Doctor’s Orders: Keeping Your Enterprise Wireless Network Operating at Peak Performance
Nothing is more frustrating (and potentially financially harmful) than a wireless network that isn’t working properly. In many office, warehouse, or even healthcare environments, mobile clients move throughout the facility, requiring a well-designed and well-implemented wireless network for efficient operations.
Businesses that depend on this connectivity invest a significant amount of time and money in setting up the network. However, network requirements are ever-evolving, and without continued monitoring and evaluation, performance can decrease over time.
Beyond addressing connectivity after it’s already a disruption, proactively checking a system is cost-effective, saves time and money, and prevents reduced productivity.
Don’t Count on Auto-Tuning
Depending on the environment, most wireless networks put in place today are designed to auto-tune themselves. It listens to the environment for access points — not only for its own network, but also for neighboring networks that surround and bleed into it.
The network then attempts to make decisions on how to change power levels and channel settings to better operate within itself and its surroundings. The problem is that a solution that does an adequate job on its own doesn’t truly exist.
Typically, access points trade off with each other several times throughout the day. But if a device is connected to an access point, a controller can change the channel and potentially drop that connection based on the environment. That appears as though there’s a bad network when in fact the system is simply auto-tuning itself — just not well enough.
Instead, proactively completing a site survey on network performance can more accurately tune the environment at several points throughout the year rather than just assuming the controller is going to do it accurately.
Schedule Regular Check-Ups
Try to schedule a network check-up (wireless site survey) at least once per year — if not twice per year. A semi-annual cadence is ideal to ensure strong connectivity without any gaps between surveys.
One thing to keep in mind is that despite the controllers ineffectively auto-tuning their networks, the environments in which the controllers operate are constantly evolving. Any time a company redesigns floor plans, adds walls, or rearranges equipment, they’re likely to find that their wireless signal is not quite what it should be with the new configuration. Likewise, warehouse redesigns are common every few years (where racks go, what products and materials are stored on them, where they’re stored on those racks, etc.). Annual or semi-annual wireless site surveys help eliminate or mitigate issues stemming from these changes.
The wireless site surveys themselves can be done quickly and easily. For small to mid-sized locations, tablets can be sent for the facility to perform their own wireless site survey depending on the provider. For companies using TRG, once the tablet is on-site, the operator calls TRG, an engineer takes control of the tablet remotely, and the engineer walks through the survey with the operator in real-time. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes from start to finish.
For larger sites of more than 100,000 square feet, TRG will send an engineer to the physical location. Using their survey software, the engineer walks the floor and either 1) implements the changes immediately, re-tests, and generates a report, or 2) provides the information to the customer with recommendations on how to resolve any issues.
Decide Between Virtual or On-Site Visits
Often, businesses that have widely dispersed locations tend to put a lot of time, resources, and effort into what’s called a virtual placement survey. This type of survey consists of a software-generated estimation of wireless coverage based on estimated access point placements. While cost-efficient, this method isn’t recommended as a complete solution because it’s not accurate enough to give a full picture of wireless performance and the reasons behind it.
Virtual placement surveys try to anticipate what the signal coverage will be through materials, distance, and other factors such as ceiling height. These don’t tell the whole story, however, and tend to overestimate the number of access points required. In fact, companies using this approach tend to install anywhere from 25 to 50 percent more wireless infrastructure than is actually necessary.
Often, an increase in infrastructure can yield an increase in interference, resulting in an underperforming network with a significantly higher cost (not only the cost of the hardware, but also the labor and materials to install it).
While an on-site survey may cost slightly more up front, this approach tends to save significant time and money in the long run because they’re much more accurate.
Review Enterprise Wireless Health Reports
Wireless site surveys provide companies with a report that details their overall wireless network performance, identifies issues, and shows how disruptions can be addressed. Heat maps are used to show how many access points are present, the total coverage of the facility, areas with poor quality signals, and other data.
The survey report shows what kind of channelization the company has, what their access points are doing, and whether that’s the best configuration for that particular environment. It also shows network speed and what to expect in regard to bandwidth.
Often, TRG will perform the wireless site survey in what’s called a “survey and tune.” TRG engineers will visit the physical location, survey the site, identify any issues, and then implement whatever changes are recommended immediately on-site. The report will provide the initial heat maps, the recommendations to resolve any issues, and the results of those implemented recommendations.
If you’re experiencing connectivity issues or are interested in keeping your wireless systems at top performance through a wireless site survey, fill out the form below to find out more about TRG’s wireless services.