Some things really are a matter of opinion. My buddy Greg Newman prefers spinnerbaits while I prefer to fish with plastic worms. My brother Zach prefers to shoot a pump gun while I shoot an over/under. And apparently my friend and fellow-blogger Michael Morisy over at Tech Target prefers to waste his money on less secure,old school wired networks than to step into the 21st century and join the wireless fan club... You can read all about his take on this subject here.
Don't get me wrong - there are plenty of places where wired networks are the only logical choice and I don't need to detail them here. What we're talking about here is whether or not to deploy wireless over wired for a new, greenfield office deployment for a group of typical, everyday office users. Picture it - your company is building and opening a new sales office in San Diego (hey, if we're going somewhere why not go somewhere warm?) and you've been tasked with doing the network design. It's a new building - no existing cabling or other infrastructure and most of the users will be in cubes.
Let's first tackle the question of security. A lot of people will tell you that wireless networks are less secure than wired networks. They'll point out the wireless hacking tools out on the net or sites like wigle.net where you can locate and get access to wireless networks and say that wireless networks are less secure than wired networks. Bull malarkey. I tell you what, let's me and you go to downtown Austin one day and you can take a wireless only laptop and I'll take a wired only laptop and we'll see who can get online AND access to someone's confidential company information first. The truth is, most people don't secure their wired networks at all. You can just walk in, plug in, and away you go. I've been a guest in hundreds of corporate conference rooms where while everyone else was struggling to get into the secured wireless networks I just plugged a patch cable into the wall and was up and running instantly. Today's wireless networks include strong authentication and encryption and it's painless and easy to deploy. Even if you try to enforce authentication on your wired networks (and it's a real pain) the data will be unencrypted. On a wireless network it's practically impossible to sniff someone else's traffic.
Next let's debunk my buddy Michael's point about cost. With 802.11n you can run 30-40 users per radio which means fewer expensive cable runs and fewer wireless switches. Combine that with mesh technology and you may not even need to run cable to all of the APs. This cost calculator from Aruba Wireless shows some great examples of how much you save. Mike, buddy, have you priced the costs of having an office wired with cat-6 lately? Even if you go all redneck, like I'm known to do, and run, terminate, and patch the cabling yourself it's still incredibly expensive. In what universe is this not signicantly cheaper than a wired environment?
I could go on and talk about things like allowing guest access (you going to build a separate wired infrastructure for these folks) and per-user stateful firewalling (vs. VLAN designs that give even a geek like me nightmares) but instead, as a final point, I'll say this. Users like mobility. Just like we saw with high-speed internet access, now that most users have wireless access at home they are accustomed to the advantages that it offers. Who wants to be tethered to their desk all day anyway?
Follow me on Twitter