WiFi Planning: The 4 Ingredients We Use to Start Designing Your WLAN

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | May 5, 2017 | Read Time: 5 mins

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I love to cook, well, grill primarily, but since the cooking duties fall on me in my house, I've learned to enjoy it all. One of the most critical lessons I've learned since I started cooking, is to always make sure I've got the correct ingredients.

If I don't plan my meals out properly, let's just say we'll be going out that night.

Wireless systems can be looked at in the same way. If you just start throwing stuff together or leave something out or don't have the correct ratios, things tend to fall apart quickly and you end up with various wifi problems.

More importantly, you end up with unproductive users and a lot of wasted money.

Over the past 11 years and more than 1000 deployments, we've learned a thing or two when it comes to designing wireless systems, specifically what ingredients we need to get started.

Whether you're updating an existing wireless network or deploying wireless for the first time, here are the four ingredients we use to start designing your WLAN.

1) Building Type and Size

Everything about the physical environment is critical when designing a wireless network, and it’s the first place we’ll start.

We can break this down into 4 sub-categories:

  • Building materials
  • The layout of the building or buildings
  • Potential sources of interference
  • Building Size

What materials were used to construct the building or buildings you are planning to have wifi in? Is it reinforced concrete, stud construction, cinder blocks, brick, plaster, drywall?

In some specific environments like hospitals, you might even run into areas that have lead-lined walls. Or in manufacturing and warehousing you could see a lot of metal materials and steel construction.

Different materials have a different impact on RF signal, knowing whether your building is made from brick or drywall will impact the performance of your overall WLAN design.

Understanding where the most important rooms or spaces are within your building or environment is also critical.

We refer to this as the layout of your building and we’ll use this to properly design your system for specific high-density areas and other mission-critical locations throughout your building or campus.

What potential sources of interference are there?

This will vary based on the type of business, for example, manufacturing or warehousing could have large machinery, or racks of materials that impact performance (the rack effect), hospitals could have various types of medical equipment such as MRI machines and radiation machines.

Everything inside and out of your business can cause interference, from microwave machines to metal mesh curtains, proper wifi planning will address every detail during the Wi-Fi engineering process.

Finally, the size or square footage of the building will be considered to properly design your network.

Typically, we’ll ask for blueprints during the design process to help us understand the various elements listed above so we can create an accurate and reliable system from the start.

2) Devices

The primary method used today to access your network is through mobile devices, which means we need to match your wireless network design to the devices that will be connecting to it.

We need context, and that’s where capacity comes in to play; capacity itself has two integral parts, the first as we mentioned are the devices.

How many devices will be accessing the network? 100? 500? 2,000? More?

On top of that what kind of devices will be used on your wireless network? We like to break this down into three sub-categories:

  • Computing devices - laptops, PCs, Chromebooks),
  • Mobile devices - smartphones, tablets, wearables, barcode scanners etc.).
  • Other – These could be IoT devices (temperature sensors, vending machines, HVAC systems, IP cameras).

The rule we follow is if it’s connected to your network you need to plan for it.

Watch the video below to learn more about the importance of planning for capacity.

3) Applications

The second part to designing for capacity is planning for the types of applications that will be running on your WiFi network.

Categorically, we break this down into 4 types of applications:

  • Business - applications that propel your business like, SalesForce, Netsuite, Oracle, inventory management software, EHR/EMR, administrative apps, Learning management systems, Mobile PoS systems etc.
  • Streaming - YouTube, Netflix, Spotifiy
  • Communications - Skype, Wireless VoIP, Email, Social media
  • Location - Wayfinding, asset tracking, emergency notifications

Every business is different; these are just a few examples of the kinds of applications we typically see today.

It is important to understand what kinds of applications your network will be supporting; because just like with the devices being used, each application impacts the performance of your network differently and requires different network resources to operate properly.

4) Network Access

Today’s wireless networks need to be designed to allow the use of both business and personal devices without compromising security.

We need to know who will access the network as well as what devices will have access to the network. Again, we break this down into three categories.

  • Corporate - known end-users that utilize company owned devices
  • BYOD - known end-users that will bring and use their own devices
  • Guests - unknown users that will be using their own devices

No matter which types or mix of end-users you have, the important part is that you’ve planned your network to address who is accessing your network and how.

You need to be able to control where they can go and what they can do on the network.

Security is a top priority, and should be incorporated from the start, as it provides the foundation for your wireless system.

We add several layers of security right from the start, including network access control.

This not only gives you the visibility and control you need but also makes on-boarding and authenticating devices much faster and easier to do.

Next Steps

Partnering with the right wireless service provider is the key to wireless network success. Wireless systems are complex, and it takes years of experience and certifications to fully understand.

We’ve been focusing on secure wireless systems or secure mobility for over 11 years and have refined our process down to both a science and an art.

If you have any questions about your current wireless network or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here today.

At SecurEdge Networks, our customized platform will provide your business with an easy to manage wireless system that's fast, secure and surprisingly affordable.

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