PCs equipped with wireless network adapters can communicate with each other directly, but for more than a handful an access point is required, such as 3Com’s Access Point 2000. This makes it possible for up to 128 wireless PCs to not only talk to each other, but also access resources such as servers, printers and Internet gateways, on fixed networks.
Designed to support small home and business networks, the 3Com Access Point 2000 is one of the cheapest access points available and one of the smallest and easiest to use. The device itself is little bigger than a PDA and has just two connectors – one for the equally tiny AC adapter, the other to connect to a fixed Ethernet hub or switch using the cable supplied.
There’s no visible aerial, which limits the range to 100m, and finding a suitable location could be a problem as there’s no bracket for wall or ceiling mounting. However, 3Com claims a 60-second setup, the default settings enabling the access point to start working as soon as it’s powered up.
Unfortunately encryption isn’t enabled when you take this route, so most users will need to load up the Windows-based management utility provided, to locate the access point on the fixed LAN and launch a browser to configure it.
From the browser interface you can then assign an IP address on the fixed LAN, instead of picking one up automatically by DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol). Plus the access point has a DHCP server of its own which can be used to assign addresses to any wireless device attaching to it.
Similarly, the wireless channel to be used can be specified although it’s best to leave the 3Com hardware to assign this itself. And although you can switch off the proprietary network traffic accelerator, you wouldn’t really want to do so unless it was causing problems with non-3Com adapters.
In fact it’s usually only the security settings that need changing, with a choice of either 40-bit or 128-bit WEP (Wireless Equivalent Privacy) encryption. Unfortunately keys need to be set manually on this implementation with no facilities to dynamically assign or alter keys, or authenticate users connecting to the wireless LAN.
This is not likely to be a problem for most home users or small businesses, but companies wanting greater security should consider the Access Point 6000 (£249 + VAT) or 8000 (£375 + VAT) which provide support for these and other security enhancements.
Contact: 01442 438000