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What is an access point and how is it different from a range extender?
WiFi technology has improved greatly in recent years, but it's not a panacea, especially when it comes to businesses. Large office spaces with high traffic often use WiFi access points, while smaller offices with limited users are more likely to use WiFi routers and range extenders. Let's take a look at how they compare in terms of features to find the best WiFi solution for you.
What is an Access Point?
An access point is a device that creates a wireless local area network or WLAN, usually located in an office or large building. The access point connects to a wired router, switch or hub via an Ethernet cable and projects WiFi signals to a designated area. For example, if you want to enable WiFi access in the reception area of your company, but there is no router in range, you can install an access point near the reception desk and connect the Ethernet cable to the server room through the ceiling.
What is a range extender?
As the name implies, a range extender extends the coverage of an existing WiFi network. Since range extenders connect wirelessly to a WiFi router, they must be placed where the WiFi router signal is already strong, not in a location where it is physically dead. For example, if your router is located in the basement of a two-story building, installing a range extender on the first floor (where the WiFi router coverage is still strong) will eliminate the potential blind spot on the second floor.
Why Access Points are Better for Businesses
While range extenders are great for home WiFi networks, they are not as efficient for modern businesses. This is because they can only support a limited number of devices at a time, usually no more than 20. While range extenders do increase the coverage of a WiFi router, they do not increase its available bandwidth. Depending on the number of devices you have connected at the same time, range extenders may eventually affect your connection.
On the other hand, each access point can handle more than 60 simultaneous connections. By installing access points throughout the office, users can roam freely from room to room without experiencing network interruptions. As they move through the building, their devices move seamlessly from one access point to the next without disconnecting - they won't even realize they're switching between networks.
Advantages of using wireless access points
When employees and guests are connected using desktops, laptops, phones and tablets, 20 devices on the wireless network quickly add up. Each access point has 60 simultaneous connections, giving you the freedom to expand the number of devices supported on your network. But that's just one of the advantages of using these network enhancers - consider the following.
Enterprise access points can be installed anywhere an Ethernet cable can be run. Newer models are also compatible with Power over Ethernet Plus or PoE+ (a combination of Ethernet and power cables), so there's no need to run separate power cables or install outlets near the access point.
Other standard features include mandatory web portals and access control list (ACL) support, so you can restrict guest access without compromising network security, as well as easily manage users on your WiFi network.
Select access points include clustering capabilities - from which IT administrators can view, deploy, configure and secure WiFi networks as a single point in a single entity, rather than a series of individual access point configurations.
In the next article, we will introduce the network switch
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