Top Considerations While Making Smart Switch To 802.11ac


As we enter 2015, Asia Pacific remains the fastest-growing region worldwide for the 10th consecutive year and according to IDC, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) segment in the region will continue to experience strong growth in 2015. The proliferation of wireless devices is now entering a new era, well beyond smartphones, tablets and laptops: the Internet of Things (IoT) has arrived bringing with it sensors, wearable devices like watches and glasses driving further demands for wireless capacity and density. IDC predicts that the IoT will include 212 billion things globally by the end of 2020. 

As BYOD and IoT continue to evolve, many of the devices only come with a wireless interface, with no Ethernet connection or even cellular connectivity. Wi-Fi is now connection method of choice for many users and increasingly, in organizations. This requires significant upgrades of the organizations’ network.

802.11ac is the next generation of wireless, specifically designed to provide higher capacity and density that users and organizations demand. Yet, upgrading the wireless network is not as simple as it was in the past and will need to be planned a bit differently, taking new considerations into account. Here are the top things to consider when planning the move to 802.11ac.

1)    Site survey

When replacing wired or upgrading the wireless network, and especially when moving to 802.11ac, every organization should first performa detailed site survey of the existing wireless network. This will provide the organization with a solid baseline and enable them identify dead spots in the network and channel usage. Besides,in order to gain full performance benefits of 802.11ac, access pointswill need to be located close to each other.

 2)    Floor plan

Once site survey has been performed, organizations should then use a site planning tool, such as Ekahau, to create a detailed site plan using the floor plan of the building to determine placement of the access points. Many factors can affect Radio Frequency (RF) therefore,analyzing things like makeup of the building will be important – concrete versus sheetrock, how much metal is used in building construction, cubicle farms versus open spaces and so forth.

3)    Draw up the inventory of devices

The Asia Pacific workplace is changing rapidly as users increasingly adopt new innovative ways to put moreof their personal and professional lives on mobile devices. The transformation of mobile devices and new models of utilization are forcing organizations to go beyond the question of whether they need mobility and instead ask how they should be utilizing mobility.Prior to themove to, everyorganization should be able to number thedevices that will be connecting to the wireless network.And that should also take into account the expected growth in the coming years. This will help them plan for wireless network growth and expansion. 

4)    Gauge the density of users

In order to determine the best number of access points for anarea, IT teams should also plan – as much as possible – the density of employees/customers in the given area. Take for instance, an auditorium or a stadium: those areas will have a definitely much denser user concentration than a lobby or an office. This will impact the network tremendously. Besides, density might change depending of the time of day. An auditorium in a school might have an event in the evening where students and parents are invited, which could drive increased user density than during the course of a normal day.

5)    Audit the wired network

Performing an audit of the wired network should also be key when considering a move to 802.11ac. This will help organizations ensure that they have adequate Ethernet portsto support newly deployed access points. Indeed, 802.11ac access points may be equipped with multiple Ethernet ports to offload the increased amount of RF traffic. Additionally take an inventory of switch ports and power. Organizations should therefore, make sure the access point has at least two Ethernet ports. They should also checkout the power requirements.

6)    Know the applications

Organizations should get complete visibility of the applications running on the network as they greatly affect the wired and wireless network. This is driven by users who expect seamlessservice and performance. Knowing the nature of applications will help in planning the wireless network. Some applications are latency sensitive like VoIP and video and some require higher bandwidth such as content streaming sites (YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, etc.).They could be centralized within the datacenter, distributed across a campus, hosted in the cloud, or distributed across multiple regions. Additionally, when looking at this, organizations should also consider upstream versus downstream application usage. It may be heavier in one direction or the other. As with devices, organizations will also have to look at where application growth will be in five years in order to plan for wireless network growth and expansion.

7)    Select a vendor with experience

Many vendors are relatively new to wireless offerings. Therefore, it is essential fororganizations to select a vendor with considerable experience toeffectively design, deploy and optimize even the most complex networks. Additionally, organizations should also ensure that the vendor has a full range of support plans designed to provide the right service for the organizations’specific business needs.

8)    Run a post-site survey

Once the installation of 802.11ac is completed, organizations should make sure they perform one last site survey to ensure that they have the full coverage expected and planned for. That way, they can ensure they have an established baseline for future installations or network changes.