What Is a Wireless Access Point?

You may not have heard the term, “wireless access point,” but most internet users are certainly familiar with a its application.  Are you on a laptop? Do you own a laptop? If so, you’ve most likely come face-to-face with a wireless access point when logging-on.

If you already have wireless internet in your home, which most laptop users do, your home internet network functions using a wireless access point.  The standard home wireless network utilizes one wireless access point in order to connect the full sum of a home’s computer.  With only a handful of computers found in the average home, there’s no danger of placing a stress on the single access point by overcrowding the network with devices.

So, what does a wireless access point look like?

Most home internet networks see their wireless access point in the form of a wireless router, which combines a wireless access point with a router and, in many instances, an ethernet switch.  However, a wireless access point can take the form of its own device, connecting a wired-in network to wireless compatible computers and handhelds with WiFi, Bluetooth or comparable technology.

On a much larger scale, most companies opt for an industrial grade wireless access point, supporting more users to better meet business needs.  Industrial grades are meant to withstand the elements, equipped to deal with the many obstacles created by the great outdoors, such as wind, water and temperature fluctuation.  Not to mention, an industrial grade router is also designed to service more computers and provide a high level of service.  While home wireless access points are often subject to routers which limit or curb the top end speed of your connection, industrial routers are less prone to limitation in terms of performance.

A pressing concern regarding wireless access points is the security of a wireless network, as most wireless signals will exceed property lines.  However, as an access point, it still serves a gatekeeping function to guarantee only authorized users can connect to a household or company internet network.

In order to provide such security, wireless access points are typically encrypted, so no unauthorized users can “steal” wireless access from a nearby location.  Though Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), an early attempt at matching the inherent security of a hardwire connection, proved to be unreliable, more recent security measures can now make sure all access points are thoroughly protected.  Wireless Protected Access (WPA, and the subsequent WPA2) now safeguards most wireless networks, requiring a user-specific password.

Industrial grade wireless access points also offer enhanced security measures spanning beyond even WPA2 protection, as is fit given the sensitivity of confidential trade information and the wide-spanning needs of multiple users.