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How to Approach a Wi-Fi Validation Survey

In this episode we wanted to take some time to talk about the practical aspects of a validation survey. We are answering the following questions:

  • Which steps do you need to take in order to make sure that the task runs smoothly? 
  • What are the relevant questions to ask your customer before going on site?
  • Which pieces of equipment do you need to take with you on site?

What to do Prior Going on Site

Gather important information from the customer:

  • Quality updated floor plans
    • What to do if there are no floor plans
  • Which areas need to be surveys
    • Out of these areas, which ones are critical for the business
  • Access point locations (if possible)
    • If the customer can provide the original design, it is even better
  • Controller configurations
    • Access Points radio configurations
      • 2.4Ghz radios settings (Tx power and channel)
      • 5Ghz radio settings (Tx power, channel width and channel)
    • SSID profiles
    • Radio profiles
    • AP groups

Questions to ask:

  • Ask questions to understand the initial requirements
    • What was the Wi-Fi network designed for?
    • Critical equipment?
    • Critical applications?
  • Ask questions to understand the current status of the Wi-Fi network
    • Any known problems?
      • On which apps
      • On which devices
    • Did the initial requirement change? New applications introduced, new devices introduced?
  • Request to have the AP broadcasting their name for the time of the survey
    • Cisco: Enable Aironet IE under the SSID profile advanced tab
    • Aruba: enable the Advertise AP Name option under the SSID profile
  • Access to Wi-Fi 
  • Practical questions
    • Will I have access to all the areas? If not, will I have an escort with me?
      • Make sure that the customer has your access ready the day you start
    • Are there any restrictions on schedule? This can depend on the environment?
    • Are there any restrictions regarding the personal protective equipment?
    • Will I have to go through a specific security training?
    • Where can I park? Will I have a parking spot reserved? Will I have to pay for parking?
    • Will I be allowed to take pictures? It is usually allowed after signing an NDA.

Here is some information that the customer can use to communicate with their teams and employee so they will be expecting you:

  • It is critical for them to send a communication to their security team so they can be expecting you. Surveys can start at odd hours and your first point of contact might be the security agent.
  • It is a good idea for them to send an internal communication to specify that someone will be performing a Wi-Fi validation survey.
  • Specify that this individual will need to measure the Wi-Fi signal everywhere and that she or he might enter offices while empty.
  • If they can communicate your name, it is even better as they will know when you present yourself.
Pro Tip: If you are not too sure about which information gathering from your customer, think about what your workflow will be when you arrive onsite. This should help you define what you need.

Prepare Your Equipment

  • Laptop
  • Tablet with pencil (iPad if you use the Ekahau Connect iPad application)
  • Sidekick & its charger
  • External battery pack (the bigger the better). You can use it to charge your laptop (via USB-C) or ipad while you do your survey.
  • Laser measurement device
  • Personal Protective Equipment (for some environments)
    • Steel Toe shoes or boots
    • Hard hat
    • Yellow or Orange vest
    • Hearing protection
    • Safety glasses
    • Harness?
  • Identification: the easiest is to use a name tag or a badge that you carry around your neck. You can re-use some of the ones you get at conferences
  • Chargers, adapters and cables (you can never have enough, bring backups)
    • USB to Lightning adapter if you need to connect the Sidekick to an older iPad. Try to use one that allows you to charge the iPad while having the Sidekick connected. Example: https://amzn.to/2WmxM7p
    • USB to USB-C adapter if you need to connect the Sidekick to a newer iPad Pro. Example: https://amzn.to/2QmVY5I
    • MicroUSB to USB-C cable if you want to connect the Sidekick directly to the iPad Pro. Example: https://amzn.to/2Uf6q0x
    • USB to USB-C if you want to connect your Sidekick to your Laptop (if you don’t have any USB ports). We like this 90 angle adapter: https://amzn.to/3b23gny
  • WLAN Pi: this is if you want to do throughput tests and need an iPerf server.
  • Outdoor Survey
  • Backups
    • Second Laptop
    • Second iPad (if you have more than one)
    • Second battery pack
  • Water bottle

Once On Site

Practical Tips:

  • Always keep business cards with you. Security might ask you one.
  • Keep something to identify yourself with you. Something that makes it clear that you are there to perform a Wi-Fi related work.
  • Ask for a room or desk where you can place and charge your equipment. Make sure you have access to that room at any time.
  • Charge your equipment whenever you are not using them.
  • Wear comfortable sox and shoes.
  • Try to establish a game plan before starting your onsite work as much as possible.

Before entering a room, it is also good to:

  • Validate that the people in the room are not busy (on the phone, conducting a conference…)
  • If the person is not busy, knock on the door, open the door. Introduce yourself and tell them the purpose of your visit:
    • “Good morning, my name is François. I am here to validate the Wi-Fi network. Would you mind if I come inside your office and measure the Wi-Fi signal? It will take a few seconds.”
  • Once you get the approval, you can go ahead and do your work.
  • If the room is empty and you have the access, you can go in and out. 

Documenting AP installations:

  • Survey with the iPad
  • When you want to document an AP installation
    • Stop the survey
    • Locate and select the AP object on the iPad application
    • Click on the “Add a comment”
    • Take a picture of the AP. It will add this picture as an AP note.
    • If needed, you can add annotations with the pencil
  • In case of wrong installations
    • Take an additional image to document how the AP could be better installed
    • You can then draw it directly on the image
  • Once the survey is done, you will be able to export these pictures within your report using a template report.

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Wireless Network Engineer and Owner at SemFio Networks. CWNE #180. Living in London ON Canada, born and raised in Dijon, France.

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