Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio February
BY Bob Walters
YOU CAN TAKE IT WITH YOU
Wireless networks are getting much easier to install
away from home
When the question was how to take a software
system along to a meeting to handle on-site registrations, the old
answer involved networking rented computers at the meeting location
or renting non-networked PCs and employing a “sneaker-net” (running
diskettes between machines).
More recently, all you’ve needed is a couple of Internet
connections and wired notebooks. But this only works if the
facility has high-speed Internet access, or if you’re using an
online registration service, and your meetings are large enough to
warrant the expense of either of the above.
Now, a more practical solution is quickly dropping in price
wireless networks. Previously, this column has addressed how WiFi
and Bluetooth can be used for handhelds or cellular communications,
but these wireless technologies are becoming reliable options for
networking PCs in the office and on-site.
Plug and play
I recently installed a wireless network at my house. For just over
$300, I purchased an SMC Networks Barricade Wireless Router and an
ORiNICO PC card for my Sony VAIO notebook. In all, I had my network
running in about two hours (including two support calls). Here’s
how it works.
The router is about 1.5 inches tall by 9 inches wide by 6 inches
deep and weighs about two pounds. Mine, the SMC Barricade
SMC7004AWBR, supports three 10/100-network connections and up to 64
simultaneous wireless connections.
Most routers provide a transfer rate of between 54 Mbps and
72Mbps (10 times faster than a 57K modem) and operate within 1,500
feet. This range will vary depending on the building it is set up
in, but should be more than adequate for most registration areas,
including a roaming PC or strategically placed remote workstation.
The installation software includes an on-screen configuration tool
for setting up access rights, security and the included
Each notebook needs a wireless-networking PC card. These cost
between $70 and $100, depending on the manufacturer. Any connected
computer will need to be running at least Windows 95/98 (the new
Windows XP has an easily configurable wireless network option). For
desktop PCs in your office, you will need to purchase a PCI adapter
card, which gives you a PC Card Type II slot for the same wireless
card the notebook uses. These cost between $50 and $70 each.
The other option for desktop PCs is to connect them directly to
a port on the back of the router. For this, you would need a 10/100
Ethernet network card.
Home or away
Wireless is an ideal solution for networking the office. You can
choose from three configurations: peer-to-peer work group, a small
office/home office network or a full-blown Local Area Network. Once
configured, the router and connected PCs can be taken on-site and
set up simply by plugging them in and logging onto the network. For
best results, use one computer as a server, where others can access
the application software.
Another advantage: You can share a high-speed Web connection, so
upgrading to DSL in your office becomes more affordable. On site,
you’ll only need one access point, rather than connections for each
For more information, visit WiFi Direct (www.wifidirect.com),
which sells the SMC and ORiNICO equipment. Nokia also has wireless
solutions (www.nokia.com/corporate/wlan), and PaloWireless (www.palowireless.com/i802_11/products.asp) lists and
links to other wireless manufacturers.Bob
Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the
founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak
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