Mistakes to Avoid during a Wireless Network configuration.
It’s been said that WiFi Networks configuration is an art more than a science, we tend to agree with it as experience has taught us that a proper WiFi implementation solution requires a deep understanding of technology, use of WiFi network, and physical environment where the Wifi Network will be installed. Over the years we have installed hundreds of WiFi Networks solution, big and small, and each of them have had their own unique challenges, during and after the installation. As we became Wireless Network Experts serving NJ and NYC businesses with so many deployments and configurations we we developed our configuration best practices we' d like to share with you, hopefully they can be useful to you as you plan a Wireless Network for your organization.
The core and fundamental concept of WiFi is the broadcast of the network signal over the radio frequency, that in and of itself does not guarantee a reliable Wireless network configuration. For a proper WiFi implementation to function properly all network pieces, including the WiFi, must work in harmony, in this article we’ll concentrate on those related to WiFi.
With that in mind here we go:
1. Wireless Assessment.
Ideally you’d like to perform a Wireless Assessment or Wireless Survey to generate a heat map that will theoretically indicate the WAPs location, a Wireless survey is not mandatory but for most deployments is necessary. We installed many successful Wireless Network solution in small and mid-sized environments without creating a heat map, after so many deployments and years of experience we’ve developed a WiFi expert intuition. For every single deployment we do analyze the radio frequencies with a spectrum analyzer as it’s imperative to know what other WiFi networks or devices are using the radio frequencies.
2. Access Points placement.
A rule of thumb is to place the Access Points in the center of the coverage area, the main reason for this is because most APs use omnidirectional antennas. It's not a good idea to mount most or all Access Points vertically on walls around the office, that certainly is a bad design.
3. Choose the right Access Points.
Choosing the Wireless Access point is imperative for your unique WiFi deployment. We like AeroHive networks as their solutions are solid and cost effective for small and midsize businesses, depending on the type of deployment we recommend the AP230, AP250, AP500 solution. It’s the same case for Cisco Meraki and Rokus. Keep in mind that even if you choose the most powerful Access Point it won’t do you any good if it’s not the right solution for your environment.
4. Choose the Right Antenna type.
This is for most complex configurations as you don’t have to deal with it when using Access Points with internal antennas, however there could be chance of you needing a directional antenna for coverage in a specific area. If that’s the case pay attention to the dBi, power, and potential coverage. When deploying directional antennas take into account the Fresnel Zone during your calculations, otherwise you’ll experience a lot of unhappy hours troubleshooting the connection.
5. Wireless Bands.
Will you use the 2.4GHz, the 5GHz or both? This is all boils down to the type of devices that will be using your network. Do you still need to transmit on the 2.4GHz band? Most devices support 5GHz and if that’s the case in your environment I would have to production network on the 5GHz and the Guest network on the 2.4GHz band. The 5GHz is not only less crowded but also you can take advantage of the 802.11 ac standard with speed of up to 1,300 mbps.
6. Physical Obstacles.
Please take this into account, during and after a deployment. That new file cabinet, office restructure, new cubicles, etc, those obstacles cause deflection and refraction of the WiFi signal, although it’s expected for that to occur to an extend adding objects that would block the connection the signal would make the matter much worst. This is especially true when changes are introduced after a successful wireless implementation, at one point everything is working fine and then changes are finished the WiFi is spotty.
7. WiFi usage.
This is one of my favorites, many times people underestimate the type of traffic that will flow in the WiFi network. Is very different to use the WiFi to browse the web and do regular day to day activities and another when you have users live streaming, downloading and uploading large content, etc. Also pay close attention to the areas with the most user concentration as you may have to add other APs to support the load.
8. Maximum Concurrent connection.
This is a good one too, what is the maximum amount of users that will use the AP at the same time. I’ve seen many time how a Wireless network can’t support the user load and the systems end up crashing or simply crawling, pay close attention to this when deploying WiFi solutions in schools, universities, auditoriums, etc. Always take into account that users have personal mobile devices that most likely will connect to the WiFi network as well.
9. Test Configuration during its busiest time.
We can plan and estimate a perfect WiFi Solution but the true test happens when the usage is at its peak. Let’s say you did you due diligence with the assessment, AP location, usage, users, etc but the truth is we can only estimate performance based on science and experience. You’ll always need to tweak the WiFi network as you see how it performs duding its busiest time.
10. Document, document, and document.
Make notes of wireless neighbors, your configuration, performance at its peak, etc. that’ll help you with troubleshooting.
11. Think twice before increasing the AP power settings.
Increasing the APs radiation power may sound like a good idea to boost the signal but when you do you’re changing way the signal travels as well. Yes you’ll get more power but if not careful it’ll go in the wrong direction.
12. Segregate your traffic.
This is network security 101, have your network on one VLAN and your Guest on another, you can also segregate your internal traffic into different vlans.
13. Don’t use 802.11 b devices.
I’ve been in this business long enough to see strange thing, if for whatever reason you have a working device that is 802.11b you should create a separate network for it, if you connect it to your main network as it’ll slow everything down.
14. Think about security.
A secure Wireless Network is more than having a strong password, also consider the encryption protocols, implement auditing and accountability services if possible, VLAN segmentation. Keep in mind the security goes beyond your WiFi settings as it relates to the entire network.
15. Keep the WiFi signal where needed.
Install attenuators or change the power level on some APs to keep the WiFi signal from traveling too far outside its intended coverage.
16. Is your PoE switch enough?
If you're powering the APs via the switch make sure it has enough power to all APs, especially if you’re using the 5GHz band with 802.11 ac. Otherwise you’ll experience very strange things such as the APs rebooting randomly.
17. Ensure all other network services work.
18. Know when to fall back to Ethernet.
Evaluate if all the troubleshooting, time, and effort is worth having WiFi on specific area. Sometimes you need to choose reliability over the comfort of WiFi.
19. Change the default AP credentials.
It’s easy to obviate this one.
20. Do not use WEP for encryption.
This is one of those weird things I still see out there every now and then, WEP is a weak algorithm by nature and very easy to break.
21. Check for WiFi Interference.
This will help you in your deployment, keep in mind that interference comes from different sources, not only other Wireless Networks.
22. Call a Wireless network Expert.
This is what we do day in and day out. You can offset the Wireless project to us or we can help you internal IT department with the implementation.
Your organization requires a reliable WiFi Network solution, whether you need an experience Wireless Network Engineer to help your team of experts with the deployment or a company to implement the Wireless Network solution for your organization you can count on us to deliver results. We help businesses and organizations in Northern NJ, big and small, with their WiFi Network implementations. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you with you WiFi network solution for your organization. firstname.lastname@example.org | 888-580-4450