Who does not want fast and reliable internet access while waiting at the airport or sipping coffee at Starbucks? Having free public Wi-Fi access to rely on each time you need to connect your laptop and other mobile devices to the Web is not always a blessing to internet users and to the businesses that offer them as a marketing ploy.
Read on and find out the pros and cons of using public Wi-Fi hotspots.
- Ensures mobility. Public Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, airports, malls, and other commercial locations let people communicate electronically and do other things at the same time. From the point of view of businesses, the mobility afforded by the presence of public Wi-Fi hotspots stimulates productivity. A company that depends on a mobile workforce, for instance, can benefit from strategic decisions and reports based on real-time information.
- Inexpensive to implement. For business owners, public Wi-Fi hotspots are relatively cheap and easy to install, manage, modify, and relocate. Installing a wireless network is fast, too.
- Scalable and easy to expand. Setting up a public Wi-Fi network is a perfect alternative for the tedious cable setup needed for hardwired connections. If you need broader signal coverage, then simply add transceivers and make simple tweaks to equipment configurations. A Wi-Fi network can be readily configured to meet the topology of its environment. It can be made to support a small group of users or entire infrastructures consisting of thousands of internet users.
- Performs better than mobile broadband. Wi-Fi is much faster and far more reliable than mobile broadband, its rival form of wireless broadband. Even if you are deep inside the building, you can still get signal coverage with Wi-Fi. Mobile broadband does not work that way, and the internet connection can be spotty when there are physical obstructions.
- Consumes a lot of power. The power consumption rate of Wi-Fi network connections is high for laptop computers. Thus, your laptop battery wears out quickly.
- Has inferior encryption standards.Wi-Fi network connections are easy to break. A hacker can generally penetrate the data on your Wi-Fi-network-connected laptop much easily than when the laptop is connected to another form of broadband connection.
- Problems with security. Unless you enable the wireless encryption on your laptop, your data is easy prey to viruses and other security threats each time you connect to a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Slower compared to wired connections. Speeds achieved by connecting to a wired broadband network are much faster than what most wireless networks can deliver.
- Limited. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are normally available in areas where you are asked to buy something. For example, you need to eat or drink at McDonald’s to connect to the Wi-Fi network there. When you leave the fast food branch, you also lose the network connection.
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are here to stay. Businesses that offer free internet access to customers get an added marketing boost for the extra “service” provided to their customers. Wi-Fi hotspots are not going away soon. So, knowing the inherent security risks involved, take extra precautions when you surf away and connect to free Wi-Fi networks.