Podcast

CTS 149: 6 Characteristics Of High Performing WLANs

To deploy a high performing WLAN, in which your workforce heavily relies on, requires more than guess work.

6 Characteristics of High Performing WLANs

Wi-Fi networks were originally built with coverage in mind and access points were installed in rooms where it was known to need Wi-Fi. But as businesses began migrating from Ethernet to a complete Wi-Fi only infrastructure, this made Wi-Fi a mission critical service to business objectives.

We outline 6 characteristics of high performing WLANs which do away with frustrated end users and get the business back on track to productivity.

Planning and Design

You give your finger a quick lick and put it up in the air. Then you turn to your installer and point to randomly selected areas of the ceiling and say, “Put a WAP here, one over there, and one right here and we should be good..” This is a recipe for disaster.

To deploy a high performing WLAN, in which your workforce heavily relies on, requires more than guess work. It requires a proper design which begins with gathering requirements. When it comes to upgrading the core network, Wi-Fi must be treated the same. Treat Wi-Fi as an extension of your wired network.

Design is the result of thorough planning. It requires understanding how the WLAN will be used, what devices will be utilizing the WLAN, how many devices, and what applications. This is not an exhaustive list of questions but it’s a good starting point. The end result of planning and design will be a WLAN built for a productive end user experience.

Planning upfront will lay the foundations to a WLAN designed to fit the business needs. A WLAN must be designed for a mobile workforce. The technical professional must have in-depth Wi-Fi knowledge and understand the knobs required to tune for the specific environment.

A high performing WLAN will be designed so that there are less trouble tickets. It will be designed on the capability of the devices utilizing the WLAN, the capacity needs of the environment, and for high density of devices.

Reliable

Accessing information quickly and easily on any wireless device drives the mobile workforce. Wi-Fi is now the primary access. Businesses have been migrating from Ethernet to an all wireless infrastructure. That means the WLAN infrastructure must be reliable.

Redundancy builds a robust WLAN infrastructure to prevent major outages. It prevents loss of productivity and loss of potential revenue. Ensure the WLAN is built with good backend infrastructure.

A reliable WLAN must be capable of adapting to the radio frequency environment. It must react to adverse effects from neighboring WLANs. Interference is another productivity killer which a WLAN needs to identify and mitigate.

With workforces placing an abundant reliance on cloud applications, maintaining a reliable WLAN is key to boosting business growth.

Secure

Mobile data traffic grew 63% in 2016, according to Cisco. There’s no avoiding the penetration of IoT devices as they take the enterprise by storm. It leaves many wondering how to secure IoT devices and their WLANs.

IoT may help drive innovation but data must be kept secure and unauthorized access needs to be thwarted.

A high performing WLAN must allow trusted devices to authorized data. Properly segmenting these networks is just one of many steps.

A WLAN system must identify rogue access points and devices with a method of containing those threats quickly.

In 2007, TJ Maxx had a cyber security breach of their credit card data because of weak Wi-Fi security. Don’t become the next headline.

Good End User Experience

In today’s workplace, everyone is accessing the cloud at all times. Wi-Fi is now the primary method of access to network resources. People are carrying up to 3 or 4 devices at a time and needing to get their work done from any of those devices.

To provide a boost in productivity and effectively collaborate with others, slow or unresponsive Wi-Fi must be eliminated.

A well performing WLAN always goes back to reliability. An increase in reliability boosts end user productivity. Users can perform their work efficiently and from anywhere in the office. Voice calls are often done over Wi-Fi calling due to a lack of LTE signal penetration into the building. Video conferencing and streaming is putting a strain on the WLAN as well. Plan for these workloads.

The quality of the users work over Wi-Fi can be directly matched to the reliability of the Wi-Fi network.

Designed for Capacity

As people begin working in the office at early hours, the Wi-Fi network will be humming. As more people begin to fill in their seats some start noticing a degradation of Wi-Fi service.

The increase in number of devices creates a high density situation. With each person carrying 3-4 devices can put a strain on the WLAN.

The types of applications used on each of these devices defines how well a Wi-Fi network will perform. If it was designed according to requirements, it will perform as expected. Without planning for capacity equates to planning for failure.

Other factors must be taken into consideration. In addition to planning for capacity, APs must be mounted properly and antennas aligned in the right direction. It is all based on the usage and capacity requirements of the work patterns.

