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7 Essential Factors IT Managers Need to Consider Before Their Next WLAN Design

There are literally hundreds of sayings when it comes to the importance of preparation, one of my favorites is from Abraham Lincoln when he said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe." Well, I'm sure President Lincoln never imagined wireless networks or the mobile world we live in today, but I can tell you it's a bit more complicated than chopping down a tree. Nonetheless, when it comes to wireless network designs, this statement could not be more applicable.

Proper planning will not only help to optimize your wireless network's performance, but also guarantee that you are strategic with every dollar spent and most importantly that you've designed the right system from the start.

There are multiple factors you need to consider when thinking about your next WLAN design. To help you focus on what's most important, here are the top seven...

Environment

Most of the time we aren’t talking about the weather when it comes to your wireless environment, unless you’re planning a network outdoors. When we say physical environment we're typically referring to the building or buildings.

Ask yourself: 

  • What is the construction of the building?
  • Are the materials used concrete, brick, cinder block, metal or wood?
  • How large is the space?

Materials such as bathroom pipes and elevator shafts may also reduce the quality of your signal. These materials can drastically reduce the strength of the wireless signal, resulting in increased quantity of access points to ensure you have the best possible connection.

Devices

What types of devices (and how many) will be present in your network? Depending on your business environment, the answer will vary.

Whether you’re planning for mostly laptops and desktops, or additional devices like smartphones, tablets, e-readers, gaming systems, and an increasing amount of IoT devices.

It's best to know all the different types of devices that will be running on your network, an approximate the number, and the desired use to optimize your network.

Applications

What applications will your users run on the said devices? If you’re a college environment, you need to plan for applications like Hulu, Netflix, LMS (learning management systems) and other large bandwidth requiring services.

Suggested Reading: "3 Easy Ways Bandwidth Shaping Can Maximize Campus Wi-Fi Performance"

An office environment likely will not need to plan for such applications. Consider all applications that will be running on your network, so you do not have to worry about certain applications unexpectedly creating performance problems.

In addition, you can also implement solutions that will allow you to prioritize applications that are mission critical for data and bandwidth usage over those not as important.

Users

Considering the number of users on your network is very important. Are you an environment with a lot of visitors who will access your network? Do you have a set amount of staff, with specific roles, making your user count very predictable?

Whether it's guests, employees, students, etc. you need the ability to identify who they are quickly, assign them a role automatically and then enforce the policies you've pre-defined.

Watch the Video: "Role-Based Access Control: What is it and What are the Benefits [Whiteboard Wednesday]"

When it comes to your wireless network design, understanding who will be accessing your network and what they will be doing is paramount to delivering a high-performing, safe user experience.

Security

Security is the foundation on which mobility and/or wireless connectivity sits, it simply wouldn't work without it.

We recommend having role-based access control built into your WLAN design and also suggest moving away from WEP (wired equivalent privacy) and instead using WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) and WPA2, which provide additional protection against hackers and other malicious threats.

In addition, IT managers should configure access points to the strongest available encryption and also strongly consider implementing a next-generation firewall.

Budgets

What is your budget for your network? Have you thought about costs associated with future upgrades, expansion, or managed services?

It's important to recognize your needs, soft and hard costs, to determine the benefit of a proper network.

While some budgets may be privately set and others determined from grants and government funding, knowing your budget helps to determine your network possibilities.

While a wireless network design may cost you some money up-front, the difference between having the right system in place vs going with a cheaper design based on free software is priceless.

Scalability & Future Considerations

When implementing a WLAN, do not just think about your current needs. Anticipate your future needs, whether immediate, and/or long term.

Wireless infrastructure can be simple to reconfigure during growth or change, but planning for this up front is important.

You do not want to invest in a solution that cannot grow with your business or will be obsolete in six months. While technology is changing and advancing, your network should be able to adapt to meet your evolving needs.

At SecurEdge, we deliver affordable, robust, and secure wireless platforms – it’s all we do. If you have any questions about your current wireless network design or would like to discuss an upcoming project, please contact us here.

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Jillian Mourning

Jillian Mourning

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