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Securing the wireless networks of growing small and midsize businesses is the focus of several top providers such as Symbol Technologies Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc., each of which is readying security upgrades and features.

Symbol Technologies plans to release this week its WS 2000, a switch that’s designed for offices and that works in wired and wireless capacities.

The WS 2000 switch includes four power-over-Ethernet ports, two Fast Ethernet ports, one WAN uplink and a CompactFlash storage slot, in addition to 64MB of onboard memory.

The WS 2000 has routing functions and supports outbound traffic policies and firewalls among up to six subnets, said Symbol officials in Holtsville, N.Y. Pricing is expected to start at around $1,000.

In addition to supporting iterations of the 802.11 WLAN (wireless LAN) protocol, the WS 2000 will support such security protocols as 802.1x/EAP (Extensible Authentication Protocol) and WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access). It will support 802.11i, pending ratification. Symbol will also extend its security support to the WS 5000, its main enterprise wireless switch. In June, for example, Symbol plans to announce VPN support for it, officials said.

However, some IT administrators and wireless developers said WLAN security protocols have matured enough to make VPNs unnecessary. “We no longer use VPN with our wireless network,” said John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Healthcare Systems, in Boston. “VPNs are a nightmare to administrate, and we are confident that new security protocols will reduce the use of VPNs.”

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