There is no doubt that the introduction of WiFi has been one of the biggest game changers for businesses around the world.
When we think back to the days of dial up in the late 90s and early 2000s, it is easy for us to take the huge benefits of WiFi for granted.
Not only do we expect WiFi to be available wherever we go, especially in the workplace, we also expect it to be good.
Bad WiFi is not always the fault of the provider or the physical router. It can be. However, there are lots of other things at play that can impact on the strength and quality of your WiFi.
The way your WiFi is configured can make or break both the strength and the consistency of your connections so it is important to understand the potential issues and address these.
What is a WiFi site survey?
A wireless site survey, sometimes called an RF (Radio Frequency) site survey or wireless survey, is the process of planning and designing a wireless network, to provide a wireless solution that will deliver the required wireless coverage, data rates, network capacity, roaming capability and Quality of Service (QoS).
It is a comprehensive assessment of your wireless frequency to include issues such as channel interference, digital dead zones, and other obstructions to service.
The goal of the technicians that perform a WiFi site survey is to reconcile the initial WiFi engineering data with any changes that have occurred in the interim, to include installation of additional systems or new construction that may be affecting the signal.
WiFi site surveys become even more important for businesses across all sectors when you look at the latest data from the Cisco Annual Internet Report (2018-2023).
As well as predicting significant growth in traffic from wireless and mobile devices, the report also goes on to forecast the huge growth in the number of WiFi hotspots, especially within the retail sector, “Retail establishments will have the highest number of hotspots by 2023 globally, and the fastest growth is in healthcare facilities (hospitals), where hotspots will triple over the forecast period.”
The increased pressure on WiFi networks and the demand from employees and customers for fast, reliable connections puts an ever-increasing strain on existing WiFi networks and means that regular WiFi site surveys become an essential part of your network strategy.
Why do you need to perform a WiFi site survey?
Failure of WiFi to deliver adequate service can be disastrous for business on many levels. It can have an extremely negative impact on the ability of employees to complete essential tasks as well as giving an unfavourable impression to customers and visitors to your workplace.
Security and accessibility can also realise many hidden costs that you are not prepared for. The first step toward addressing these deficiencies is a wireless site survey to discover areas of potential concern.
5 benefits of conducting a WiFi site survey
WiFi site surveys are essentially in-depth audits of your network. With a site survey, the coverage of each access point (AP) is thoroughly tested. Areas can be identified that are not correctly covered, or overlapping each other, to ensure that all APs are correctly spaced and performing efficiently.
Surveyors can also assess the current bandwidth, making sure it can cope with all incoming and outgoing traffic. A WiFi site survey can also address the existing network security, highlight weak points in the system, and make recommendations for improving access point encryption.
There are many benefits to your business of conducting regular WiFi site surveys. These include:
1. Identify problem areas
There are several factors that can impact on the overall signal strength across your WiFi network. These can include:
- Network usage – the more devices use a network the higher the bandwidth requirements and the lower the overall speeds.
- Network interference – the more devices that use the same frequency bands the more overcrowded and less effective they become. The most popular band is 2.4GHz, used by most homes and businesses. Its overuse can result in speeds being limited at peak times.
- Physical obstructions – WiFi has difficulty penetrating solid objects. Walls, ceilings, doors, and even people affect signal strength. The fewer obstructions there are between the wireless access point and the device, the stronger the signal will be.
Conducting a regular WiFi site survey can help to identify these potential issues and cite solutions to fix them. Changes to the physical environment as well as the number of people accessing your WiFi network mean that regular site surveys are imperative to keep on top of issues before they get out of control.
2. Minimise direct and indirect costs to the business
A site survey allows you to make informed decisions, using data rather than instincts.
Without a proper site survey, you could over or underestimate the number and correct placement of the APs.
Underestimating means dead spots that can cost business as part of the added value of providing a free WiFi zone, as patrons will just go elsewhere, taking their business with them.
For internal business users, it can mean loss of productivity and missed business opportunities that can dramatically affect the bottom line.
By overestimating the number of APs needed without a site survey, you are spending more money than necessary in equipment without an increase in optimisation.
Both over and underestimating APs can have a direct effect on the cost, as well as the usability of the network for the business in the short term and in the long term.
3. Protect productivity
Linked to the cost-saving benefits to the business, carrying out a WiFi site survey can also help to protect productivity within your business.
Guessing how many APs you need and where to place them can lead to poor signals and dead spots which can have a significant impact on the productivity of your workforce.
Employees expect consistent and strong WiFi connectivity throughout the working day and it can be a frustrating situation to experience fluctuations throughout the day which can be caused by surges to the number of users on the WiFi network or simply not providing adequate APs to facilitate WiFi access for your employees.
4. Meet security needs
WiFi networks for businesses require the utmost control over the devices and software that access internal resources, which requires a new layer of security solutions. Site surveys are foundational to building a network that is secure for authorised devices.
Every business must consider cyberattacks that can result in stolen data or wireless connectivity disruptions, which can be incredibly damaging to business objectives. Here is where the ability to plan your AP locations better through a site survey can have an impact on optimising the network’s security.
Here at NEC New Zealand, we specialise in both Cyber Security solutions and Field Service solutions including WiFi site surveys. Our expertise across both areas means we can provide an end-to-end solution which encompasses networking and cyber security solutions in one package.
5. Ensure adequate bandwidth to meet business and customer traffic needs
We have left perhaps one of the most important aspects until the end. Ensuring you can deliver adequate bandwidth to meet your business and customer traffic needs is an essential outcome from performing a WiFi site survey.
An expertly executed site survey and design will be the foundation of a network that supports the coverage needs, device capacity numbers to be supported, data rates for high-bandwidth applications, seamless roaming, quality of service, and more.
Without the survey, you are shooting in the dark.
If your business requires wireless connectivity for a large group of users, whether these are staff or customers, or for a group of bandwidth hungry users, coverage and throughput per user are important factors.
Different devices and the way they are used at any given time can use up a lot of bandwidth. Some of the common activities that use a lot of bandwidth include:
- Video Calling
- Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)
- Game or application updates
- Web browsing
- Unsecured WiFi
The result of not having accurate bandwidth is that critical business functions and communication could be interrupted due to network traffic bottlenecks. A thorough site survey can form the basis of determining the proper bandwidth needed based on number and types of users, as well as devices and locations.
NEC Field Services
Here at NEC New Zealand, we supply, install, and maintain technology for large New Zealand organisations requiring critical-performance ICT infrastructure.
NEC Field Services support the delivery of solutions in planning, design, and installation of a range of telecommunication, network, biometric, and ICT services.
Supported by NEC’s Technical Assistance Service Centre (TASC) team, available 24/7 fault and emergency response service, NEC Field Services can be deployed to most rural areas of New Zealand, as well as all main centres.
One of our key service offerings is the delivery of extensive WiFi Site Surveys. Our state-of-the art technologies are backed by a team of expert Field Service engineers with the capability to deliver detailed WiFi site survey reports that also incorporate cyber security solutions.
If you are looking for more information about WiFi site surveys and you want to find out more about the capability of the team here at NEC New Zealand, talk to us today.
 Source: Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wireless_site_survey)