After my last appearance on LMTV, I was inspired to share some network nightmares.
I have done many WiFi site surveys and troubleshooting jobs in the past 10 years. On the inside, I’ve been crawling around factories, offices and up in ceilings. On the outside, I’ve been on roofs, poles, towers, ladders and driving around.
One thing I expect to see is the unexpected. I’ll jump to the punch line; planning a wireless deployment by only looking at a floor plan or topography map, is doomed to fail.
The planner, installer and support staff, or team needs to constantly be in communication.
The following examples are from real jobs this year that I thought you would benefit from.
While troubleshooting at a warehouse, I noticed the access point was installed above the HVAC unit and a cable tray that was covered in metal about 15 feet in the air. When I asked to the onsite IT person, “Why was that Access Point installed there?”, he answered, “That’s where the contractor mounted it”. OK I’ll bite, then I asked, “Who asked the contractor to mount it there?”. The reply was, “That’s where the planners at corporate told him to install it”. I then asked if the planners have visited this site or asked for his input to validate the implementation and the answer sadly was, “No”. The moral of this story is to involve the onsite staff with the implementation plan to place the access points in the most optimal position. In this day of smartphones, a photo or video could easily be taken by onsite staff and sent to the planners.
At another job I was asked to provide a site survey. I went searching for an access point that wasn’t anywhere near the general population. The onsite escort took me to a boiler room that had to be easily over 100 degrees. I asked why WiFi would be required and he said, "Beats me". After a brief conversation, we agreed that no one works in this area and that no equipment in the room required network connectivity. The most concerning discovery was that the access point wasn’t ruggedized or rated for high temperatures or humidity and I predict will likely fail within a year. The moral of this story is to validate the proposed access point locations to ensure where coverage is required and to purchase equipment that will operate within specific environmental conditions.
The last example is one of my favorites. I was troubleshooting some Wifi issues and was provided a floor plan with the location of the access points. The I quickly noticed that the offices were missing from the map and the office area on the map wasn’t physically there. After some research I figured out that the office area had been moved to the other side of the building that had minimal WiFi coverage and the majority of the access points were back in the now empty office area. The moral of this story is to ensure that wireless access points are considered with typical office renovations. Just because its wireless doesn’t mean it will provide limitless coverage.
And don't forget that even if you can get a WiFi signal and it works, doesn’t mean it will work well.