Maintaining a reliable WiFi connection is essential for any business. Poor signal quality and dropped connections can affect sales, customer satisfaction, and your bottom line.
Fortunately, there are wireless site survey tools that can help you identify any issues with your network before they become costly problems. The following guide will provide detailed information about the importance of performing wireless site surveys and the tools you can use to help you do so.
What Is A Site Survey And Why Is It Important?
A site survey is a method of analyzing the layout, signal strength, and environment of your wireless network. It involves collecting information about the surrounding area and current and potential interference sources. You can then use this data to optimize the performance of your network.
Essentially, a site survey helps ensure you get the most out of your network, which is why the importance of wireless site surveys can't be overstated. With that in mind, the following are some of the critical benefits of performing a wireless site survey:
- Detects WiFi Dead Zones: A site survey can help you identify areas of your premises with weak or no signal strength. This is crucial to ensuring that your customers or employees don't experience dropped connections while working, which can be a significant disruption.
- Ensures Optimal Wireless Coverage: Wireless coverage refers to the area where your wireless signal is strong enough to support the desired level of service. Site surveys help identify potential weak spots in your coverage and can provide useful data for realigning existing access points (APs) or adding new ones.
- Tests For RF Interference (aka Co-Channel Interference): A site survey can help you identify sources of interference that can interfere with your wireless signal. This includes other wireless networks, wireless phones, specialty equipment, microwaves, and even Bluetooth devices.
- Identifies The Best Wireless Access Points (WAP) Locations: A site survey can help you identify the best locations for your WAPs. This is important to ensure that your wireless signal reaches all areas of your premises.
- Identifies The Best TX/RX Power Settings: By testing different TX/RX power settings, a site survey can help you find the optimal power setting for your network. Doing so ensures that your WAPs can cover the desired area without excessive power consumption.
WiFi Site Survey And Wireless Network Design
Wireless network design is essential to any business or organization's IT infrastructure. A well-designed wireless network can provide reliable, high-speed internet access to your customers, employees, and guests. However, achieving this requires careful planning and forethought. This is where wireless site surveys come in.
Wireless site surveys are invaluable when designing a reliable and efficient wireless network. They allow you to map out the layout of your premises and identify areas with weak or no signal strength. This data can then be used to optimize the performance of your network, ensuring it can handle the desired level of service without dropping connections.
The following are some of the essential data that can be collected during a site survey:
- Signal Coverage: Signal coverage refers to the area where your wireless signal is strong enough to support the desired level of service. A site survey can help you identify potential weak spots in your coverage and provide valuable data for optimizing your network.
- Capacity: Capacity refers to the amount of data transmitted over the wireless network at any given time. A site survey can help you determine if any bottlenecks in your network may be causing slow speeds or dropped connections.
- Analytics: Analytics refers to the data collected about how people use the network. A site survey can provide helpful insights into user behavior, allowing you to adjust your network design to meet their needs better.
What To Do Before You Do A Survey
Before conducting a wireless site survey, there are several steps that businesses should take to make sure the data they collect is helpful when it comes to improving their network. This includes doing the following:
- Determine Who The Networks For: Before conducting a site survey, businesses should consider who will use their network and what device they will connect with.
For example, if you have dozens of employees who are all using your network simultaneously, you might need a more robust network. This information can help you identify what type of devices will need to be considered when surveying the area.
- Identify The Purpose Of The Network: It's also important to consider the purpose of your network when conducting a site survey. This can help you determine what type of coverage and performance you need for your network.
For example, if you provide internet access to guests, you may need a different set of requirements than if you provide internet access to employees.
Types Of WiFi Site Survey Tools You Can Use
When it comes to performing WiFi site surveys, there are three primary types of tools that you can use to collect and analyze the data you need. These include:
Heat maps are visual representations of the wireless signal strength in a given area. Heat maps measure the signal strength in each area and display it as a color-coded map.
For example, an area with a strong signal is shown in green, and an area with a weak signal is shown in red. Heat maps can provide valuable insights into the coverage and performance of a wireless network, like helping you identify areas with weak or no signal strength, allowing you to adjust your network design accordingly.
Optimization apps are mobile applications that can collect real-time data about your wireless network. They often include signal strength monitoring, interference detection, and data throughput measurement. To use an optimization app, you simply download the app to your mobile device and connect it to your wireless network.
The term spectrums refers to the different radio frequency bands in which WiFi networks operate. A spectrum analyzer is a specialized tool that can measure the strength of a WiFi network across various frequency bands.
By using a spectrum analyzer, you can identify areas where these signals are crowded out by other networks operating in the same spectrum. This can help you identify potential sources of interference and make adjustments accordingly.
The Best Free Site Survey Tools
Believe it or not, some site survey tools are available for free. The following are a couple of free site survey tools that are particularly effective and worth checking out:
1. WiFi Analyzer
WiFi Analyzer is a popular free tool (it boasts over one million downloads on Google Play) that can measure signal strength, identify interference, and optimize your wireless network. It's available for both Windows and Android devices.
You can use it to find the best locations for placing APs, identify dead zones in your network, and troubleshoot any issues causing slow speeds. It's worth mentioning that it only supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks at the moment.
2. Ekahau HeatMapper
Ekahau is known for its suite of WiFi site survey tools. The Ekahau HeatMapper is a free tool that offers invaluable insight into the performance of your wireless network. It can create heat maps of signal strength, identify areas where interference may occur, and make adjustments as needed.
