If you want a flexible workspace, go with wifi. But if you want fast, reliable connections, you need to go with ethernet. At least that’s been the line of thinking for the past decade or so. Comparing an ethernet connection to wifi isn’t just about speed. There are more advantages and drawbacks to both options in the modern office. So with wifi speeds only getting faster, is it time for businesses to go fully wireless? Is ethernet even necessary in today’s commercial technology space?
The answer’s complicated – but let’s try and sort through it all.
Ethernet or Wi-fi – Which is Better?
Well, the answer really depends on your needs and your business needs, and your physical setup. If your office requires some always online aspects or you need a good stable connection to actually work, then ethernet has a real advantage. If your business has low network needs, then there’s the chance wifi is good enough! Both setups are unique, so let’s take a look at some of the advantages to both:
Hard-Wired Internet: Speed, Stability, and Security
There are several factors that make hard-wired ethernet connections preferable to wireless solutions. To put it simply, an ethernet connection allows for a faster transfer of data from your computer to the Internet. This means it has less latency than a wifi connection and is much more stable. Furthermore, wired connections are easier to secure than wireless, reducing your risk of a data breach. So if your business handles large amounts of data or can’t afford a moment of downtime in their network – the conversation pretty much ends here.
Although speed is arguably the most well-known benefit of Ethernet, it’s most important when transferring data through a local area network (or LAN). Wired connections transfer data from computers faster than WiFi. Bandwidth is the ultimate bottleneck that slows down the transfer of data over a wifi connection.
So to summarize; tethering to the Internet via ethernet means a faster, more stable connection that excels in a collaborative working environment and is paramount for security purposes.
Wireless Internet: Convenient, Flexible, and Getting Better
For several businesses, a wireless Internet connection is plenty good enough. Not only do most people prefer the convenience wifi offers, but thanks to technological improvements we see the efficiency gap getting smaller and smaller. So if your business doesn’t require constant connections at high speeds, wifi could be
And we haven’t even gotten into setup costs. If your office is in existing construction, hardwiring for ethernet is going to cost a pretty penny. Running cable is intrusive, expensive work. Labor costs alone prevent some businesses from considering it a realistic solution. With wifi, you can just plug and play! Aside from your Internet bill, the only real cost comes from the router.
There are a few things to consider before completely cutting the cord. Be sure that all new wifi devices meet the latest 802.11 AC Wave 2 standard. It supports multiple users, as well as multiple inputs and outputs, so your wifi can support multiple inbound and outbound streams. This means your WiFi can simultaneously broadcast and receive data, allowing for much better performance of streaming audio or content. Plus, not only will you see the higher performance, your business will be positioned to take advantage of future technological improvements.
Can Wifi Be Enough?
Yes, wifi speeds are improving all the time. And yes, technology has made leaps and bounds in terms of connectivity and support. However, the core connection hasn’t evolved very much since its introduction. It’s still not as fast as ethernet, and it can still be spotty and weirdly problematic in certain areas.
That said, wifi is strong enough now that interruptions are occasional and the speed dip doesn’t matter for a majority of home devices. But does it translate to the workplace? There are some things you can do to boost wif in your office.
Can You Make Wifi Faster?
Yes, and No. While there’s a limit to how much you can improve, you can extend your signal or make it stronger in the office. Certain wifi boosters help your devices get a better connection to your Wi-Fi signal. This can yield greater speeds and stability if the problem is with actually connecting to your router, which it often is.
Wifi extenders are pretty simple devices that are easy to find. They’re used to create a kind of relay between devices and the main router, extending the signal coverage. If there’s a spot where the wifi signal consistently cuts out, put in an extender to boost the area of availability around the extender. You can only add so many extenders though before your internet connection devolves completely.
[mkb-tip]Livewire Tip: You can only add so many extenders before your Internet connection devolves completely. A wifi extender doesn’t add bandwidth to your connection, it just stretches that connection a bit further. [/mkb-tip]
Boosting a WiFi signal is more difficult than extending it. There are more specialized wifi hubs (like a mesh network) that can provide a better connection than the standard company-issued router. However, you can only really work with the connection that is already there. If you want to boost your WiFi speed, you’ve got to make it more stable or change your provider to try and get better speeds.
New Diggs, Who Dis?
As you move into a new office space, have an IT professional look at your Internet connections. Your office should be equipped with gigabit switches that can handle modern workloads, but some businesses move into a building trusting that the pre-wired connection will be up to the task. Unfortunately, these can sometimes be 10-100 switches which can in no way keep up with current bandwidth consumption.
Make sure you understand your equipment as well. For instance, many phone systems require a hardwired connection to function efficiently, and a lot of desktop computers are built to be hardwired. This can also have advantages when it comes to diagnosing Internet connectivity issues. Hard-wired Internet cables can have an advantage over wireless as their single point of connectivity makes it easier to diagnose and troubleshoot issues. Wireless connections are also subject to more variables. These include the number of people in the room and where the user is standing in relation to walls and other barriers
Have Your Cake, And Eat It Too
Of course, there’s no reason your office can’t have both WiFi and Ethernet. Many offices may still need a hardwired connection to handle heavy-duty operations while providing WiFi for visitors or conference rooms. Actually, using ethernet for one of your devices can be beneficial for your whole network. One less device competing for wireless connectivity will make it better for the rest of the phones, smart speakers, and other devices that use your home network.
The most important thing for you to keep in mind is that Ethernet still performs better than WiFi for heavy data loads and that your business can and should take advantage of WiFi improvements as they become the new industry standard.
Getting your network solution right is incredibly important. While domestic wifi is fine for a lot of things and the flexibility is alluring, some businesses still need more. If you need to maintain a fast, stable, and secure connection, ethernet is still necessary.
Don’t tackle these concerns alone! We can offer a free virtual or in-person consultation to go over your commercial technology needs. Livewire brings over 20 years of high-quality integration work to the Richmond community, so contact us to get started!