Active Survey or Predictive wireless survey ?
Every Organization needs a solid WiFi Coverage throughout its facility in order to provide maximum throughput for the executive staff members for video conferencing and workers in the warehouses to scan products with greater mobility. To deploy a wireless network with optimal coverage, one must have a solid understanding of the radio frequency behavior. A wireless site survey is the best way to gain this information. It helps two-fold, firstly it will reveal areas of channel interference with identifying any dead zones. Secondly it helps eliminate problems as you build the network and prevent obstacles for network users.
The main goal of performing a wireless site survey is to determine two things. First, the feasibility of building a wireless network on your site is determined. Once its feasibility is proved, wireless survey helps in determining the best possible locations for wireless access points and other equipment such as antennas and cables. A wireless survey also helps you to determine what type of equipment you need, where it will go, and how it needs to be installed. This information is critical to meet the Wi-Fi project’s design goals, such as coverage, performance and user capacity.
Site surveys can be performed by a number of methods but in general fall into two groups:
Active Wireless Survey: An active wireless survey uses an actively transmitting AP, Wireless site survey tools (like Ekahau site survey or Air Magnet Pro), and a laptop or tablet with Wireless Interface card. A Surveyor than gathers readings at different points on site which helps in measuring Wi-Fi signal strength from the AP in real-time environment in order to determine optimal coverage, throughput, number of wireless Access Points and potential AP locations.
Predictive Wireless Survey: A predictive site survey uses a software package (like Ekahau site survey or Air Magnet Pro) to simulate various building parameters like concrete or drywalls, Storage racks, ceiling height, etc. Building floor plans are imported into the software tool while the surveyor assigns attenuation values like how much RF energy is absorbed for walls, floors, cubicles, windows and other objects in the building. The application will then predict the number and location of APs required to meet the desired coverage and performance goals.
Each method has its pros and cons: Active wireless survey measures the real-time beacon coming out of an active Access points location. Since Active survey is determined in a real-time environment they are capable of taking into account all physical characteristics and contents of the building. There accounts for parameters like thickness or density of walls or floors, take into account storage on the shelves, type of walls, building material, file cabinets, glass doors, insulation in walls, HVAC system etc.
This type of survey provides more accurate performance information for each AP and allows for the physical inspection of the chosen locations to assure the AP can be mounted there. An active wireless survey also can measure sources of interference or other Wi-Fi networks that may be operating nearby before the network is installed. One of the major disadvantages of an active survey is that it’s more labor intensive which in turns makes it costlier.
Predictive site surveys may take less time onsite but still require more time compiling reports and determining potential AP locations on the floorplans. A predictive survey is advantageous when travel to the location is not feasible or access to the building is not possible. The construction of the building still must be known and input into the program. Sometimes its difficult to input all the building parameters and makeup of a building without physically seeing it. Predictive coverage and performance is an estimate, and so will be the number and location of APs the tool calls for. APs may not even be physically mountable at the predicted location unless it is visually inspected.
Getting the survey correct becomes more important with larger scale projects. Most of the Project managers would like to use and require active wireless surveys. Deploying larger Wi-Fi setups in large campuses require active surveys since they provide more reliable and accurate readings. Most times It is unacceptable for a client to go back to do the survey at a later stage which eventually not justifiable from a cost and manpower perspective.
In summary, predictive site surveys may be acceptable for smaller, less complex Wi-Fi deployments, or can be used for a budgetary estimate that is then followed up with an active survey. The larger and more business critical your Wi-Fi project is, the more essential the accuracy of an active site survey becomes. Predictive tools can be off by more than 50% in terms of the actual numbers of AP required. To ensure the success of a Wi-Fi project, require vendors to provide an active site survey, especially on large Wi-Fi projects.
We at ExcelLinx Communications are capable of doing both active and predictive surveys using either Ekahau or AirMagnet site survey tools in Toronto Canada. We have helped many businesses to achieve their WiFi goals within budget and in time. Whether it’s a new setup or troubleshooting existing WiFi issues, our team of experts are always available to assist you.
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---- Team ExcelLinx