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Horses for wireless courses

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Security is the most compelling issue to consider when assessing the pros and cons of WiFi versus mobile broadband. Security will (and must) take priority over all other factors, including cost: falling short is not an option. Public WiFi is under particular scrutiny on this score, thanks to some notorious examples of serious fraudulent activity.

Security measures that users should take when using public WiFi, include opting for more secure access points where available, ensuring that the PC firewall is switched on, disabling file and printer sharing, making files private (or even removing them), and encrypting data. Enterprises, by default, should ensure that employees' laptops are configured to optimise security when travelling. They should also issue staff with a check list of good practice.

Additionally, remote access vendors such as iPass protect WiFi hotspot access through a variety of security and authentication protocols, as well as helping to protect against rogue access points set up by crooks..

Mobile broadband is considered more secure than WiFi as everything is already encrypted through the mobile service provider’s network. This eliminates the need for configuring/enabling security settings on the laptop. Probably the only security issue with mobile broadband is loss or theft of the USB dongle or data card, and with it a user’s access credentials. This issue will disappear as mobile broadband is increasingly integrated into laptops.

The choice of connectivity today needs to take into account a whole range of factors, and we have tried to touch on the main ones. Some users may be served sufficiently by WiFi alone, and others by mobile broadband. Both markets are evolving, and ultimately, one may dominate the other, but for now, these should be viewed by both the user and the enterprise as complementary access options. Indeed, remote access specialists such as iPass and Fiberlink, along with traditional service providers already recognise and address this dual need.

We welcome your thoughts and experiences with wireless connectivity, along with any advice for individual users and enterprises. ®

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