Insight

How do we know if a WLAN is performing? Is the IT support staff armed with the right tools to understand the state of the Wi-Fi network. Analytics can provide valuable insight into how the Wi-Fi network is being used and to what capacity. This information can lead to optimizations for increased end user experience.

Analytics can also empower the IT support staff to troubleshoot quickly when issues arise. The data lends itself to measuring end user experience across an entire network stack.

With powerful information on-hand it can improve root cause analysis, decrease length in time spent during the investigation process, and improve time to resolution.

Links and Resources

Fill out the WLAN Pros Compensation Benchmark. Results will be published freely for the community.

CTS 148: What Does It Mean To Be An Engineer

François goes into what it means to be an engineer.

Meet Daniel Cavazos

Daniel resides in San Antonio, Texas and is a Wireless Infrastructure Sales Engineer for Ventev.

Sorry, Daniel! We thought we had a photo of you but we must have missed it!

What Does It Mean To Be An Engineer

Definitions of an engineer:

A person who designs, builds, or maintains engines, machines, or structures.
A person qualified in a branch of engineering, especially as a professional.

A definition of an engineer

My Definition of an Engineer

  • Finding solutions to complex problematics
  • The goal of an Engineer is to solve a problem most of the time complex problem involving a high level of technical skills
    • Designing a new solution, a new Wi-Fi network
    • Updating and maintaining a Wi-Fi infrastructure
    • Troubleshooting a Wi-Fi issues
  • All these tasks require us to understand what we are doing

Embrace the challenge

  • Once you understand this, you have to embrace it
  • Problem solving
  • Embrace problems
  • See them as a challenge rather than something negative. I really started to appreciate that idea working with more experienced Engineer

Important Skills

  • Be able to understand the WHY
    • Planning / Research
  • Be able to know HOW to
    • Experiment
  • Be thorough and methodical
  • You need to be able to support the solution you are proposing

Not only the technical skills

  • You need to be able to communicate
    • With other Engineers
    • With less technical persons
  • Explain and sometimes sell your solution to management
  • You need to be able to document your work
    • In a very detailed way for your peers
    • In a summarized way for management

What do you think? Is it how you see your job? What other aspects of working as an Engineer are important?

CTS 146: Deploying Wi-Fi at Scale with Gurpreet Singh

Gurpreet Singh shares his story of how he got started in Wi-Fi. He also explains how to approach a large Wi-Fi deployment.

Deploying Wi-Fi at Scale

Gurpreet deployed a new Wi-Fi infrastructure for a large food chain and shared his experience. We talk about what is different when deploying at a bigger scale.

Preparation is key

Here are a few things Gurpreet and his team did early on in the project:

  • Plan everything
  • Spend time defining the solution through a Proof of Concept
  • Test as many scenarios as you can
  • Define the processes that will be used for the deployments by the different teams
  • Train the team
  • Plan everything

Challenges

These large deployments come with some interesting challenges:

  • How do you do your Wi-Fi design?
  • How do you choose your Wi-Fi configurations?
  • How do you validate your installation?

Listen to the episode to hear the full story!

You can get in touch with Gurpreet on Twitter https://newtowifi.com or visit his blog https://newtowifi.com.

CTS 145: 6 Tips for Creating Ekahau Reports

François and Rowell discuss tips to creating Ekahau reports.

6 Tips for Creating Ekahau Reports

Download the Free CTS Ekahau Report Templates

Here are two free CTS Ekahau report templates to get you started with using reports for your surveys.

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1 – Use testing files

If you have worked on any programming project before, you will easily understand this tip. Working on a report template is kind of working on a programming project. Here is a summary of the work flow:

    1. You create your template file including your JSON tags
    2. You run it against your Ekahau project
    3. You debug the JSON errors you have
    4. Once you don’t have errors anymore, you can analyze the final generated
    5. You fix your template
    6. You run the updated template against you Ekahau project
    7. You rinse and repeat steps 2 to 6 until you are satisfied with the overall generated report

In the process of testing and debugging, it is much easier and faster to get it done if you work on smaller portions of the report, one at a time.

So here is how you could do it to speed up the process:

    1. Create one master template. This will be the template that you will use at the end to generate the final report.
    2. Create a second template (I call this one my testing template). You will use this one to fine tune your report, section per section. Use this template to do your testing. Once you are happy with the result, copy and paste the section into the master template and start working on the next section.

