WiFi Network Solutions for Warehouses and Distribution Centers.
For many years, warehouses managed to utilize un-planned WiFi connectivity, meaning they installed access points in areas where people needed them and hoped for the best; as wireless utilization requirements expanded, they kept adding more access points to fill in the coverage hole. This approach continued until they had an over-saturated WiFi environment with a strong signal to send a rocket to the moon, but at the same time, providing a poor service to the wireless clients due to high level of interference and noise. Now that WiFi is an essential part of the business, IT departments and their companies are looking into deploying reliable WiFi solutions to support the core business, and that's where WiFi Support Experts like us come into play, to design and implement smart, reliable, and efficient WiFi network solutions.
For many years, warehouses managed to utilize un-planned WiFi connectivity, meaning they installed access points in areas where people needed them and hoped for the best; as wireless utilization requirements expanded, they kept adding more access points to fill in the coverage hole. This approach continued until they had an over-saturated WiFi environment with a strong signal to send a rocket to the moon, but at the same time, providing a poor service to the wireless clients due to a high level of interference and noise. Now that WiFi is an essential part of the business, IT departments and their companies are looking into deploying reliable WiFi solutions to support the core business, and that's where WiFi Support Experts like us come into play, to design and implement smart, reliable, and efficient WiFi network solutions.
Warehouses and Distributions Centers have unique characteristics that make the WiFi network challenging, and proper planning and designs require taking into account the many variables that can affect the wireless network performance; some of those variables are RF related, others are network configuration settings, physical environment, and even business policies. Implementing reliable WiFi designs for this environment goes beyond the broadcast of radio signals. An experience WiFi design company also looks into:
What type of devices of are\will be used- this is important because wireless devices have unique antenna settings that need to be taken into account during the design.
How high will APs be mounted -
Walls and ceiling materials.
How often - if at all- does the rack layout change
Are the shelf at capacity or do they change
Is WiFi signal coverage expected at the floor level or different shelf heights?
Are the IDFs located inaccessible
Will devices be mounted on carts, or will they be hand-held
Besings looking at the physical planning aspect, you also need to look at the network administration side of it.
Do you need on-premise on cloud administration?
Do the edge and core switches support the new traffic
What kind of monitoring and reporting is expected
Is the network being segmented by VLANs
Is 802.1X implemented
Are you integrating the WiFi architecture with the same network vendor, or will you use a different one?
How to avoid CCI and CCI
Those questions are the most commons that apply to most deployments, each company is unique and you need to tailor the configuration accordingly. With the answers to those questions in mind, the wireless engineer starts planning the design for the warehouse.
Another interesting point, and it's something that's not unique to this type of environment, is the need to understand the difference between planning for coverage and capacity. We wrote an article about it, but just as a reminder, planning for coverage is ensuring that there's a proper WiFi signal in the desired areas, and planning for capacity is ensuring that WiFi architecture is capable of support a large amount of concurrent connections. Most Datacenters don't need capacity deployments, and they're more concerned with proper coverage; after all, the WiFi scanners and hand-held devices don't utilize much bandwidth.
With that being said, let's go over a couple of points required for proper WiFi planning.
Ceiling Hight and building materials: Access points installation height is an essential aspect of WiFi planning that's usually overlooked. Most deployments install APs on the metal beams under the ceiling, generally between 20 and 25 feet high. It's an essential part of the WiFi deployment because the AP signal needs to provide proper coverage at ground level, especially when using APs with omnidirectional antennas. Building materials are another essential factor for WiFi planning, various RF behaviors are magnified warehouse environments with metal ceilings and walls, stacked shelves, etc. RF signal behaviors such as reflection, refraction, diffraction, gain, loss absorption, attenuation, etc. are directly affected by building materials.
RF Signal Strength. Radio signal strength is one of the most aspects of WiFi deployments, but it's not the only one. As a matter of fact, you can have a strong WiFi signal and still have major connection issues. There are two types of RF frequencies, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and they each their unique pros and cons to be taken into consideration during the planning. A signal level of -65 to -70 dBm is considered reliable for most applications, anything above -70 dBm may cause low bandwidth and connection issues. It may sound counterproductive, but having maxing out the AP powers to broadcast stronger signals will also create a myriad of issues that severe network communication. Don't look at the WiFi signal strength as a sign of a proper implementation, but rather as one of the many elements that need to be taken into account for a successful Wireless network implementation.
-67 dBm -- Minimum signal strength for applications that require timely delivery of data packets.
-70 dBm -- Minimum signal strength for general applications such as web browsing.
-80 dBm -- Unreliable network connectivity.
-90 dBm -- Useless connection.
Do you need on-premise on cloud administration? Infrastructure grade WiFi deployments require advanced centralized configuration and administration, Wireless Controllers provide the platform for Wireless administrators to manage the WLAN from a centralized location. In the early WiFi days, WLAN controllers were only available as an on-premise device that integrated as part of the network architecture, but the wide acceptance of cloud computing over the past years gave way to Cloud-based WLAN controllers. The features and functionality of cloud and on-prem WLAN controllers are the same, what may dictate which option you use may be internal policies related to data privacy. It is also important to clarify that cloud-based WLAN solutions do not send user data to the cloud, it only transmits the device configuration to the cloud hosting services. Although on-prem WLAN controllers are an option, most companies are opting for a cloud-based approach as it offers more flexibility and redundancy than hosting a physical device in the company. Some companies are even opting to have a hybrid approach as they fully transition to the cloud.
Benefits of Cloud-based administration.
Unlimited throughput, no bottlenecks
Add devices or sites in minutes
Highly available cloud multiple datacenters
Network functions even if the connection to the cloud is interrupted
99.99% uptimes SLA
No user traffic passes through the cloud
Automatic firmware and Security updates
How to avoid CCI. Co-channel interference is