You can also generate real-time network coverage heatmaps from WiFi site surveys done on any of their other site survey tools on Android and iOS.
The Best Paid Site Survey Tools
Although there are a few tools available for free that can be quite useful, investing in a paid site survey tool can provide you with access to more features and give you more control over the collected data. The following are a couple of paid site survey tools worth considering:
Ekahau is a site survey tool that is particularly effective for predictive site surveys. Essentially, you can input a variety of data concerning your network plan, such as your building plan and even wall materials. Ekahau will then provide you with a detailed report of the expected coverage and performance for that plan.
This helps ensure that your wireless network meets your performance expectations before setting it up. In addition to being useful for predictive site surveys, Ekahau can also measure signal coverage for active surveys.
Acrylic is a powerful site survey tool that you can use at every stage of a WiFi infrastructure analysis, meaning you can use it to design and plan your WiFi network from the ground up or to assess and improve your existing network.
Acrylic lets you analyze your network, measure its performance in real-time, identify clients, troubleshoot network issues, detect APs and devices, and more, all using a user-friendly interface. In fact, you can create customizable reports to get a better visualization of your network performance. Acrylic is available for both Windows and Mac devices.
Additionally, Acrylic provides WiFi 6E support, meaning that it can be used to detect and analyze networks that operate in the 6 GHz band as well as 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.
SolarWinds has a Network Performance Monitor tool designed for proactive monitoring and troubleshooting. Using the SolarWinds tool, you can evaluate your internal wireless network performance as well as identify any external connectivity issues.
The Network Performance Monitor tool lets you collect a variety of data to help assess your network's performance and capabilities, including performance metrics for wireless controllers, clients, and APs.
Other wireless analysis features include cross-stack network data correlation, fault monitoring, availability monitoring, performance monitoring, network path analysis, and more. The tool also includes a wireless heat map with up-to-date network performance data for your entire network.
VisiWave is an excellent site survey tool for visualizing your wireless network. The tool lets you create coverage heatmaps, view channel usage and overlap, identify coverage voids, map signal leakage, identify rogue APs, and much more.
The tool gives you control over how you collect your data as well. For instance, you can gather data one point at a time, through continuous walks through your survey area, or via GPS positioning to perform outdoor surveys.
Additionally, you can create custom reports, reuse report templates, or even view your data using Google Earth. Lastly, a pro version is available, allowing you to do predictive site surveys.
The Best Apps For Channel Optimization
Wireless site surveys aren't your only option for improving your current network or planning your future network. Channel optimization is another option. Channel optimization is the process of finding the ideal channel for each of your access points, so that they are all operating at their best. The following are a few apps that can help you with this task:
NetSurveyorWiFi is a free network scanner tool that you can use to report the Service Set Identifier (SSID) for every wireless network it detects. It will also identify the channel used by the AP that services each of those wireless networks.
On top of that, the tool will report the received signal strength indication (RSSI) for every AP, which helps you identify how close those APs are to you. You can use this data to adjust the channel of your APs to avoid interference from other wireless networks.
2. WiFi Overview 360
WiFi Overview 360 is another excellent option for channel optimization. It is a free all-in-one wireless network scanner and optimization tool that allows you to view signal strength, channel usage, and more. It can also suggest the best channel for you to use based on real-time data.
You can also scan and analyze the environment, including identifying APs, clients, and more. The tool supports 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks.
Factors To Consider When Choosing WiFi Survey Tools
As you can see, there are lots of different WiFi survey tools that you can use, whether you're doing predictive surveys, active surveys, or channel optimization. But when it comes to choosing the right one for you and your network, there are certain factors that you need to consider.
The following are the primary features that you should look for when selecting a WiFi survey tool. The WiFi survey tool should:
- Provide A Good Picture Of The Wireless Coverage: A good WiFi survey tool should provide an accurate and detailed picture of your wireless coverage. The tool should be able to measure signal strength, detect interference, and display the results.
- Identify The Cause Of The Interference: Different WiFi survey tools have different levels of interference detection. However, choosing a tool that can accurately identify the source and type of interference affecting your network is crucial.
For example, it should be able to tell you if the interference is coming from another AP, a microwave, a Bluetooth device, or something else.
- Make Recommendations On How To Improve The Coverage: The best WiFi survey tools will go beyond simply providing information about your network and make recommendations on how to improve coverage. This includes suggesting the optimal placement of APs and the best channels for each.
Why You Should Consider Working With Professionals
Although there are many wireless site survey tools available that you can use yourself, there are times when it's best to seek the help of a professional. Whether you're conducting predictive surveys, active surveys, or channel optimization, working with a professional can help you get the most out of your wireless network.
Professionals are experienced in conducting surveys and interpreting the results. They understand what needs to be done to improve your network and can help you create an action plan to make the most of the available resources. They can also advise on the latest technologies, trends, and best practices in wireless networking.
Overall, working with a professional is the best way to ensure that your wireless network performs optimally and meets your organization's needs. It can also save you time and money in the long run, as they can quickly identify problems and provide solutions that can help your network reach its full potential.
Work With The Best Tools For Wireless Site Surveys
At Hummingbird Networks, not only do we have extensive experience in conducting wireless site surveys, but we also use the best tools available to do so.
We understand that every organization has different needs and goals when it comes to their wireless network, so we make sure to use the best tools and techniques to determine the best way to optimize your wireless network. As a result, we can help your business save both time and money in the long run.
Learn more about how Hummingbird Networks can help you optimize your wireless network.