If you're ready to take your company wireless, or if you're looking to expand the network you already have in place, you might consider looking at the latest offerings from 3Com.
The new additions include the major components of a wireless network: access points, routers and adapters that are all based on draft 2.0 of the emerging 802.11n international standard. The standard has yet to be finalized (thus the "draft 2.0" designation), but it's due to be finalized in early 2009.
According to Alan Miano, a 3Com product line manager for small business, if any change occurs in the 802.11n standard between now and when it's finalized, a software upgrade will bring these latest products up to spec. He also said that the lineup is backward compatible with currently available 802.11b, .11g or .11a products.
Of the eight business-class products announced today, six are designed for the SMB market. They include two Access Points (APs), two routers and two types of adapters.
Both of the 3Com AirConnect 9550 and the AirConnect 9150 are PoE, or Power over Ethernet, APs. That's a fancy way of saying they take their electrical power from the network cable connection and don't need a separate power source. This simplifies installation by reducing cables.
The 9550 is a dual-radio PoE AP that operates in both the 2.4GHz and 5GHz 11n bands at the same time. The 9150 is single-radio AP that works in the 2.4GHz range.
Miano explained the difference between dual and single-radio APs this way. "A dual-radio AP gives you more horse power, but it's more expensive, while a single-radio AP is more cost-effective but less powerful," he said. "Providing our customers with these kinds of options lets them choose the product that best fits their needs."
From a security standpoint, Miano said that both AP support up to four SSIDs, which lets you support both WEP and WPA security on your network. It also lets you create separate security schemes for different groups.
"A small law firm, for example, may want to provide wireless access to visiting clients, lawyers or judges," he said. "Multiple SSID support lets you give visitors wireless access while still keeping the company's confidential data secure."
Both APs will be available on July 1. The AirConnect 9550 will sell for $499, and the AirConnect 9150 will cost $299.
Both the ADSL Wireless 11n Firewall Router and the Wireless 11n Cable/DSL Firewall Router have 4-port Ethernet LAN switches, so people using both wired and wireless access can share the same connection.
Built-in security features include VPN initiation/termination, making them suitable for use in branch and remote offices by small businesses and by telecommuters. You can turn off the router's wireless connectivity when it's not in use in order to reduce energy use and enhance security.
3Com said it expects the Wireless 11n Cable/DSL Firewall Router to be available in early August when it will sell for $109. The ADSL Wireless 11n Firewall Router is due in stores in mid-August and will cost $149.
The 3Com Wireless 11n PCI Adapter and USB Adapter provide two ways the PCI version for desktops and USB version for notebooks ‑ to add wireless 802.11n capability to computers that don't have that technology built-in.
Both adapters are currently available, with the USB selling for $89 and the PCI selling for $109.
Miano stressed the advantages of buying APs, routers and adapters from a single vendor. "It creates a secured converged network, and when a company's growth makes it necessary to expand from one to two access points, it simplifies the upgrade path," he said. "Our broad portfolio lets a business owner choose the right product for what the company needs."
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com