It’s almost impossible to conduct business without being connected to the internet. When you’re establishing your office, moving to new premises or working on the move, you’ll need to consider how you want to connect.
There are two ways you can access the internet from your computer – either using an Ethernet cable or a wireless connection.
In short, an Ethernet cable plugs into a single computer to provide a cabled connection, and wireless allows multiple users to pick up Wi-Fi signals that are broadcast from a router.
This article is about comparing the two. There are 4 primary characteristics that business owners and managers typically look for in an internet connection.
You’ll want to know how secure it is (particularly with the upcoming changes to the GDPR) and if the connection is fast and stable. You’ll also need to establish how mobile you need your connections to be.
Once you know the different characteristics of each connection, you’ll be able to determine which is best for you.
Security is likely to be your primary concern when choosing your internet connection. We’ve previously covered how you can encourage a company-wide approach to cyber-security, and having the right technology is the backbone that supports employee engagement with the issue.
Ethernet cabling is considered to be more secure than Wi-Fi. This is primarily due to the way data is transferred between the user and the network.
Wireless signals work by sending information ‘through the air’ between the device and the router.
This creates an opportunity for hackers. With the right technology and close enough proximity to intercept (‘eavesdrop on’) that information, they can access the data before it gets to where it’s being sent.
When data is sent through the physical Ethernet cable the data is unable to be intercepted in this way.
There are methods that can be used to improve the security of your Wi-Fi connection so it’s far more difficult to hack.
Your IT department can establish VPNs, and ensure strict password policies are in place. If contractors or others need regular access to Wi-Fi at your business, you could set up a guest network that is separate from where your secure company data is stored.
You can also discourage staff from connecting to unsecured public Wi-Fi spots (because they don’t require a password, it is essentially open-door access to anyone who wants to intercept the sent data and in some cases, even access information on the actual device).
Don’t be discouraged from using Wi-Fi at work, but consult with your IT specialists to ensure it’s as secure as possible.
It is also important not to fall into the trap of thinking that all data sent through Ethernet cables is secure, and unable to be hacked. Unfortunately, there are more threats to data security than eavesdropping alone.
Employees are increasingly exposed to phishing attempts – fabricated emails designed to imitate legitimate companies – that are tricking users into downloading malicious software.
This bypasses any need for eavesdropping as the attack can occur with the unwitting employee’s approval.
Generally, you could say there are two types of data that businesses typically send in the online environment.
The first type consists of regular daily communications, browsing, and maybe connection to apps within the cloud – short, small snippets of data.
The second involves large file transfers, such as system back-ups, and customer support facilities, like an online shopping environment. The key differences here are data size, required speed of transfer and the needed reliability of the connection.
Wireless connections are perfect for the regular daily communication tasks. Because Wi-Fi is susceptible to weaknesses in signal strength (typically influenced by the distance from the router or any physical structures that interfere with broadcasting), it shouldn’t be relied on to send large, critical data sets like back-ups of financial or other data.
Ethernet cabling provides a much faster and stable internet connection in most cases. Because the data is delivered through a physical cable, there is nothing that can interfere with the stability of the connection (provided your cable is plugged in and you have the power on, of course).
Use Ethernet connections for sending data-heavy files, but also for providing critical customer support services that require consistent online delivery.
The speed of your connection is reliant on a number of factors. Your provider will offer certain capabilities, but then it’s up to your infrastructure to make use of it.
Wi-Fi is getting faster all the time, but it is hindered by its need to convert data through multiple formats as it’s sent from device to router.
Ethernet’s cabling reduces the levels of interference and provides a direct, uninterrupted line to the router (that doesn’t require format changes). Unsurprisingly, Ethernet cables typically offer a faster connection.
The one-way Wi-Fi has an edge over Ethernet when it comes to speed is the ability to provide internet access while on the move. There’s no need to wait until you’re back at the desktop to input data, resolve queries or say yes to a new contract.
Mobility and modernity
It can’t be denied that wireless internet connections have changed the way we do business. In the UK, over 70% of consumers are using mobile technology, compared to just over 50% on desktop computers. Those consumers are inevitably your staff, as well.
Many workplaces are simply expected to provide a Wi-Fi connection for staff to access, even from personal devices. If you provide mobile company devices, then providing secure Wi-Fi access for those devices should go without saying.
Remember, too, that Wi-Fi connections are not limited to human use. The rise of the Internet of Things, self-reporting technology and portable logistics support all rely on a wireless connection that allows the equipment to communicate without physical tethering.
How do you choose?
You don’t have to. While everyone’s circumstances are different, there is usually good sense in using Ethernet cabling for your desktop computers and server connections, while providing wireless connections for individual staff devices.
Consult with your IT security team to get the best from both worlds, securely.
About EC-MSP, your internet connectivity partner
EC-MSP are one of the most trusted IT support providers in London. If you would like more help advice and support establishing your business tech support needs or installing infrastructure, contact us today to see how we can help.