A wireless site survey is crucial when planning and designing a new wireless network or making changes to an existing one. The purpose of this survey is to collect data about the environment in which you will use wireless devices to achieve the best possible coverage and performance.
With that in mind, a wireless site survey checklist is critical to ensuring that all the necessary information is collected and the survey is done correctly.
Different Types Of Site Surveys
When it comes to conducting a wireless site survey, there are three main types that are used, depending on the specific needs of the project. These include:
- Passive Surveys: A passive survey is conducted without any interference with the actual wireless network that is in place.
As a result, data about signal strength, channel usage, and other factors are collected without impacting the network itself. This type of survey is generally used when trying to get an idea of how the current network is performing or to troubleshoot any issues that may be present. This is typically done with an engineer on-site.
- Active Surveys: An active survey is one in which the wireless network is actually used during the process. This allows for more accurate data collection, as it considers actual usage conditions. Active surveys are often used when planning for a new network or making changes to an existing one to ensure optimal performance.This is typically done with an engineer on-site, and the most comprehensive type of survey.
- Predictive Surveys: A predictive survey is a type of survey that uses mathematical models to predict the coverage and performance of a wireless network. This survey can be helpful in situations where it is not possible or practical to conduct an active survey.
Predictive surveys are often used in conjunction with active and passive surveys to give a more complete picture of the potential wireless network.
The Benefits Of Doing A Wireless Site Survey
There are countless benefits to performing a wireless site survey, regardless of the type used. Some of the most important benefits include:
Proper WiFi Coverage
Poor WiFi coverage is one of the most common problems businesses face with their wireless networks.
By understanding the layout of the building and the specific needs of the devices using the network, it is possible to place access points in the best possible locations to provide coverage. Conducting a comprehensive wireless site survey can help to prevent dead spots and ensure that all devices have a strong signal.
By understanding the specific needs of the devices on the network, it is possible to design a network that is less likely to experience problems. Doing so can help to keep businesses up and running by reducing the amount of time that is spent troubleshooting network issues.
Not to mention that many employees rely on their online connections to do their work. With a wireless site survey, you'll be able to identify potential problems before they happen and take steps to avoid them.
Another benefit of conducting a wireless site survey is improved security. By understanding the layout of the building and the specific needs of the devices on the network, it is possible to design a more secure network. Doing so can help to prevent unauthorized access and protect sensitive data by ensuring that the network is properly designed to reduce the risk of attack.
Better Customer Experience
If you offer wireless Internet access to customers or visitors, a wireless site survey will result in a better experience for them. By understanding the layout of the building and the specific needs of the devices on the network, it is possible to design a more user-friendly network.
Doing so can lead to happier customers and fewer problems with the network itself since you'll be able to design it specifically for their needs. Less support calls keeps your team focused on primary business initiatives.
Creates A Future-Proof Plan
You can create a future-proof plan when you do a wireless site survey. Then, as your business or the number of devices on your network grows, you'll already have a plan to accommodate the growth. If you don't future-proof your network, you may need to do another survey or make changes in the future, which can be costly and time-consuming.
How To Prepare For A Wireless Site Survey
Identifying the primary requirements for wireless needs is important when preparing for a site survey. Doing so will help determine the type of survey needed and the best way to collect the data. Essentially, the survey may not be as accurate or helpful if you don't know what information you need or what you're collecting information for.
With that in mind, you'll want to consider the following requirements when preparing for a wireless site survey:
- The type of devices that will be using the network (e.g., laptops, smartphones, tablets, security cameras, hand-held scanners, printers, etc.)
- The specific requirements of the devices that will use the network
- The number of devices that will use the network
- The geographical area that needs to be covered by the wireless network
- Any potential obstacles that could interfere with the signal (e.g., walls, metal objects, water, other businesses in close proximity (think left, right, above you, below you, etc.)
- The level of security required for the network
- The bandwidth requirements of the devices on the network
The Steps To Conducting A Wireless Site Survey
Once you have a clear idea of what your primary requirements are and the type of wireless site survey that will best suit your needs, you'll want to follow these steps to conduct the survey:
1. Scale The Floor Plan
When conducting a wireless site survey, the first thing you should do is scale your floor plan. Scaling a floor plan refers to creating a map of the area to be covered by the wireless network. This map should be to scale, meaning it should accurately represent the size of the space. For example, one foot of your actual floor plan could be represented by 1/4" on your map.
Scaling a floor plan is critical because it allows you to measure the dimensions of the space accurately and identify potential obstacles that could interfere with the signal. If your map is off by even a little bit, it could throw off your entire survey, resulting in an inaccurate assessment of the space.
2. Plan And Map Out Areas To Cover
After you've scaled the floor plan, the next step is to determine which areas should be covered to have an efficient bandwidth. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transferred over your wireless connection in a given period of time.
A lack of proper bandwidth can create latency and affect your internet and LAN speeds. As such, you must plan and map out the areas that need to be covered to ensure that all devices on the network can communicate with each other without issue.
To do this, you'll want to consider the layout of the space and identify any potential obstacles that could interfere with the signal. Then, once you understand the layout well, you can start planning out which areas need to be covered and which can be excluded from the survey.
For example, you may want to ensure that coverage extends across your office space, but you may not need it to extend across a storage area.
3. Account For Old Devices And Identify Improvements
If upgrading your wireless network, you'll want to consider any old devices using the new network. While newer devices are typically more compatible with current wireless standards, older devices may not be. As such, you'll want to ensure that your new network is compatible with any older devices as well as newer ones.
In addition, you'll want to identify any improvements that need to be made to the devices themselves. For example, some devices may need to be updated to support the newer wireless standard.
