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8 Wi-Fi mistakes to avoid

Eric Geier | Jan. 27, 2015
Wi-Fi is great when it works right – and when it’s secure. Although setting up Wi-Fi can seem straightforward, there are many complexities.

Wi-Fi is great when it works right and when it's secure. Although setting up Wi-Fi can seem straightforward, there are many complexities. For example, not performing proper surveys, design work, and maintenance or ignoring security issues can cause major problems.

Here are some of the biggest Wi-Fi mistakes to avoid.

A successful wireless network requires careful analysis, designing, planning, and maintenance, which all revolves around the site survey.

A site survey includes a walkaround to capture Wi-Fi and RF spectrum data in order to get a baseline reading of signal, noise, and interference from your wireless access points, neighboring networks, and other RF sources. From that surveying work, analysis can be performed to determine the basics: optimum access point locations, channels, and power levels. These are also determined based on the desired specs of the network, such as the required wireless coverage areas, data rates, network capacity, and roaming capability.

Site surveys for smaller buildings or areas could be performed manually by walking around with a Wi-Fi and/or spectrum analyzer, and taking notes. However for larger surveys, a map-based site survey is crucial. You can load floor plan maps of a facility into a software program, walk around capturing data, and then view the results on heat maps. This gives you a very good visual of the signal and noise levels and how the signals propagate.

Though you might do a full site survey and all the proper analysis, planning, and designing during the initial deployment of the network, that doesn't mean the work stops once the installation is complete.

Periodic site surveys are needed to see if adjustments are required. Interference, neighboring networks, and changes in how the Wi-Fi is used can have major impacts on the network's performance.

Changes to neighboring wireless networks, which you likely have no control over, can cause co-channel interference, requiring you to modify the channels used by your access points. There can be changes in the network's security as well, for instance if wireless access points become reset or users bring in and install wireless routers or access points themselves.

Don't avoid advanced wireless settings. During the surveying, design, and deployment phases, you must determine the basic access point settings, such as channels, but it's easy to look past the other settings.

Discover and investigate all the settings of your access points. See what unique features are supported that can help increase performance, such as 5GHz band steering, or to increase security, such as IPS/IDS functionality.

Also take a look at the usual advanced settings that can be used to tweak the Wi-Fi, such as channel-widths, supported data rates, beacon interval, and thresholds for fragmentation and RTS. Consider utilizing the following common features as well to help decrease overhead and increase data rates: Short Preamble Length, Short Slot Time, Short Guard Interval, and Frame Aggregation.


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