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8 Wi-Fi mistakes to avoid

Eric Geier | Jan. 27, 2015
Wi-Fi is great when it works right – and when it’s secure. Although setting up Wi-Fi can seem straightforward, there are many complexities.

You can disable the constant broadcasting of your SSID in beacons, which will hide it from the native list of available networks on computers and other Wi-Fi devices. However, you can't stop the SSID from being sent in certain network traffic, such as associations and probes. Though normal Wi-Fi devices will "ignore" SSIDs in those types of traffic, wireless analyzers (such as Kismet and AirMagnet) are listening and will display them when heard.

Disabling SSID broadcasting also has a negative impact on the wireless performance. It will generate more management traffic, taking up valuable airtime that could be used for data transfer.

Most business-class wireless access points have the capability to support many virtual wireless networks, each with their own basic settings: SSID, security, broadcasting, band preferences, VLAN, etc. This can be a useful way to segregate the network, offering varying levels of network access. However, don't get too carried away. Each SSID is basically its own network, requiring its own set of beacons and management traffic and taking up valuable airtime.

If you find you need more than three SSIDs, perhaps look into other ways of segregating the wireless access. For instance, leverage 802.1X authentication with the enterprise mode of Wi-Fi security to dynamically assign users to a VLAN once connection.

Wireless technologies are constantly evolving. For Wi-Fi, the IEEE publishes 802.11 standards so devices from different vendors are compatible with each other. In chronological order of their release date, the standards are 802.11: a, b, g, n, ac.

Each of these 802.11 standards supports varying speeds and performance. Even though all the common standards (b, g, n, ac) have interoperability between each other, mixing older devices with a network using newer standards slows the entire network. Thus try to ensure the wireless clients that are connecting to the network are using newer standards, such as IEEE 802.11n or 802.11ac.

If you have a BYOD (bring your own device) network, you may not be able to control what device or wireless standard users bring in. However, you can disable older standards to block them from connecting and negatively affecting the network. Today it's probably safe to say most users won't be bringing in a 802.11b device, so consider disabling it on the network. Most users likely will have 802.11n or 802.11ac, but you may want to keep the support of 802.11g depending upon your particular situation.


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