Top 5 Design Principles for WiFi Networks

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Over the years, we've designed and built a variety of wireless networks across a number of industries, from high-demand manufacturing and warehousing to secure, private healthcare deployments. Most recently, we built one of the largest municipal, outdoor WiFi networks in the Southeast, and one of the first in the United States with native IPv6: http://bit.ly/19t5t8K.

Along the way, we've learned some important design principles for building scalable and reliable wireless networks. Below, are the top five principles for deploying or upgrading a WiFi network:

1) Identify client device types:
One of the first steps in designing a WiFi network is understanding the client device requirements for the network. For example, what kind of client devices will be in use over the network, what radio types are in the devices, what channels do the devices support, what is their transmit power, their maximum data rate, and channel width, among other factors.

2) Identify applications and throughput requirements:
Each network will have users with different needs, so administrators should identity the applications that will be in use, and the throughput required for these applications, as well as the estimated number of users, including simultaneous users, and upstream requirement, if applicable, to support these users and applications.

3) Perform Site Surveys:
Once device types, applications and users are understood, a site survey should be conducted to understand the physical aspects of where the network will be deployed, the RF characteristics of the environment, as well as map the coverage areas and AP placements, and understand any power, cabling or mounting requirements. A post-deployment survey, coupled with performance testing should be conducted to validate the design, minimize interference and determine if any adjustments should be made, including, but not limited to power, channel, QoS or AP placement.

4) Implement Network Monitoring and Configuration Best Practices:
Your production wireless LAN is dynamic and should always be monitored to ensure critical events are responded to and resolved quickly. Additionally, appropriate security and network optimization best practices, including band steering, load balancing and dynamic airtime scheduling, among others, should be incorporated, when applicable. We also recommend implementing native IPv6, if possible to meet present and future network demands.

5) Create Detailed Documentation:
An often overlooked, but important principle is creating documentation detailing the WLAN topology, cabling, addressing, configuration, and management, among other aspects, such that the network is readily understood and managed by another administrator.

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