4. Test The Environment For Interference
Several factors can interfere with the performance of your wireless network. Therefore, you'll want to test the environment for any potential interference before conducting your survey to account for it in your results. Common sources of interference include:
- Other nearby wireless networks- the biggest culprit! Just about every business uses WiFi, so depending on where you are located (in an office building and/or near high-density buildings), you may experience co-channel interference, where multiple access points are using the same RF channel to transmit and receive data. Just like a FM radio station picking up two signals at the same time, your access point will not know which data to process if it is reading different data on the same channel. This results is slow WiFi or a terrible experience for the user.
- Signal power settings: Access points have to be “tuned” with the proper power settings. Having a signal too strong or too weak will result in interference, dead spots, or other unwanted problems.
- Walls: Walls can significantly reduce the range of a wireless signal. If possible, you'll want to avoid placing your wireless access points behind walls or inside drop ceilings.
- Metal Objects: Metal objects can also interfere with the signal and should be avoided if possible. For instance, with proper testing, you’ll be able to avoid putting your access point near metal objects such as filing cabinets, elevators, or water pipes.
- Microwaves: Microwave ovens can emit electromagnetic interference that can impact the performance of your wireless network. If possible, keep your wireless access points away from microwaves.
- Medical equipment: Some medical equipment such as MRI machines, X-Ray machines, etc cause problems for the RF signal.
- Cordless phones: Cordless phones operate on the same frequencies as your wireless network and can cause interference. If possible, you should use corded phones instead.
- Bluetooth devices: Bluetooth devices can also cause interference. If possible, you should disable Bluetooth on any devices that aren't in use.
If you suspect any of these factors are present, you'll want to consider them when conducting your survey by testing for interference. Identifying and eliminating sources of interference before conducting your survey will help ensure that you get accurate results.
Additionally, by pinpointing sources of interference, you can take steps to mitigate their impact on your network.
5. Plan For Future Growth
As your business grows, you'll want to ensure that your wireless network can accommodate any additional devices. Planning for future growth is an integral part of conducting an effective survey. By understanding your future needs, you can ensure that your survey results are accurate and that your network can support the future growth of your business.
Additionally, you should consider any changes you might make to the layout of your office space. For example, if you're planning on expanding your office, you'll want to ensure that your survey considers the expansion. Doing so will help ensure that your network can accommodate the additional devices and that the coverage is adequate.
If you don't plan for future growth, you may find that your wireless network cannot support your future needs, which can lead to poor performance and dropped connections.
Additionally, you may find that you need to purchase additional access points to support the additional devices. Planning for future growth will help you avoid these problems and ensure your wireless network can support your business as it grows.
6. Test Signal Strength
Testing signal strength is essential to conducting a wireless survey. By understanding the signal strength in different areas of your office, you can ensure that your wireless network can support the devices in those areas. Additionally, you can use signal strength to identify areas of interference and take steps to mitigate their impact.
It's vital to test signal strength in highly utilized areas. These are the areas where your employees are most likely to use their devices and where you need to ensure that the signal is strong enough to support them. By testing in these areas, you can ensure that your wireless network can support the devices in those areas.
For example, you'll want to ensure the signal is strong in conference and meeting rooms, where employees are likely to use video conferencing or other bandwidth-intensive applications.
7. Record Test Results And Create A Report
Creating a report based on your survey findings is an integral part of the process. The report will help you understand the results of your survey and take steps to improve your wireless network. Additionally, you can use the report to troubleshoot problems with your network or identify areas of improvement.
By creating a report, you can ensure that your survey is comprehensive and that you understand the results. You can also use the report to share the findings with other team members or IT support. Doing so can help ensure that everyone is on the same page and that you take the necessary steps to improve your wireless network.
Mistakes You Should Avoid When Doing A Site Survey
People make a few common mistakes when conducting a wireless survey. These mistakes can result in a poor survey and cause weak coverage as a result.
You should re-examine survey reports to help ensure that the data collected is accurate and that the conclusions drawn from the data are valid.
Additionally, requesting survey data files from the vendor conducting the survey is important. Doing so helps ensure that you have a complete picture of the survey results and that you can verify the data. With that in mind, the following are a few of the common mistakes you should avoid when doing a wireless site survey:
- Improperly Calibrating Your Map: Not all site survey tools use the same map scale. As a result, your map must be properly calibrated. Otherwise, the data collected during the survey may not be accurate.
- Setting Your Signal Propagation Assessment Too High: To adequately assess signal propagation, you should set the assessment at a level that is realistic for the environment. If it is set too high, the results may not be accurate, leading to poor coverage.
- Leaving Survey Walking Paths Incomplete: When conducting a survey, always follow the planned walking path. Otherwise, you may miss areas of potential interference or poor coverage. For example, if you are surveying an office building, walk through all hallways, into all rooms, and close doors behind you. Doing so will ensure that you won't have any dead spots in your coverage.
Hire The Right Company For Your Wireless Site Survey
A wireless site survey is a complex process that requires specialized equipment and expertise. As a result, hiring a company specializing in conducting wireless surveys is critical to ensuring that the survey is conducted correctly and that the data collected is accurate.
Here at Hummingbird Networks, we provide comprehensive wireless site surveys to businesses of all sizes. When working with us, you can be confident your survey will be conducted properly and that you’ll have the data you need to improve your wireless network.
Additionally, we provide all our customers with a report that details our findings and recommendations regarding their existing or future wireless network. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help improve your wireless network.
Want to ensure your wireless site survey is done properly to avoid needless spending? Let our professional team help you!