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Planning and implementing a large wireless network on a budget

Planning and implementing a large wireless network on a budget
Wireless networks can cost an absolute fortune, especially if you add all the fancy extras you probably wonÃ

When on a budget it is nice to get things done as low cost as possible. In this article I’ll show you a couple of the methods we use when keeping the price as low as we can. You don’t necessarily need to use high-end, expensive Access Points and we can forget about using Centralised WLAN Controller to get a fully functional large wireless network. Just bear in mind that you do have to configure each AP individually though!

Firstly you will need to know how many wireless Access Points you will require. You could guess this but it’s always better to play it safe. What you will need for an accurate floor plan is:

  • A laptop
  • 1 Access Point (preferably the exact model you will be using throughout the site)
  • Passmark WirelessMon (Pro version highly recommended)
  • Floor plans of your building

Firstly load your floor plans into WirelessMon (Configuration > Map) and select ‘Strongest’ for your samples.

Find the location you would like to start from in your building and plug in your AP. When the unit starts giving out a signal click on the Map tab, then click on Select AP’s. Finally select the SSID you would like to survey and click add.

wireless network 1

wireless network 2

Now place an AP marker AP Marker down on the map where you have placed the Access Point and walk around the location clicking the hexagons on the map. Depending on the signal strength the hexagons will be coloured differently. You will end up with something looking like this.

wireless network 3

When the signal is getting too weak, physically move your AP to a new location and repeat the process. Eventually you will end up with a large map, similar to the example below.

wireless network 4

With this map it is clear that we need 3 AP’s to cover this area. We haven’t filled in every hexagon but it is safe to assume that there will be satisfactory signal in the white areas.

Now that we know how many Access Points are required we need to configure them to work as a single network. This is very easy to do, just make sure that all 3 Access Points have the same SSID. Using this method your laptop/netbook/mobile phone should automatically switch to the AP giving the strongest signal.  Each AP must have a different IP address though!

For a more professional look we recommend getting Power over Ethernet Access Points and getting PoE network points installed in the locations you will be installing the units. This reduces the amount of cables and does not limit you to placing the AP in a location where there is a power outlet.

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