- by Seth Burstein
- Oct 21, 2019
If you’re looking to carry out a WiFi installation for your event or business, your first step should be to invest in a wireless site survey. While this isn’t a prerequisite for installing a network, it comes highly recommended, as it can save you a significant amount in repair costs and network-related inconveniences in the future. A wireless site survey can tell you a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of your desired network plan, such as areas where the signal may be weak or which areas have overlapping signals from multiple access points.
There are two types of wireless site surveys: active and predictive. A predictive survey is usually quick and free, involving little more than a review of your floor plans in order to recommend locations for access point placement. An active survey is more in-depth and hands-on, and the surveyor should be able to supply information on the best WiFi equipment as well as a variety of recommendations for your ideal WiFi layout.
For companies with large teams of workers that depend on Internet connectivity to get their work done, conducting a wireless site survey is crucial. Even for companies planning events that are expected to see moderate to large crowds, a site survey may be worth the cost to undertake. Depending on the situation, some companies might even perform active site surveys at minimal or no cost to you. Investing in a survey guarantees that you’ll have all the information you need to set up the most effective WiFi network and ensure uninterrupted Internet connectivity for everyone.
6 Things You Can’t Afford to Miss During a Wireless Survey
- WiFi: what is it good for?
Before you set about finalizing a WiFi plan or even getting a survey done, you need to make sure you’re aware of who will be using your WiFi and for what purpose. A warehouse used as an event venue will have dramatically different requirements from an office space, and your wireless setup should be able to meet the varying needs. Make sure you consider the number of devices that will connect to the WiFi on any given day, how many of those users will be concurrently using the network, and how much bandwidth will be used. Having, say, five hundred devices connected to the network and all downloading massive datasets at the same time is much more taxing on a network than having five hundred devices connected with only a quarter of the devices actively using the network to check email.
In an office situation, it’s highly advisable to have the wireless survey conducted during active business hours in order to best determine how much bandwidth your setup needs. For events, it’s ideal to review data reports from previous events of a similar nature to understand the bandwidth requirements. Doing so will give the survey conductor a more accurate account of how many people are using your network so that they can recommend an accurate amount of bandwidth to support your needs.
Trade Show Internet has a bandwidth calculator that might come in handy for determining bandwidth needs as well.
- Capacity vs. coverage
It’s important to take into account that coverage and capacity are two distinct aspects of your network. Even if your entire floorplan is covered with a strong signal, it doesn’t mean that a limitless number of devices can connect to the network and have a seamless experience. In the event industry, it is often necessary to have high-density access points (APs) to ensure there is enough capacity for everyone to connect to the network. If you were to install household equipment for an event or office with hundreds of people, the network is guaranteed to fail.
- Accounting for old devices
There are two frequency bands that WiFi broadcasts on, the “older” 2.4 GHz band and the “newer” 5 GHz band. While there are major advantages to the 5 GHz band, it’s recommended to set up a network that broadcasts on both frequencies. This is because if people at your event are using older or lower end hardware that only connects to 2.4 GHz networks, they’re not going to be able to see (or connect to) your network that is broadcasting at 5 GHz. It’s important to make sure that your network can host a variety of devices, whether it’s a 2007 iPod Touch or the latest in Android wizardry. If you think you may be dealing with a high level of device diversity, make sure you let the wireless site surveyors know in advance.
- Determining where the cables go
A wireless survey might let you know where to place your access points and where you’ll get the best coverage, but mounting equipment at those points and laying out the cables without causing too much clutter is a different beast entirely. You may need additional on-site visits prior to your WiFi installation to figure out just how much cabling and general logistics will be involved in the operation.
For the best results and most efficient outcome, you’ll want a company that can do everything in one go.
- Accounting for interference
While investing in a wireless site survey will help to create an optimal WiFi network up front, the possibility remains that you may experience network interference later on, especially if your network is being deployed in a densely populated area. In urban environments, especially, new construction or fluctuating pollution levels can lead to the proliferation of competing networks and can potentially lead to interference issues on your network.
To make sure that new (often ill-configured) access points or radio equipment from neighboring offices don’t interfere with your network, we recommend routine network maintenance. An annual check-up to ensure that the initial conditions when the survey was carried out haven’t changed should suffice.
- Thoughtful access point placement
Every event and office has its quirks, including certain locations that see a lot more or less use than others. There might be a particular table that people prefer to gather around for group work instead of using the conference room, for example. When planning your WiFi installation, make sure to put the access points where they’re really needed ? which is where the people are. This might mean placing one at the table instead of the conference room in the example above – or, better yet, placing one in both areas.
Another office trend is the constant hustle and bustle in the hallways and around the water coolers. While there may not be as much water cooler conversation as in the past, people will still need access to WiFi while they stand around or make their way from point A to point B. It’s important to consider the areas with heavy foot traffic or general crowding so that you don’t end up having optimal coverage in designated work areas but dead zones outside of them.
Hiring the Right Company to Carry Out Your Survey
We hope you found the tips above informative. If you’re able to implement them by yourself, kudos! That said, if reading the tips made the hair on the back of your neck stand up in sheer terror, please leave your wireless setup to us. Feel free to contact our network IT team for advice on the wireless site survey and setup that suits your event or business needs.