When Building a Wireless Network, Follow the Suggestions of Experts

I spent most of last evening diagramming my office's LAN, performing the initial setup of a D-Link DI-624 AirPlus Xtreme G Wireless Router, and seeing if I liked the results. I followed most of the advice offered in The Wireless Networking Starter Kit. But, typically for me, the piece of advice I didn't follow was one of the more basic and important suggestions.

In Chapter 17 ("Setting Up a Gateway") of The Wireless Networking Starter Kit, Adam Engst and Glenn Fleishman talk about creating a "Secure Network Setup". Their advice begins:

If you want your wireless network to be more secure, you must configure some additional settings:
  1. Perform the instructions in "Simple Setup" and make sure everything works properly before enabling security settings.

The emphasis in the text above is mine.

In my zealous attempt to create a secure network right away, I decided to turn on all of the available security settings before I got the wireless network working. After all, we've all heard stories about people who run through some sort of router installation wizard, got their laptop connected for the first time, and left the new wireless network wide open to unauthorized users.

But there is another group of wireless network users that we hear less about. These are people who think ahead, design their networks on paper, and then try to do the entire configuration at once, including comprehensive security. I wanted to be one of these people. The only problem with this approach is that you can end up having problems making your first wireless connection to the new router.

I ran into the problem of not being able to make my first connection. So I started looking on the Internet for knowledge bases and bulletin boards to see how others solved similar problems.

The common thread among security-aware users like me who have setup problems is that they've turned on as many advanced security settings as possible before trying to connect any wireless devices. I went back to The Wireless Networking Starter Kit and re-read the "Setting Up a Gateway" chapter. That's when I noticed the suggestion to get the simple setup working before moving on to higher security.

This is why a book like The Wireless Networking Starter Kit is so valuable: the authors speak from practical experience. I'll probably never set up more than a few wireless networks myself. Therefore, I should take the advice of people like Engst and Fleishman who have done quite a lot of practical work with this technology.

My advice after my first wireless router installation attempt is:

  1. identify the critical chapters of The Wireless Networking Starter Kit,
  2. read those chapters carefully,
  3. re-read those chapters and take notes,
  4. follow all of the advice given by the authors, no matter how insignificant some suggestions may seem.