What does every business and organization have in common today? The answer is two things:
- The need for a reliable and secure wireless network
- A simple way to get it done right
There are a few different scenarios that most IT teams find themselves in:
- They need to upgrade/expand parts of their existing network
- Create a new network from scratch
- They have been tasked to figure out why their current network is having wifi performance problems.
The problem is knowing which one is which and when to use one or the other, it can be confusing.
To help you understand where to start your next project here's a general overview of the differences between predictive RF designs and wireless LAN assessments and most importantly how to know which one you'll need to fit your needs.
Predictive RF Design
The term predictive RF design gets tends to get misused and is often times confused with Wi-Fi assessments (which will get to in a moment).
Predictive RF designs or predictive site surveys as they're also referred to is the process of creating a "predictive" model of an environment for WLAN design purposes.
Using data such as:
- Type of business (Hospital, K-12, Hotel, Warehouse)
- Building Materials (materials present within the building as well)
- Building dimensions
- Number of devices
- Types of devices being used
- Types of applications being used
WLAN engineers can predict (using specialized wifi design software) an optimal wireless system based on both coverage and capacity for a particular environment.
Your predictive wireless design should be able to provide you with at least these 4 things:
- The design should predict access point placement, access point numbers as well as the type of APs needed.
- Wifi heat maps that provides you with an accurate overview of the appropriate amount of RF signal coverage throughout your facility.
- Throughput should be anticipated as well for managing capacity and bandwidth.
- Capacity (or context) - numbers and types of devices and applications should be taken into account, so that your network engineer can properly anticipate high density areas and proper configuration requirements.
Watch the video below to find out more about why capacity is so important today
So when do you need a predictive wireless design?
Perhaps your WLAN design is out of date (older than 3-4 years) and you're looking to completely refresh your network.
Maybe you just had a new building added to your businesses campus, or redesigned the inside of the lobby of one of your buildings.
Wireless is dynamic and is constantly changing. The above scenarios would require you to perform a predictive site survey to determine the appropriate coverage and capacity design for those environments.
On the other end of the spectrum, maybe you are looking to deploy a wireless network for the first time. Again, having a predictive site survey completed will be the first step in this process.
Wireless LAN Assessments & Wifi Performance Assessments
WLAN assessments and wifi performance assessments are usually protocol for when you're experiencing poor wifi performance across your network and have no idea why.
An experienced and certified wireless network engineer will take a deep dive into your system, just like a mechanical engineer would pop the hood of your car and run a bunch of different diagnostic tests to figure out what’s wrong with your vehicle.
The network engineer is not designing anything at this point, just trying to figure out what is going wrong by getting an detailed understanding of the health and operation of your network so they can recommend what's required to fix any issues.
Looking over each component, like AP configuration, switching, NMS data (if applicable), your core and the WLAN design itself to gain holistic insight as to what could be causing your pain points.
WLAN assessments can be done in combination with differing site surveys (i.e. active, passive wireless site surveys, spectrum site surveys) to help get to the bottom of things.
The second type of assessment that can be used to help resolve wifi network issues is a WLAN performance assessment (application performance testing).
This is where engineers will measure the performance of your network from the perspective of your end-user devices. This could be laptops, smartphones, printers, scanners etc. that are actually being used in the environment.
The assessment will provide you with an accurate reflection of how those devices are actually performing on your WLAN.
The reason this is beneficial is because other assessment testing while also important can be very slightly skewed from taking measurements based on the perspective of your infrastructure components.
By combining both types of assessments you can ensure that your getting an accurate as well as well-rounded report of both your system and how your devices/applications are performing on that system.
Whether you updating an outdated wireless network, deploying one for the first time or just trying to figure out why your current system isn't performing as it should, it's critical that you understand where to start.
Wireless networks are complex, it's takes a lot of experience and skill to get it right and the way you start your next project will have a major impact on how well you finish.