If you’re setting up an office, store-front, or any other space where you’ll be operating a business, choosing between ethernet vs. Wi-Fi is a practical dilemma. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. To determine which one works better for your specific requirements, here are several considerations:
Installing ethernet means a lot of cables have to be organized and positioned to get the best location for the router/modem. To connect a device (like a desktop) to the internet, you’ll need more cables going to the port. So depending on how many devices you plan to connect to a single network, installation could be complicated.
On the other hand, installing Wi-Fi would still involve cables, but once it is initially set up, all wireless-capable devices within the office can connect to the wifi network without the need to run cables from device to port.
How big is your office, store, or place of business? Do you have second, third, fourth (and so on) floors connecting to just one network? Ethernet may require more effort during installation, but this type of connection could provide access to devices as long as you’d plan out the cables properly.
If you’re thinking of Wi-fi, consider the distance of your router to all potential users. The range of a traditional 2.4 GHz band reaches up to 150 feet indoors and 300 feet outdoors. If you’re willing to buy wifi extenders every 150 or 300 feet, then this shouldn’t be an issue.
If your office is small (and within just one floor), you may choose either Ethernet or Wifi.
- The number of users
Ethernet connects to the modem/router, which only has a number of available ports. How many people or devices are going to be using this connection? If your answer is below 5, then you’ll be fine with Ethernet. If there are 5 or more wired devices that would be connecting to the network, some may not be given access beyond the available ports of your chosen modem/router.
The best thing about wi-fi is it can provide a connection to many wireless devices (located within the allowed range).
Wireless (wifi) is less secure than wired (ethernet) because it communicates signals that are transmitted through the air via radio waves. Without proper encryption, hackers and other unauthorized individuals may hijack the wifi signal to use it as their own.
This vulnerability isn’t OK for two reasons:
- Hackers could access your company’s information and transactions
- It could bring legal issues to your business if hackers used your connection for something illegal.
The good news is there are various ways to keep your wifi connection safe from “intruders” with proper encryption.
Ethernet is more secure because all the wired devices connected to your network come from your own office. You can literally run through the cables and find who is connected to the modem/router.
- Speed & Reliability
Does your entire business operations rely on the Internet? For example, you run a website from your office and process all purchases as you receive them online. If this is the case, go with Ethernet since it is known to provide faster and more reliable connections in general. Wireless networks simply lack the data transmission speeds that wired networks.
Ethernet also wins if you’re worried about reliability. Because of the technology of wifi and how objects like walls can obstruct the transmission of data (and the connection as a whole), wireless connections can be unstable. If some of your employees use portable devices for work and move around, wifi signals could vary between every relocation.
- Maintenance and Cost
Maintaining Ethernet (wired networks) can be problematic if you have a big office space with multiple floors. This is especially true if you have no in-house IT department that could identify which modem, router, wire, device, or other components are causing a problem. For smaller spaces with Ethernet and wifi-powered businesses, maintenance shouldn’t be an issue.
Wired connections require a bigger investment up front. If you’re worried about cost, a wireless network is relatively inexpensive. Of course, this would still depend if your space would require wifi repeaters, commercial routers, and other advanced hardware that add up in cost for each device.
If future-proofing is a major issue for you, I recommend you pick Ethernet since wired connections can be expanded to provide for your business needs. However, if mobility is important for your business, Wifi is the better choice.
Every business operation has unique requirements, which is why Ethernet could be the perfect internet connection for one business, but may not be the best for your business (and vice-versa). Understanding what each of these types of connection offers, and comparing them to your operation’s needs is key to choosing between ethernet vs. Wi-Fi.