Convenience, low cost and increased productivity are driving users to wireless hot spots: Armed with little more than a laptop, an inexpensive wireless card and perhaps a credit card to access fee-based hot spots, users can jump onto a wireless hot spot and gain access to e-mail and other corporate resources.
Still, IT managers and wireless LAN experts say many of the dangers inherent in wireless hot spots are the same as those encountered when accessing corporate data beyond the firewall. And, they say, the productivity gains of anytime, anywhere Internet access far outweigh the potential disadvantages.
"The huge number of hot spots that are starting to come online will really change the ways we think of and use the Internet," said Keith Waryas, an analyst at International Data Corp., in a report released last year. "Very high-speed access, combined with the portability and mobility these new networks enable, will make the next few years a very exciting time for both business and consumer Internet users."
To stay ahead of trouble, IT managers need to take a proactive approach to hot spots: They should teach users how to securely access corporate resources and should develop and enforce hot-spot policies that are in line with those in place for remote access. A number of services designed to ease access are also coming online (see review).