What is a Site Survey, and why is it important?

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Sep 13, 2016

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“Site Survey” is a broad term used to describe the planning phase of a project. Think of it as a “fact-finding mission”, where a professional meticulously analyzes a location for potential conflicts.

Why is performing site survey be important

Performing a site survey can help an organization save valuable time, money and resources. As a result of the intelligence gathered through a site survey, project managers can make better informed decisions; reducing the likelihood that costly errors are made in the execution phase of your project.

When should a site survey be performed?

New Construction or Upgrades to Physical Structures

Before blueprints are finalized for a structure, engineers need to know that the location is suitable for building. An engineer performing a site survey would seek to answer questions like:

  • What is the slope of the terrain?
  • Is there road access?
  • What is underneath the area where the foundation will be laid? Can it support the planned foundation?
  • Are there trees or other landscaping objects that need to be removed or accounted for prior to construction?
  • Are there any aerial obstructions? (i.e. Power Lines, Branches, Neighboring Structures)

By answering these questions, hopefully the team drafting the blueprints can coordinate with the construction team to reduce the number of expensive and time-consuming revisions need to complete a project.

Wireless Site Survey

In the example above, the engineer completing the site survey was primarily concerned with the physical layout of the project area. By contrast, a wireless site survey is concerned with the suitability of a structure for a new or upgraded wireless network.

Many companies have a wireless site survey conducted prior to moving into a new location. If a network overhaul at an existing location is required, a wireless site survey could help identify new issues that have arisen since the last site survey.

An engineer performing a wireless site survey will take the following steps:

  • Survey the physical layout of the structure to identify potential installation locations for wireless access points (WAP’s).
  • Analyze any radio frequency (RF) interference that could result in dead-zones or slow network connections.
  • Confirm that a stable connection to the service provider’s Network Operations Center (NOC) is installed and configured at the property.
  • Consider equipment heating and cooling concerns to prevent Servers overheating, or uncomfortable workspace adjacent to Server stacks and other network hardware.
  • Identify any potential physical or RF interferences that could impact Quality of Service (QoS).

Site Surveys Are Important, Especially for Network Installations and Upgrades

Some network hardware manufacturers have started to advise customers that a pre-installation wireless site survey is an unnecessary step. Plug-and-Play makes for a great marketing pitch, but in their exuberance to close the sale, they’re forgetting how critical a strong wireless signal is to businesses and households. Today’s homes and offices use wireless networks for:

  • Multimedia streaming.
  • Real-time collaboration on projects.
  • Video Conferencing
  • Cloud-Based Storage and Synchronization
  • VOIP
  • And virtually everything else employees enjoy courtesy of the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) workplace culture.

Cisco, Meraki, Aruba and many other WAP hardware manufacturers have included RF management algorithms in their latest firmware. If interference is detected at specific frequencies, the router or gateway is designed to frequency hop, or even modulate the signal to counteract the interference. These are welcome advances in the space of wireless network connectivity, but they can only perform optimally if the space they are operating in is optimized for their use.

Performing a site survey is a critical step towards achieving peak network performance. Offices and homes that skip this step can be subject to poor Quality of Service (QoS); dead-zones, intermittent signal drops and weak signal strength is par for the course.

The network optimizations that result from a site survey will leave network users feeling confident that their multitude of network-connected devices will perform well in every corner of the network’s planned footprint.

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