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Why have a Wi-Fi Hotspot?
Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient for many reasons – they are entirely unobtrusive, without any cables; they are mobile networks within a certain radius; and they are easy to set up and monitor. Additionally, more than one computer can use a wireless network simultaneously without the setup of complicated network architecture.
Wi-Fi networks are incorrectly assumed to be less secure than standard cable-connected networks. As it happens, a Wi-Fi network has its own brand of security protocols which are equally difficult to breach.
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There are a few components that are required whilst setting up the Wi-Fi hotspot. It is best to get these organized before starting the process.
- Working Internet connection
- Computer, with Wi-Fi enabled (either built-in or using a dongle)
- Wi-Fi router, preferably one that supports all the top wireless networking standards, namely 802.11a, 802.11b and 802.11g, so as to avoid any potential issues at a later stage
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Physical Networking Structure
The physical network is simple to set up. Invariably, a broadband Internet connection comes with a modem. A computer using the broadband Internet connection is usually directly connected to the modem. The wireless router is inserted at this point, in place of the computer, and the same cable is used for the connection. The port on the router is usually denoted by a broadband or incoming connection sign.
Choosing a location to set up the wireless router should be carefully considered beforehand. It is best to determine the areas where the Internet connection is most likely to be used. Once the area is determined, it makes the most sense to have the router in centred within that particular zone. This ensures that the entire area receives the best possible connection, without compromising other areas.
Once the physical network is set up, the Internet connection should work. It is a good idea to test the wireless network at this stage to determine whether the physical network was set up correctly.
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Setting up Wireless Security
Wireless security is set up at the router level, which means the settings are changed by accessing the router’s IP address. A menu is usually available through a web interface; the instructions on how to access the wireless router software will be in the literature accompanying the actual hardware. There is a default username and password assigned to the router, which should also be in the literature.
There are a few settings that should be changed to enable security on the wireless network:
- The username and password to access the router - This option will probably be under an options menu of the web interface.
- SSID (Service Set Identifier) – essentially this is the name of the network. It can be used to identify the network, if other networks are in range. The default value is usually the manufacturer’s name.
- WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) – this is a 128-bit password that is required to use the network. On older models, the key may be WEP (Wireless Equivalency Privacy) but there were some lapses in security so its use is deprecated.
It is also possible to set the router to accept connections from certain MAC (Media Access Control) addresses. MAC addresses are unique identifiers assigned to pieces of hardware. However, if MAC addresses are hard-coded into the router system, other computers will not be able to access the Wi-Fi.