Date posted: 23 November 2020 – Category: Wi-Fi Services
The need for a strong WiFi service network for businesses is clear: productivity and employee satisfaction are directly tied to a stable connection. Yet even with how important it is, properly designing a wireless network for an office isn’t quite as cut and dried.
Deployment isn’t as simple as switching on a router. There are many elements that can affect your WiFi connection, from access point placement to the apps your employees use. All of these have to be factored into your pre-planning stage. Fortunately for business owners, there’s a powerful tool that cuts through guesswork: site surveys.
WiFi site surveys are tools technicians use to create a bespoke network design for your business. They can be held at any point in a WiFi network’s life, from pre-planning to troubleshooting.
Site surveys are powerful tools for mapping your needs. However, there are several types of surveys. Identifying which one fits your current needs is important. These surveys can be pricey, as well as cause some disruption to daily operations. You don’t want to end up wasting time nor money on information you don’t need.
On-site surveys are typically conducted before putting up a new network. Engineers use floor plans, facility diagrams, and performance reports of existing networks to determine how to maximise coverage. Then, specialists visit the site to test the proposed access points and create recommendations based on results. Surveyors also connect to the surveyed network and send traffic through the system, which allows them to harvest important information such as data packet loss.
For passive surveys, technicians don’t connect to the surveyed network, merely “listening” in on the wireless channels as they work. Surveyors walk around the building, collecting data from various access points. This type of survey is good for spotting unknown devices, identifying if you’re sharing channels with your neighbours, and spotting radio frequency (RF) dead zones.
Passive surveys are typically the cheapest to conduct. They’re also used to harvest accurate on-premise data prior to other types of surveys.
Predictive site surveys use heat maps and virtual models of your office space or building to determine optimal access points and possible sources of interference. Everything that can affect WiFi signals, from staircases and walls to furniture like filing cabinets and desks, is simulated by a software. Unlike on-site and passive surveys, these can be done remotely, which makes them an excellent tool for the pre-planning phases of a new facility.
Even properly deployed networks fail for a number of reasons: outdated hardware, new sources of interference, or a change in data consumption habits. Without site surveys, these will be difficult to pinpoint. A Fault Finding Survey zeros in on potential causes of subpar connectivity, or help businesses take a more proactive approach by identifying vulnerabilities in your network’s design.
A post-installation survey is done, as the name suggests, after the deployment of a network. These types of surveys are important for validating the infrastructure is performing as expected. Tests are typically run on client and survey devices to check if more channels are needed, if devices are configured with the same settings, and how fast office devices can connect.
When it comes to WiFi, location is crucial. Poor installation can lead to spots where WiFi Internet is patchy or worse, dead. Site surveys help maximise the coverage of your network from anywhere in your office.
A site survey also looks at the number of people in your office, as well as the type of work they’ll do. Some apps, like Google Drive or Dropbox, are bandwidth-hungry, and site surveys help ensure you can deliver the connection these systems need to perform.
Although site surveys are typically done before deployment, they may also be used to troubleshoot issues and spot security gaps. Zeroing in on the cause of poor performance is much easier when you’re aware of the vulnerabilities in your network.
Engineers will need access to operations data. Preparing pertinent information beforehand helps the process go smoother. Below are a few things to prepare when commissioning a site survey from a third-party provider.
Traditional site surveys focused on coverage. However, the WiFi landscape is rapidly evolving. The rise of Bring-Your-Own-Device policies and increasingly demanding bandwidth requirements means looking at range isn’t enough anymore. Networks built for coverage will also require less hardware, which translates to cheaper installation and maintenance fees. Businesses need to have a good understanding of their network’s intended purpose.
Clients will need to provide a floor plan that’s scaled accurately. Distance is a crucial measurement for site surveys, and an inaccurately mapped layout will result in completely wrong recommendations for your space.
You’ll also want to procure a list of devices that will be on the network. Full coverage matters little if your intended users can’t connect to the WiFi the way they need to. Beyond the desktops and smartphones, you’ll also want to account for other IoT devices such as printers or point-of-sale devices.
A busy space–like conference or meeting rooms where people hold video calls regularly–will have very different bandwidth requirements than your supplies cabinet. Communicating these details is important, especially for predictive surveys when technicians don’t have eyes on your space. Giving engineers access to your traffic during peak hours also helps them create a plan that covers all your bases.
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Rachel Thomas, General Manager, National Trust - Cheshire & Wirral Portfolio