Like every other technology, Wi-Fi is constantly evolving. You buy the latest-and-greatest networking gear, and in a few years its considered old and slow. The alphabet soup of wireless standards has expanded from a, b, g to now include nplus y for enterprises. The signals are faster, stronger and more secure.
While upgrading the brains of your networking gearthe firmware and driversprovides many of these enhancements, you usually have to replace your equipment to take advantage of most new features and technologies. For instance, you must buy new hardware to take advantage of the emerging standard, 802.11n (or Draft N now), which offers increased range, faster data rates, and better performance.
Why buy the upgrader instead of replacing the wireless router? This is a good question. Most people probably just swap their router out with a new one. However, as the following bullets discuss, there are advantages to keeping your router and just adding the Wireless Easy-N-Upgraderanother access point (AP):
The TrendNet Upgrader's small, slick-looking, housing includes the usual status lights, network port and the power receptacle. It also sports a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button that you can use in conjunction with supportive wireless adapters. This lets you configure the wireless security with just a few mouse clicks.
|TrendNet's 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader lets you upgrade to wireless N speed and range without replacing your slower router.|
Overall, we found the Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader to be a toned down, user-friendly access point. It doesnt offer all the bells and whistles some other APs offer, however this is fine for small businesses or households that want a simple upgrade to wireless N capability.
It supports the latest Draft N 2.0 standard and can also serve as a mixed network with 802.11b or g clients. It also supports the latest encryption methods, WPA/WPA2 personal and enterprise, along with the old and unsecure method, WEP.
The Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader does offer one advanced feature, multiple SSIDs. This lets you broadcast up to four different signals with varying security measures. This comes in handy, for example, if you still must use WEP encryption for some of your older equipment that doesn't support WPA capability. Since you cannot take advantage of the higher speeds wireless N offers when using WEP, you can create a separate signal for the older machines and one for the new N clients.
The Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader comes with a simple configuration wizard. We just popped in the bundled CD and accessed the Windows-based utility. It helped us choose the IP address scheme and set the encryption.
Many other regular access points require you to configure your adapter with a static IP address in order to connect to and configure the new access point, and then require you to reconfigure the adapter.
Simply put, the Easy-N-Upgrader does make the installation simpler. Another plus is that youre prompted at the end of the wizard to print and/or save the network and encryption details. You can quickly store them in a safe place.
The only gripe we have about the installation is that the wizard doesnt let you configure the enterprise version of WPA/WPA2. Though you can set this all up from the Web-based utility later, it would be nice if it were available from the wizard, for those who have access to the required RADIUS server.
Though TrendNet and other wireless vendors try to make upgrading to wireless N seem so easy, sometimes it isnt. Here are several things to consider when making the upgrade:
We found TrendNets 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader provides a way for you to add wireless n support to your Wi-Fi network, in one the simplest and easiest methods possible. Though it does lack a Gigabit network port, most people wont be affected if there's only one wireless N access point on the network.
Keep in mind, the MIMO technology these wireless N products use also helps increase range even if the high speeds cant be used or if older wireless g adapters are stilling being used on the network.
Product: 300Mbps Wireless Easy-N-Upgrader (TEW-637AP)
Price: $69.99 MSRP ($47+ online)
Pros: Easy install; multiple SSIDs
Cons: 100Mbps max network port
Eric Geier is the founder and president of Sky-Nets, Ltd., a Wi-Fi hotspot network. He is also the author of many networking and computing books, including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and 100 Things You Need to Know about Microsoft Windows Vista (Que 2007).
This article was first published on SmallBusinessComputing.com.