The Lexmark X4550 Wireless Printer has a WiFi receiver.

Courtesy Amazon

WiFi Printers

Wireless networks are becoming increasingly popular in businesses and in the home. The majority of these networks use WiFi, also known as the 802.11 set of standards. Like Bluetooth, WiFi sends data using radio signals. The WiFi frequencies are 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. WiFi data rates range from 11 Mbps to 140 Mbps, depending on the type of 802.11 network.

There are several printers on the market that have WiFi transceivers built into them. Network administrators must first install the printer to the network so that other devices connected to the system can locate the printer. Once connected, compatible devices can send print jobs to the printer. This comes in handy for offices or households with lots of computers -- there's no need to buy a dedicated printer for each machine if everyone can access the same one.

Whenever you are working within a wireless network, it's important to consider security. An unsecured wireless network is an attractive target for black hat hackers and Internet thieves. There are several devices on the market that can detect wireless signals -- there's even a T-shirt that can do it. Some people use such devices to seek out unprotected wireless networks in order to get free Internet access. If you use an unsecured network and have a bandwidth limit with your ISP, you could be in danger of receiving a very large bill for Internet usage. And if the moochers used your network to perform illegal activities, you might end up being the one accused of a crime.

An unsecured network could give hackers the opportunity to access your machines remotely. A skilled hacker might be able to get all sorts of private information from your computers. Identity theft can be very difficult to resolve.

For these reasons, it's always a good idea to make sure your network is secure. That includes using firewalls to protect your network from outside interference. You should use password protection on your network. Using a good encryption standard such as WiFi Protected Access (WPA) is also important.

Some WiFi printers have a button that activates WPA encryption, allowing secure connections with other devices. By pushing the button on the printer and activating a similar feature on each computer on the network, you can create a secured network between each computer and the printer. That might seem like overkill, but considering the risks of unsecured data transmission, it's a good idea.

If you're tired of tripping over cables or being chained to one location, you might want to look into wireless printing. Think about your needs -- they'll determine which method will work best for you.

To learn more about wireless printing and related topics, take a look at the links on the next page.