Not only is wireless networking easier to set-up than you think, it’s probably cheaper too. In the last few weeks I’ve had a few interesting conversations with people.
The first was a fellow youth minister. We were talking about buildings and space, and I mentioned that since they all have laptops, some wireless areas in the church would be very useful. His reaction was “Whoa! We’re not ready for that! Maybe in a few years”.
The second was a family that was trying to get wireless going at their house and they were having problems. I went over to help and sadly, I couldn’t make it work either. It was some low-cost stuff they got off eBay, and I just couldn’t make it work. The reason I mention this is that it should be easy to set-up, and it is if you use the right stuff. (not that their equipment was “wrong”, but I’ll mention other equipment that is more reliable).
Here’s how we have it set-up at our church and how you can do the same at yours. In our cafe we have a 4 port wireless router. We have a couple computers plugged directly into the router, and the router has enough juice to wirelessly connect our entire youth area. I also have a second router that I use in various places around the church. It’s as simple as this – if I want wireless access in say, the Fellowship Hall, I:
– Find the nearest network jack.
– Plug the router into it.
– Plug the router into a power outlet.
The Fellowship Hall now has wireless access for as long as I need it. If I need access in the conference room instead, I unplug the router, walk down there, and plug it in! These routers are $89, and they’re the most expensive piece you’ll need to buy.
Other than that, you just need something wireless to receive the signal. On my laptop, I just have one of these little cards. The first time you boot up your machine with the card in it it’ll ask for the drivers (which come on a CD). After that, it’s nothing. There’s really no set-up to deal with unless you’re overly concerned about security. In our case, we want people to easily be able to connect their laptops to the ‘net in the cafe, so it’s not a big deal. Plus, as long as they can’t log-in to your server, having them connect wirelessly will only give them access to the internet (and not to your files), so it’s pretty safe. If you have strange vans sitting outside the church that you think might be trying to “tap in” to your wireless, you may have bigger problems on your hands anyhow…
That’s really about it. If you have a desktop PC that you’d like to connect, you can get this card and be done with it. A single router can support a good number of computers (32 to 128, depending on the router) so that will never be much of a worry for most of us.
The advantages to being wireless are huge. When you take attendance in Bible Study, what do you do? Write it down. The next morning you key it into your youth tracking software. Now you can just bring your laptop with you and enter it directly into there. Your battery will last longer than the class (in most cases), so you are truly wireless! Having network/internet access more often will allow you to do things like taking attendance in one step instead of two, which can save you some time.
Another advantage, at least in my case, is that I can be the answer-man during Bible study, since Lee Ann usually teaches. This means when a youth has a question that we don’t know the answer to (“How much in today’s money was Judas’ 30 silver pieces worth?”), I can look it up online while she continues with the lesson (fyi, $10,000 seems to be the answer).
The bottom line is that wireless can be done easily, cheaply and a little bit at a time. You’ll want to talk to whoever is in charge of your network before you start hooking up routers and stuff, but it’s pretty simple. Here’s the full quick rundown:
– Take an existing network port (like where your computer is plugged in right now), plug in a router. You can plug your computer into the router if you wish. Cost: $90
– Insert a wireless network card into your laptop. Cost: $70
Um…that’s it. 🙂
I should mention – the items I linked to I linked to for a reason. First, every wireless device needs to be the same kind (802.11g or 802.11b in most cases). “g” is a little faster and becoming more popular, so that’s what we use. Second, I’ve found Linksys to be the best brand of wireless equipment. It’s reasonably priced, easy to use and very reliable. I linked everything to BestBuy.com because that’s where we ordered our stuff from and it got to us as quickly as expected.
Enjoy your new wireless freedom!