Large-scale wireless networks are both complex and expensive, so how do you know when it's time for a network refresh?
There are many factors to consider when deciding if it’s time to update or refresh your wireless system, however, the most essential question to ask yourself is, “Does my current wireless network support my requirements?”
If your answer to this question is no, then the next step is figuring out why your network is falling short?
Although every environment is unique, here are four common signs that mean it’s time to update your wireless network.
**If you already know you need to update your wireless system, you can contact us here to get started right away.
It’s been more than 3-4 years since your last network refresh
While your wireless system doesn’t need to be updated as often as a smartphone, we believe 3-4 years is an appropriate lifespan for most components these days. There are three major reasons why:
- Devices and applications change rapidly
- Wi-Fi infrastructure components evolve
- WLAN design best practices evolve
These days, smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. all typically revolve around a pretty short “refresh-cycle” with new models hitting the shelves every 12-18 months.
Your WLAN has to be ready to evolve accordingly to handle and support the constant influx of these new devices and applications.
If your wireless network hasn’t been updated for say 7 years (yes we’ve actually seen this), it’s a no-brainer as to why you’re experiencing major wifi problems.
In addition to the devices and applications that are changing year over year the infrastructure components like your access points, switches and firewalls, as well as, software like network access control (NAC) also evolve.
Just like the infrastructure components of your network evolve so does your WLAN design.
For example, it used to be the standard to focus your design on coverage only, today we know that you need to focus on both capacity and coverage which has completely changed how we approach WLAN design by adding context into the equation.
Performing a wireless assessment, allows you to take a deep look into your network to figure out the overall health and operational quality of your current wireless system.
Your wireless network design has not been optimized for mobile devices
There has been a rapid increase in the use of mobile devices across every industry. This has led not only to things like BYOD but has also increased the use of in-house devices as well.
Productivity relies on having reliable wireless connectivity and device performance. Every mobile device has a specific set of requirements to functional properly.
Having an outdated network means you won’t be able to support the newer devices your end-users are bringing with them or any new devices your business would like to purchase themselves.
So how do you optimize for the use of mobile devices within your industry?
Our very own Michael McNamee (Senior Network Engineer) talks about what you will need to do in order to optimize your wireless network for mobile devices from 2 perspectives.
a. You should be running on 5GHz! 2.4 GHz is outdated and because there are so many devices that run at this frequency- even a microwave could be slowing down connectivity
b. You will need to design for the devices being used. You will need to optimize for both low power devices such as cell phones, and higher powered devices like laptops.
c. What applications are being used? Are you strictly allowing business applications, or will video streaming from apps like Netflix be accessible. Planning for application use is another key element.
d. RF cell overlap, you want your network to be roaming capable. Your end-user should be able to walk from their office to the cafeteria without experiencing a break in connection to your wireless network.
a. Start by having an experienced Wi-Fi design company complete a predictive RF design. The network engineer will use an advanced program that takes into account all aspects from materials used in the building to devices being used to create an accurate “model” of your new WLAN design.
b. As prefaced in our last point- not all designs are created equal. Having an experienced and highly skilled team fixing your wifi problems is crucial getting things right the first time.
End-Users are frustrated with slow speeds and unreliable connectivity
A typical sign that something is wrong are the feelings and attitudes of your end-users. Business and society relies on Wi-Fi so much that not having it can cause some seriously upset people.
An article from the Huffington Post listed out numerous stats on today’s Wi-Fi usage, one in particular was the stat from Iconic Displays that said, “60% of people can’t go without Wi-Fi for more than 1 day.”
If it’s gotten to the point where your network is causing your end-users to be less productive and generally doing more harm than good, it’s probably to time to consider a network refresh. At the very least a wireless assessment to figure out what’s causing all the issues.
People might now know how a large-scale wireless network works or how it gets designed but they definitely know when it’s not working.
Your applications don’t run as they should or at all
Earlier we talked about how applications are one of the main components to mobile optimization. If your end-user can’t run the necessary (allowed) applications on their mobile devices anywhere at any time, you’re going to again run into some huge problems.
When you know which applications are running on your wireless network, your WLAN design can be optimized for their requirements (this also applies to devices).
A great place to start is through application performance testing—a network engineer can analyze the performance of your network from the perspective of the devices and applications that are actually running on your network.
It’s a great test to run to gain a unique viewpoint of how your wireless system is impacting the performance of your applications and the devices they’re running.
Putting it all together
Delivering a reliable wireless system is a mission-critical utility. I say utility because like water or electricity it’s become a basic requirement for all businesses to operate.
I know, there’s a lot here to consider and its complicated trying to figure out what you need and how to budget for it all.
Deciding that you need to upgrade comes down to how long it’s been since your last refresh (if ever), and does what you have in place now successfully satisfy your current requirements.