TMCnet Feature
September 16, 2020

2 Types of Site Surveys to Consider For Your Next Wireless Network Update

Before you go through with updating your business's wireless network, you should first consider conducting a site survey to save yourself a headache in the long run.

To put it short, a site survey is an audit of your network, providing an overview of its RF coverage so you can determine how to effectively deliver a wireless signal to different locations around your workplace(s).

Choosing to forgo a site survey can leave serious issues unaddressed, like wireless dead zones or insufficient access points for your employees.

Bottom line: a site survey saves you time, effort, and money.

But what kind of site survey is the best for your business?

There are two types to consider; in any case, both are excellent tools for making sure your network runs as smoothly as possible.  Tom Martinez provides IT services in Grand Rapids, MI, and shares his insights into wireless network surveys.

1. Predictive Site Survey

A predictive site survey (or predictive WiFi (News - Alert) design) is true to its name, using predictive software to simulate your workplace. The software is thorough, accounting for varying factors like wall and floor material, building size, network user population, and hardware.

What you end up with are software-generated heat maps that display wireless signal strength across designated areas, usually floor plans for the building where your network is being deployed.

These heat maps depend significantly on the provided information, which is why it's important to be specific—from wall thickness down to individual network devices. With detailed information, the heat maps could easily fall within a 10% margin of error, providing a cost-effective and accurate overview of your networking environment.

The big question is when it should be used. Short answer: every time you're deploying or refreshing a network.

It is a perfect solution for most workplaces and even complex, high-density networking environments will benefit from a predictive site survey as a starting point. Some of those complex environments, however, are better suited to a different type of survey.

2. WiFi Site Survey

Like the predictive design, WiFi site surveys provide an overview of signal strength so you can determine the requirements for seamless network deployment.

It does, however, take a more hands-on approach, utilizing the predictive survey results in tandem with an on-site review by a network engineer. On-site analysis can determine certain network characteristics that are impossible to measure with predictive software, such as interference from multiple devices using the same network, or RF propagation across devices of different complexity.

In essence, a WiFi site survey takes predictive design and verifies its results through on-site measurements taken at each of your wireless access points.

This can be a complicated venture depending on the complexity of the environment. For instance, many educational and industrial settings may find their wireless access points elevated several dozen feet above the ground, servicing numerous devices on multiple floors. In that case, the network engineer would be verifying the predictive survey results from hard-to-reach access points while trying to simulate the complicated, material realities of your network during normal operation.

That explains when to opt for a WiFi site survey: every time you're deploying or refreshing a network in a complex environment.

That complexity stems from any characteristic that requires significant redundancy and efficiency from your network—dense network population, a large number of roaming users, many device types of varying complexity and type, et cetera.

Whether you are opting for one type of survey or both, the choice to have a site survey at all will give a great return for your business. Creating a high-grade wireless network requires a lot of effort, and site surveys are the perfect starting point to ensure that your business's network runs optimally.

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