One such technology you will be familiar with is Bluetooth, a low-cost, short-range radio that links between mobile PCs and phones, as well as other portable devices. Bluetooth enables a PC and a cell phone to share and synch information without having to make a physical connection. The data transmission rates of Bluetooth are pretty slow (at only 3 megabits per second), limiting its usefulness. As a result, you usually only see this technology used in the records-management world to connect mobile computers and rugged, belt printers.
Local Area Network (LAN)
A LAN is a group of computers and associated devices that span a relatively small area and share a common communications line or wireless link. Typically, connected devices (workstations and PCs) share the resources of a single processor or server within a small geographic area, such as within an office building or group of buildings. However, one LAN can be connected to other LANs over any distance via telephone lines and radio waves. A system of LANs connected in this way is called a Wide Area Network (WAN), but more about that later. Generally the server has applications and data storage that are shared in common by multiple computer users. A LAN may serve as few as two or three users (for example, a home network), or as many as thousands of users in a work network.
A suite of application programs can be kept on a LAN server. Users who need an application frequently can download it once, then run it from their local hard disk, or order printing and other services as needed through applications run on the LAN server. They can also share files with others at the LAN server because read and write access is maintained by a LAN administrator. A LAN server may also be used as a Web server if safeguards are taken to secure internal applications and data from outside access.
The data transmission rates of a wired LAN are 100 megabits per second, which is fast enough to transfer even high-quality movies. This is why it is the preferred choice of businesses for the office and warehouse operations.
Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN)
A wireless LAN, known in acronym land as WLAN, is one in which a mobile user can connect to a local area network through a wireless connection, such as a handheld (high-frequency radio waves rather than wires). It enables communication between devices in a limited area and gives users the mobility to move around within a broad coverage area and still be connected to the network.
Many public businesses today, such as coffee shops or malls, now offer wireless access to their customers; some even provide it as a free service. The IEEE 802.11 group of standards specify the technologies for wireless LANS. This is why a WLAN is often referred to as 802.11b, 802.11g and the newer 802.11n.
The popularity of WLANs is primarily a result of their convenience, mobility, productivity, cost efficiency and ease of integration with other networks and their components. When used in record-center operations, handhelds equipped with this technology and the right software enable the delivery of data where and when it’s needed, enhancing productivity wherever business is conducted—whether taking inventory or receiving a pick list.