A wireless access point provides access to a wired network for wireless devices such as computers, tablets, or mobile phones. An access point uses wireless protocols such as WiFi or Bluetooth to handle network communications. Home wireless routers act as access points for a small area within a home, while access points for business and industrial use are designed to provide wireless network access over a wide area and for a large number of devices.

Look for the following specifications when shopping for an access point:

• Signal range
• Protocols and security supported
• Environmental limitations
• Special features

An important factor for any access point is its working range. This is the maximum distance that connecting devices can be from the access point. If you plan to set up a wireless network in a building or on a campus, you will probably need multiple access points, so having a scale plan or map of the proposed area will be very helpful. Using the range for each access point as a guide, you can design the wireless coverage area and decide how many access points will be needed.

If you are planning to support only the most common standards, such as WiFi or IEEE 802.11, you will have many low-cost options to choose from. As you add more protocols, such as Bluetooth, you will need to spend more for this capability. There are also special data and high-definition video protocols that you may need to support. Make sure the access point you choose is compatible with these network protocols.

Encryption security is standard on wireless access points, so you should only need to confirm that the device you are buying supports standard encryption, such as WPA or WPA2.

Industrial access points are designed to work in challenging environments. If you plan to install an access point in a high temperature or humidity area, make sure the specifications meet your requirements.

High grade business access points may also support special features, such as providing network bridge access or client computer functions. This allows you to connect to the access point and perform administrative tasks on the network, in the same way you would be able to work through a switch or router.

As with any network equipment purchase, you need to have your specific requirements established before making price comparisons. Then you will be more likely to choose the best access point for your budget.

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