This is ease the overall process of debugging, fine tuning a custom report template.

Also, when working on loops, I also sometimes create an Ekahau testing file (.esx). I would have a little version of my Ekahau project with maybe 2 or 3 of the elements I am looping on. This way, the testing and tuning process is also much faster.

So if you want to loop on APs, you could have an Ekahau testing project with 3 APs and only loop on these 3 APs.

2 – Put as much information as you can in the Ekahau project

One of the best advantage of using custom report templates is that it speeds up the process of generating reports. In order to maximize on this, you want to gather as much information as you can into the Ekahau project itself. If you do so, you could use the template to generate most of the report for you without adjusting it too much post generation.

Example of information you can configure directly into the Ekahau project:

    • Name of the project
    • Name of the customer
    • Name of the Engineer
    • Address of the location you are designingtroubleshootingvalidating
    • Cable length from AP to MDF/IDF (2D estimation)
    • Location of MDF/IDF
    • Name of APs
    • All the capacity details (number of devices, type of devices, distribution…)
    • Network configuration details (Min. Data rate, number of SSID)

You can also add notes to the following objects:

    • Areas (you could use this to specify specific requirements for specific areas)
    • Access Points (You could use this to add pictures, specify installation specifications…)

You can also add text notes and pictures notes on the floorplan itself. All these notes and information will be retrievable from the custom template report.

Yes it will take you more time to finish up your work in Ekahau. However, it will save you a bunch of time when you generate and produce the overall final report.

3 – Prepare your floor plans beforehand

Let me tell you, it is way easier to spend the time to prepare the floor plans before you import them into Ekahau rather than fixing the generated images in the final report.

A lot of cropping and fixing can be involved, after the final report is generated, if your floor plans are not the best to begin with.

One tip would be to make sure that you work on your floor plans before importing them into your Ekahau project. Here is what can be done at this stage:

    • Rotating the floor plans
    • Converting them into black and white images
    • Cropping the white space around the floor plan
    • Creating new view points (if using DWG files)
      • AutoCAD LT
      • DraftSight
      • FreeCAD – https://www.freecadweb.org/

If you take the time to work on your floor plans before importing them into your Ekahau project, it will save you a lot of time when the final report gets generated. Basically, you will not have to touch the pictures at all.

4 – Keep your layout simple

If you keep the layout of the Word document simple, it will be easier to re-use the template from one project to another without having to modify it.

Sometimes, complex Word templates will have pictures, objects and all sorts of complexe forms. These will not play well (and might disappear) when you run the template against the Ekahau project.

Once example: the crop feature does not work. You could crop a picture on the template document but when the final reports gets generated, it will show you the whole picture in the final report. So you can crop the picture before importing into your template document.

Simple layout does not mean ugly layout. You could produce very elegant and clean minimalist template layouts that will work very well when you run them against your Ekahau project.

5 – Don’t be afraid to use the landscape mode

Depending on the floor plans you receive from the customer, some of them will be best suited for a portrait layout, some others will be suited for a landscape layout.

Here is a tip, when you create a template report document, create 2 versions:

    • One using the portrait layout
    • One using the landscape layout

That way, when it is time to generate the report, depending on the project, you can choose from the more appropriate template!

6 – Dig into the Ekahau documentation

If you go to this page, you will find all the documentation related to the custom template reports: https://support.ekahau.com/hc/en-us/sections/115001529668-Template-Reporting

If you dig a little bit into these pages, you might find some interesting things.

Here are some examples of things I have discovered while digging into the documentation:

    • You can count objects using the counttag
    • You can fix the size of a visualization you generate using the following tags
      • width-in-millis
      • width-in-inches
      • height-in-millis
      • height-in-inches
    • You can retrieve the information related to the network configurations using the following tags
      • network-conf-min-rate-2
      • network-conf-min-rate-5
      • network-conf-band-steering-2
      • network-conf-band-steering-5
      • network-conf-ssid-count-2
      • network-conf-ssid-count-5
      • network-conf-max-clients
    • You can add a new line in your code by using the following tag nl
    • You can use a specific set of requirements using this code: <#”use-requirement”: {“identifier”: “CTS Requirements”}#>

Let us know if you find something else 🙂

Links and Resources

Download the Free CTS Ekahau Report Templates

Here are two free CTS Ekahau report templates to get you started with using reports for your surveys.

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