtained from books and publications credited to various professionals in the field. This information has to some extent been broken down to such levels that individuals who are non-professionals can easily pick out relevant bits of data from the essay and be in a position to relate them to their respective environments.

Finally, it is worth noting that wireless networking is a modern-day necessity and therefore studies should be carried out to find out its effectiveness in the connection of homes offices. This project has served to illustrate many key-note points in regards to the importance of wireless networking. The information obtained in the research has served to broaden personal knowledge on wireless networking whether on home network setup or an institutional basis. This is the kind of knowledge that can be practically put to use whenever setting up home office systems with particular emphasis on both MIS and IT.

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