While Wi-Fi offers the benefits of low cost installation and portability of equipment, there are several reasons many work environments choose cabled Ethernet over Wi-Fi. Having Wi-Fi installed as a secondary form of access can be good if employees want to undock their laptops and move around or go to a conference room and access the network wirelessly, but it should not be your primary form of connection.
Once of the biggest reasons is reliability. While Wi-Fi has many benefits, it’s not as reliable as cabled Ethernet. Wi-Fi can be interrupted by EMI (electro-magnetic interference) from other Wi-Fi devices, hearing aids, microwave ovens and electrical motors. Having Wi-Fi connectivity in a manufacturing floor where there are robots, motors or ovens working will most certainly create many issues and degrade speed and reliability. Even in an office environment, employees using microwave ovens can cause the Wi-Fi signal to degrade or drop while the employee is heating up that yummy ham and cheese Hot Pocket® for lunch.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of things that can interfere with Wi-Fi:
Other Wireless Devices – Any device that transmits or receives a wireless signal is capable of causing interference.
Microwave Ovens – Many microwave ovens operate on the 2.4GHz spectrum, which is the same as a lot of wireless routers and APs.
Cordless Wi-Fi Phones –Your 1990’s tech may be the reason your Wi-Fi signal keeps dropping.
Satellite Dishes – If a satellite dish is incorrectly wired, or has wiring that is old and deteriorated, it can leak EMI into the vicinity and affect Wi-Fi.
Other Wi-Fi Networks – Long reach Wi-Fi networks, especially those seen in campus environments OR densely populated Wi-Fi areas can affect your signal.
Hearing Aids – If a person with a hearing aid is close to a wireless AP, signal disruption can occur.
Motors – Electrical motors such as the motors inside a refrigerator or freezer, on a garage door opener, on a mechanic shop’s car lift or in manufacturing areas, can interfere with Wi-Fi signals.
Monitors & Displays – Some displays can emit harmonic interference, especially within the 2.4 GHz band.
Christmas Tree Lights / Fish Tanks – both of these oscillate on the same frequency as Wi-Fi signal and are known to be common causes of interference.
Another reason to choose cabled Ethernet over Wi-Fi is security. While Wi-Fi uses several methods to secure connections and transmission, it’s not infallible. Wi-Fi signals are broadcast over the air, allowing a malicious actor to sit in a parking lot and attempt to hack in to your network via Wi-Fi.
If you do not need Wi-Fi, disable it in order to decrease your security footprint. If employees need Internet access then a separate, segmented guest Wi-Fi network can be set up to allow Internet access without allowing access to your internal servers, storage and protected network.