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Site Survey

Site Survey Best Practices

by

Kaushik Bhaumik

|

May 29, 2019

If your business utilizes online communications for internal and external matters, you will already appreciate the importance of maximizing the efficiency and performance of the facilities. Switching to a wireless network is undoubtedly one of the best options, and a site survey is a vital part of the planning process. However, knowing how to conduct a wireless site survey is another challenge altogether. Frankly, only the best wireless site survey practices will suffice.

This guide to wireless site survey best practices will provide clarity, enabling you to keep this integral feature of the business venture running in style from the day of installation and for many years to come.

What are WiFi site surveys, and why are they needed?

Wireless site surveys describe the process of designing and planning the installation of a new wireless network. They should look at wireless coverage, data rates, network capacity, roaming capability and quality of service and are there to identify potential challenges before finding the best solutions to those problems.

Site surveys fall into three main categories. They are:

  • Passive site surveys, which listens to WLAN traffic but is not actively associated to any WLANs.
  • Active site survey in which the adapter is linked to one or more access points.
  • Predictive site surveys, which focus on simulation through virtual access points.

Site surveys are a necessary feature that can prevent a whole range of problems further down the line, including issues that would require a great deal of time and money to fix. They should be completed before going ahead with any proposed installations as they will ensure that the network is designed to provide the coverage and capacity needed for success.

Planning a wireless site survey

If your business is going to use a wireless site survey, it deserves to gain the very best results. Preparation is a vital component that will enable you to make it happen.

Organization is a crucial element, which is why you need to schedule the survey at a time where it will cause minimal disruption to the business operation. This could involve picking a week or a day where business is expected to be a little slower due to staff training or seasonal trends. Or it could mean having the survey completed out of business hours.

Additionally, it’s vital to have the wireless network survey completed by a professional network engineer that has the ability to provide a fast and reliable service - FieldEngineer allows you to find one with ease!

Finally, you need to ensure that the business premises are safe for the engineer.

Wireless site survey best practices

Aside from hiring the right expert to perform the wireless site survey at the right time, there are several other issues to consider regarding how to conduct a wireless site survey. As the website owner or IT administrator, it’s imperative that you understand them.

Focus on the following elements, and you won’t go far wrong:

Equipment

Passive and active site surveys can be completed with a simple WiFi adapter while predictive surveys require specialized RF equipment. The exact specifications of the latter item will be influenced by the size of the building as well as the intended use.

In addition to the hardware facilities, software will be required for running various tests. Software may be associated with the running of Windows, iOS, or Android applications depending on the needs of the business.

Assessments

Whether the company is currently fully wired or boasts wireless facilities in some areas, an assessment of the existing network infrastructure is key. Engineers should complete visual inspections of the locations as well as the facilities and devices being used.

Determine the capacity and identifying whether any existing features can be adapted and used for the implementation of the wireless network can aid the design and installation processes. Make sure this is done, as it can also reduce the costs by reducing equipment needs.

Access points

The wireless site survey should place huge emphasis on the concept of access points, which are essentially the gateways that are used to connect devices to the network as well as connecting the internal network to the outside digital world.

Engineers should pay close attention to the floor plans and try to find the highest point for the APs to be placed, as this will reduce the threat of obstructions to satellites and signals. It’s important for the engineer to factor in outside obstructions and airwave traffic pollution too.

Testing

During the planning phase, as well as the installation phase, the engineer needs to test the wireless network coverage across all areas of the building where the WiFi facilities will be needed. The best way to do this is by walking around with a laptop or other device in hand.

Collecting the signal strength data, along with upload and download speeds, in this manner confirms whether the network plans are working as desired or require further attention, perhaps through the addition of another access point.

Analysis

Analyzing the data allows the engineer to pinpoint any areas where the network is faltering. Filtering results by turning off certain APs can give further indication. After adjusting or adding new APs or equipment, running a second test will hopefully lead to improvements.

Cross comparing the results of separate tests should highlight which adjustments have worked. The goals is to reach full bars on the connection indicators of all devices in all locations. Finally, future tests should be booked as changing environments and requirements can impact future performance.

The final word

The site survey is an integral precursor to the implementation of a wireless network. Testing how the new infrastructure will perform is essential as it’ll ensure that productivity remains at the right level while the technological upgrades can be completed in the fastest and most cost-efficient manner.

Moreover, building the perfect wireless network through the use of wireless site survey best practices ensures that ongoing monitoring and maintenance are easier to handle too. Going ahead with the installation before conducting the site survey simply isn’t an option.

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