Network upgrades are complex because they affect everyone in the organization. After all, the network serves as the data exchange fabric for all IT-related functions. Plan and deploy the network following best practices and you will establish a strong foundation. Fail to properly design and build the network and you increase the risk of costly business disruptions and downtime.
Developing a network upgrade plan begins with considering both present and future needs. Gather historical network usage data to calculate organic growth patterns. Then factor in anticipated demand effects such as new employees, devices, applications, remote offices, and mergers and acquisitions. Based on these growth projections, plan your network upgrade to meet the bandwidth, stability and security needs of today, and anticipated demand three to five years in the future.
These considerations apply equally to both wired and wireless networks. However, the wireless LAN comes with additional factors that can directly affect performance, capacity and coverage. Here are five factors that you should consider when upgrading the WLAN:
- While rules of thumb may be helpful, there’s no substitute for a solid WLAN design.Every facility is different. Buildings may have masonry walls that impede Wi-Fi signals. Some areas may have equipment that causes radio frequency (RF) interference. WLAN implementations and upgrades should begin with an analysis of the facility and current Wi-Fi usage patterns and issues. That will form the basis for a design that will meet your coverage and capacity objectives.
- Access point location and configuration matter.It’s simple to say that you should install access points every X number of feet. However, it’s important to locate APs to minimize channel interference while maximizing range. APs must also be configured properly to optimize performance and capacity. Channels should be selected to avoid overlap and transmission power adjusted depending on the density of the deployment.
- The wired network infrastructure plays an important role in WLAN design.The WLAN doesn’t exist by itself – it’s attached to the wired network. Legacy network devices and cabling infrastructure may not have the capacity to support the latest high-speed WLAN protocols. A wired network upgrade may be needed to eliminate bottlenecks and maximize the performance of the WLAN.
- It’s important to consider peak bandwidth usage, and prevent bandwidth hogs from monopolizing capacity.While average bandwidth utilization might only be 40 percent, peak utilization might reach 80 percent or more. Bandwidth requirements should be based upon the maximum number of users and devices, and the most bandwidth-intensive applications. Bandwidth management controls can prevent a few users from monopolizing network capacity, helping to ensure a predictable experience for everyone.
- Security should not be an afterthought.Although we’re mentioning security last, it should play a prominent role in WLAN design and decision-making from the start. It’s important to configure APs for strong security, and use encryption to protect data. Authentication controls help ensure that only authorized users gain access to network resources. Monitoring tools should be used to detect rogue APs and other security threats.
Providing robust, reliable and secure Wi-Fi access throughout your facilities requires careful consideration of technical factors, architectural characteristics and use cases. The WLAN must be designed to meet coverage and capacity requirements and implemented to avoid interference and bottlenecks. SageNet can help determine your needs and design, configure and implement a WLAN that supports your users and applications now and in the future.