Ask the Expert: Got Wi-Fi?
By: Eric Ortega, ConvergeSecure® Engineer
Are you having Wi-Fi issues?
Is there specific part of your office that seems like a dead zone for cell reception and just when you think you can rely on Wi-Fi even that seems to not work in that specific area? Maybe Wi-Fi in your office has always worked well until you left for an extended holiday weekend and suddenly Wi-Fi seems to have gone extinct over the weekend. Today we will look at some of the common issues our businesses can face in the ever-changing world of Information Technology.
For our day-to-day work flow;
Connectivity is critical, sometimes we are so busy with our day that we overlook details that affect more than we imagine. Wi-Fi is an aspect of our businesses that we can’t actually see but rely on to get our phones, tablets, laptops, and etc. onto the global network we call the internet. Even though human beings can’t see Wireless signals with the naked eye, we can see the objects that cause interference. With only half the picture, your IT staff needs the proper equipment and strategy to be able to recommend a proper solution to your Wi-Fi problems.
One of the common issues a Wi-Fi deployment has, even in a deployment with proper planning, is withstanding the test of time. No, the Wi-Fi signal doesn’t degrade as time passes but our office furniture can change as the years pass by. Depending on the placement of the AP (also known as Access Point), other offices adding furniture can potentially block a Wi-Fi signal from reaching your devices. A nice sturdy book shelf can make your office more organized and even give your office space a more mature and sophisticated look but it can also degrade your accessibility to Wi-Fi. Even a properly assessed Wi-Fi deployment can’t factor in changes to furniture or remodeling of the office space. New walls, construction, remodeling, electrical work in-between walls, duct work for air conditioning, and even a new neighbor can affect your wireless connectivity which brings us to our next topic…
Just like how your business has accessibility to Wi-Fi, your neighbor implements their own Wi-Fi deployment as well. When Wi-Fi was in it’s early stages there was only 11 channels that you can broadcast your Wireless Radio Signal through. Luckily for the early adopters of Wi-Fi these 11 channels were enough for a business even though only 3 of those channels didn’t interfere with each other. These 11 channels and standards such as 802.11b and 802.11g were created and maintained by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE for short.)
Unfortunately, even IEEE couldn’t foresee the congestion they would cause in heavy populated areas using these standards based on the 2.4ghz radios. For example, if you have more than one AP in your office, your IT staff/MSP need to program each AP in a way that they don’t interfere with each other AND your experience needs to be seamless when switching between AP’s. This configuration is possible by setting each AP to a channel that doesn’t interfere with the neighboring AP and under the 802.11B/G standards the channels you want would be 1, 6, and 11. But what happens when your neighbor also has multiple AP’s in their Wi-Fi deployment? Well to put it short, both businesses will have an unwanted experience. Newer features such as spectrum analysis and auto access point provisioning has helped with this issue but features like this were not enough, thus standards such as 802.11N using the 5GHZ radios were born to revolutionize WIFI standards. This standard not only is backwards compatible with the existing standard, but also provided more channels to allow more options during deployment and also greater bandwidth to keep up with the ever-increasing end user need to access the network faster.
Although WIFI standards provided a solution to congestion, more and more standards, features, and tools were necessary to keep up with all the problems such as wall penetration for building with concrete/brick walls. If you’re having issues with Wi-Fi in your office space it is always a good idea to ask your IT staff or Managed Service Provider for a site survey to address any Wi-Fi issues. During a Site Survey, materials of walls, distance between AP’s, and even the concentration of wireless devices needs to be taken into consideration. CCC partners up with Fortinet to architect a flexible solution to your Wi-Fi needs with the use of a specialized application to predict a heat map of your Wi-Fi and provide a solution to any existing problems.
Tools and Specialized Applications
CCC incorporates specialized tools such as FortiPlanner and Ekahau Wireless Design to upload floor maps of your office and tether all the details of the site survey together to simulate an accurate heat map of your Wi-Fi deployment. If you’re looking to upgrade your Wi-Fi to get rid of your Wi-Fi problems your Wi-Fi solution may already be adequate, but you might need to upgrade the computers that are outdated and incorporate devices that are compatible with the new features and standards such as 802.11AC.
Are you fairly tech savvy and ever asked why spend a hefty price to have a company such as CCC survey the building when you can instead walk into Best Buy or Fry’s Electronics store to get a Wi-Fi device that can fix all your Wi-Fi problems? Well, if you ever gave this a shot you might run into all kinds of problems by introducing new hardware into your environment, not to mention your wireless device might not even be able to take full advantage of the features that come in the shiny new Wi-Fi AP from Fry’s or Best Buy. Compatibility with your existing AP’s and existing computers is essential. Also worth mentioning is that the majority of the devices from your local electronics store don’t have the security and logging features you can get from an enterprise solution you would pay for from your IT provider.
Manufacturers also provide support via upgrades to firmware in order to keep up with new standards, these updates also iron out any unforeseen issues that your wireless device might have faced upon conception. Keeping drivers, firmware, and security up-to-date can either harm or improve your wireless experience as constant hacks and exploits are being brought to light every day. Your best bet is to contact your IT support or Managed Service Provider to have a look at the Wi-Fi issues at hand to determine the root cause and save both time and money.
If you have any questions about Wi-Fi, please contact your CCC Technologies Representative or call our 100% U.S based Care Center at 877-282-9227 any time day or night.