8 tips for making the smart switch to 802.11ac
By Gary Newbold March 10, 2015
- WiFi now the connection method of choice for many organisations
- But upgrading the wireless network is not as simple as it was in the past
AS we enter 2015, Asia Pacific remains the fastest-growing region worldwide for the 10th consecutive year, and according to IDC, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) segment in the region will continue to experience strong growth in 2015.
The proliferation of wireless devices is now entering a new era, well beyond smartphones, tablets and laptops.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived, bringing with it sensors, wearable devices like watches and glasses driving further demands for wireless capacity and density. IDC predicts that the IoT will include 212 billion things globally by the end of 2020.
As BYOD and IoT continue to evolve, many of the devices only come with a wireless interface, with no Ethernet connection or even cellular connectivity.
WiFi is now the connection method of choice for many users and increasingly, in organisations. This requires significant upgrades of the organisations’ network.
802.11ac is the next generation of wireless, specifically designed to provide the higher capacity and density that users and organisations demand.
Yet, upgrading the wireless network is not as simple as it was in the past and will need to be planned a bit differently, taking new considerations into account.
Here are the issues things to consider when planning the move to 802.11ac:
1) Site survey
When replacing wired or upgrading the wireless network, and especially when moving to 802.11ac, every organisation should first perform a detailed site survey of the existing wireless network.
This will provide the organisation with a solid baseline and enable it to identify dead spots in the network and channel usage.
Besides, in order to gain full performance benefits of 802.11ac, access points will need to be located close to each other.
2) Floor plan
Once site survey has been performed, organisations should then use a site planning tool, such as Ekahau, to create a detailed site plan using the floor plan of the building to determine placement of the access points.
Many factors can affect Radio Frequency (RF); therefore analysing things like makeup of the building will be important – concrete versus sheetrock, how much metal is used in building construction, cubicle farms versus open spaces, and so forth.
3) Draw up an inventory of devices
The Asia Pacific workplace is changing rapidly as users increasingly adopt new innovative ways to put more of their personal and professional lives on mobile devices.
The transformation of mobile devices and new models of utilisation are forcing organisations to go beyond the question of whether they need mobility, and instead to asking how they should be utilising mobility.
Prior to the move to 802.11.ac, every organisation should be able to number the devices that will be connecting to the wireless network. And that should also take into account the expected growth in the coming years.
This will help them plan for wireless network growth and expansion.
4) Gauge the density of users
In order to determine the best number of access points for an area, IT teams should also plan – as much as possible – the density of employees/ customers in the given area.
Take for instance, an auditorium or a stadium: Those areas will have a definitely much denser user concentration than a lobby or an office. This will impact the network tremendously.
Besides, density might change depending of the time of day. An auditorium in a school might have an event in the evening where students and parents are invited, which could drive increased user density compared with during the course of a normal day.
5) Audit the wired network
Performing an audit of the wired network should also be key when considering a move to 802.11ac. This will help organisations ensure that they have adequate Ethernet ports to support newly deployed access points.
Indeed, 802.11ac access points may be equipped with multiple Ethernet ports to offload the increased amount of RF traffic.
Additionally take an inventory of switch ports and power. Organisations should therefore make sure the access point has at least two Ethernet ports. They should also checkout the power requirements.
6) Know the applications
Organisations should get complete visibility of the applications running on the network as they greatly affect the wired and wireless network.
This is driven by users who expect seamless service and performance. Knowing the nature of applications will help in planning the wireless network.
Some applications are latency-sensitive like VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) and video, and some require higher bandwidth such as content streaming sites (YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc.).
They could be centralised within the data centre, distributed across a campus, hosted in the cloud, or distributed across multiple regions.
Additionally, when looking at this, organisations should also consider upstream versus downstream application usage. It may be heavier in one direction or the other.
As with devices, organisations will also have to look at where application growth will be in five years in order to plan for wireless network growth and expansion.
7) Select a vendor with experience
Many vendors are relatively new to wireless offerings. Therefore, it is essential for organisations to select a vendor with considerable experience to effectively design, deploy and optimise even the most complex networks.
Additionally, organisations should also ensure that the vendor has a full range of support plans designed to provide the right service for its specific business needs.
8) Run a post-site survey
Once the installation of 802.11ac is completed, organisations should make sure they perform one last site survey to ensure that they have the full coverage expected and planned for.
That way, they can ensure they have an established baseline for future installations or network changes.
Gary Newbold is the vice president, Asia Pacific and Japan, at Extreme Networks.
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