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A wireless local area network (WLAN) is a network of devices that communicate with each other through the use of radio waves. In order for a network to continuously function properly, someone has to be charged with the responsibility of managing the network. In a wireless network, that individual is the WLAN manager. In business or enterprise situations, the WLAN manager often is part of a team of network managers. The WLAN manager might also be referred to as a network administrator.
The duties of a WLAN manager are many and varied. They include configuring the physical components of the network, setting up user accounts for those who will be accessing the network and deciding security issues. For large networks, these tasks might be divided among several people. In a network with only a few components, it isn’t unusual for one individual to handle all of the chores.
In the physical setup of the network, the WLAN manager must decide on the components required. Typical WLAN devices include a WLAN adapter for any computer that will need to connect to the network and the all-important WLAN router, which controls the flow of traffic. Depending on the distance that a wireless signal has to travel, a WLAN access point may be needed as well. The WLAN access point is a wired component that is strategically located to extend the reach of the network.
In addition to setting up the physical network, the WLAN manager also must establish user accounts. A user account is needed for each individual who will be accessing the network. In configuring user accounts, the manager will determine which resources a user is allowed to access within the network. This is known as establishing privileges. The WLAN manager will also set up and manage passwords for those who will be a part of the network.
In some applications, a user is able to use a network that is open to the public. Such a system is referred to as a guest WLAN. These are commonly found in coffee shops, Internet cafes and other places that allow their patrons to connect to the WLAN of the business as a guest.
One of the more critical issues often facing a WLAN manager is that of security. Good security policies are vital in order to prevent unauthorized access to the network. The primary tool in the security setup is a firewall. A firewall is a part of the network, usually a software application, that can be used to filter traffic. Additional traffic control can be obtained through the use of port filtering, access lists and data encryption.
After the network is running and secured, it is up to the WLAN manager to monitor the performance of the devices and to maintain the efficiency of the network. At times, it will be necessary to troubleshoot and correct connectivity issues when a user is having trouble accessing the network or when various devices are unable to communicate with each other. The WLAN manager also must plan and implement any expansion of the network to facilitate growth.
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