Wireless networks have become an integral part of any business environment these days, especially due to the increased prominence of all kinds of wireless devices such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Wireless networks are now ubiquitous because they provide the expected convenience, portability, and flexibility demanded by any serious business today. Another reason you see such an increase in demand for setup of wireless networks in business environments is due to the fact that a wireless network is now much faster and more reliable than before.
In this article, I will try to briefly explain some key factors that any business person who wants to set up or request a wireless network should be familiar with. It greatly helps to professionally communicate with your team and the company you contract to setup your wireless network.
What do we mean by “Wireless”?
The term wireless is of course a very broad and general term and can be applied to any device or technology that works without wires! Wireless communications include GSM, WIMAX, satellite, radio, microwave, Bluetooth, and many other means of communications.
However when we are talking about wireless network for computers, we are loosely using the term to refer to “WiFi” or the IEEE 802.11 standard. This is the common wireless (WiFi) connection you have on your laptops, tablets, and smartphones.
5 Key factors of a Wireless Network
Below are 5 key factors you would need to ensure about in any wireless network that is setup you’re your business:
1) Indoor / Outdoor Access Points
Regardless of the brand, the wireless access points are divided to indoor and outdoor devices. Indoor access points are not weatherproof but cost less and are installed on wall or ceiling of offices.
Outdoor access points on the other hand are designed to withstand outdoor climates and are usually used to cover the outside premises of your office or compound.
There are however cases where outdoor access points are used to provide coverage for indoor use – this is when you have disbursed, separate prefab caravans or trailers or tents (like oil rigs or man camps) where providing coverage for inside these rooms more efficient by utilizing outdoor access points.
2) Number of Access Points
Determining the correct number of required access points and their proper positioning to provide proper coverage is probably the most critical step that determines the success of a wireless network.
There are many factors for determining the required number of access points, but the two main ones are:
a. You need to make sure you have all locations within the range of the wireless access point.
b. You need to make sure you have enough access points in crowded areas (one per every 20-30 users).
3) Access Point Bandwidth/Speed
The speed and bandwidth offered by wireless access points is increasing year by year at an incredible speed. While the speed of access points was in range of 11 to a maximum of 54Mbps back in 2000’s (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g standards), now thanks to the advent of many new technologies such as MIMO, the common standard is IEEE 802.11ac which provides speeds as high as 780Mbps. New standards are expected as early as 2017 to support speeds up to 100Gbps! If you are planning to setup your wireless network this year, you should go for the 802.11ac standard or newer.
4) Access Point Frequency Spectrum/Band
Older access points tended to support 2.4GHz band. The new 802.11ac standard also supports 5GHz band, enabling higher bandwidth and speed.
5) WLAN Controller
While for a very small office a standalone access point might be sufficient, in larger premises where you have to setup multiple access points, a WLAN controller would become quite critical.
The WLAN controller enables management of multiple access points, not only simplifying the management of all the access points from a single control point, but also to enable the seamless roaming of wireless devices on the move. Some manufacturers now provide software services as an alternative to hardware WLAN controllers which would provide a very attractive and cost effective alternative for SMBs.
Who can design and implement a successful wireless network?
Whether you want to test the wireless knowledge of your in-house team or the capabilities of a potential contractor, the above information will give an idea of some of the key concepts any wireless implementer should be well aware of.
The successful design of a wireless network is much more than that of course. Unless if you simply need 1-2 access points to provide coverage for a small office, make sure for larger networks you do get a professional to do it for you.