What is Wireless Networking?
Wireless networking is the use of radio frequency signals to connect a computer to the campus network without plugging directly into a data outlet. Wireless networks are composed of two primary components: access points and wireless network adapters installed in portable computers and other mobile devices. An access point converts the "wired" Ethernet signals to radio waves, and are typically installed in ceilings or mounted high on a wall. A wireless network adapter looks and acts like a regular Ethernet network adapter. The wireless networking standards supported at St. Mary's College, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n, all operate in the same 2.4 GHz. frequency range as is used by other public communications services (such as wireless telephones), and the FCC therefore limits access points to low power. Users must be in close proximity to an access point to connect, with maximum usable range of about 100 feet in a typical indoor environment to about 1000 feet in a large open space. A building may require several access points to provide complete coverage and allow users to roam seamlessly from one area to another. Also, as the distance between a portable computer and an access point increases, transmission bandwidth decreases.
A WORD OF CAUTION
A wireless connection is easily adequate for applications such as email. However, accessing multimedia-rich resources over a wireless network at times may be less than desirable due to distance from an access point and/or the number of other users on it. Also of particular concern in wireless networking is the security and privacy of data transmissions. Studies have shown that wireless networks can be significantly more vulnerable than wired networks and require extra technical safeguards to make them less susceptible to hacking, eavesdropping and security threats. The Wireless Zone requires authentication, which prevents use by unauthorized persons, but it is not a secure network. No encryption key is currently required so that connection is easy. Since wireless networks are EXTREMELY easy to sniff (wiretap), we currently do not allow access to non-encrypted SMC network resources (such as the file servers) via the Wireless Zone to prevent disclosure of passwords to would-be "wiretappers." Also, you should use caution when conducting business on-line while connected through the Wireless Zone. If you are doing any financial transactions, or purchasing products on-line, be sure you are using a secure website; a secure website normally has an "s" after "http" (example: https://www.bankofamerica.com) in the URL displayed in the browser address display.