There’s no Server in WiFi

The purpose of a public WiFi hotspot is to share a broadband connection to the Internet.  In a small, indoor, hotspot, you only need two things to make this happen; 1) a broadband connection to the Internet (DSL, Cable, T1 etc.) 2) a wireless router (aka wireless Access Point). 

For example, we just finished a ‘gig’ for Coach Connect where they provided a free WiFi hotspot to attendees of the FMCA Convention in Pomona, CA.  Jim set up the equipment.  All he had to bring was the wireless router, FMCA had arranged for the broadband connection and they marked the ethernet cable ‘Coach Connect.’

Wireless Router

The blue ethernet cable is the broadband connection to the Internet.  It plugs into the router which then distributes the signal wirelessly using that little black antenna.  The gray ethernet cable is optional – it was for Jim to plug a computer directly into the Internet instead of using the wireless signal. 

That’s it.  There is no computer involved in this WiFi hotspot.  There is no server.  It is just a way to take one connection and turn it into many connections so people with WiFi enabled computers can get high-speed Internet.

People using a WiFi Hotspot

This is how most small public WiFi hotspots are set up.  It’s really quite simple.  An RV park requires quite a bit more.  For one, you would never see a consumer device like that D-Link router in a Coach Connect RV park hotspot.  They use commercial-grade gateways.  They also can’t use that little black antenna.  They use high-gain antennas mounted on rooftops with high-powered amplifiers.  However, there is never a computer involved.  There is no server. 

Ok, Ok, why am I beating this dead horse? 

Because we’ve had so many people say, “When I connected to the hotspot, I got a virus.  The hotspot’s server must be infected.”  or, “Browsing the Internet is slow at this hotspot, their server must be old or not have enough memory.”

There is NO server!

Blaming a WiFi hotspot for your computer getting infected is like blaming the on-ramp for an accident you had on the freeway. 

Slowness can have many different causes.  It may be the connection to the Internet.  If the broadband is coming from satellite dish, it will be much slower than if it’s coming from a T1.  Maybe it’s the number of people that are sharing that connection.  Maybe it’s the website you are visiting that is slow.  Maybe your computer is infected with viruses or spyware that slows down browsing.  Maybe your Internet cache is full.  But it’s NOT because the WiFi Hotspot’s server is slow.

What I’m talking about is public WiFi hotspots intended for the purpose of allowing Internet access for the public.  A wireless network certainly *can* be set up for a corporation.  In that case, the purpose is to allow employees to access the information on the corporation’s servers from their WiFi enabled laptops.  This is the WiFi that create headlines like “Wireless security is #1 issue.”  A corporate wireless network needs to take great care about security to prevent nasty people from accessing the private information on their servers.  Not so a public WiFi hotspot.

Security of your computer when you use a public WiFi hotspot is *your* responsibility.  Just like driving safely and wearing your seatbelt is up to you when traveling the freeway. Your computer must be up-to-date, you need virus protection, spyware protection, and you should turn file and printer sharing off.

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