In order to build a wireless network infrastructure, a company needs to consider the placement of multiple access points around their campus. Access points connect to a wired network and allow for devices to connect to that network via the access point wirelessly. They are the cornerstone of wireless networking; as such, knowing how to properly install them is essential. Physical access point placement plays a huge part in this installation process.
Access points must be placed in strategic locations in order to provide maximum coverage. Depending on the size, shape, and needs of every area of your infrastructure, your team will need to install access points at different locations. This is true for companies of any size, from SMBs to enterprises. To help your business learn the proper methods of access point placement, we’ve outlined 5 guidelines for you to follow when installing access points.
Place access points where WiFi will be used the most
The first rule of proper access point placement is to determine the locations where WiFi networks will be used the most. This seems like it should be obvious, but it makes a huge difference in determining the optimal placement of access points across an infrastructure. The closer a device is to an access point, the better its connection will be. Thus, it makes perfect sense to place an access point in a room that uses a lot of WiFi traffic. Similarly, you don’t want to place an access point in a location where there are barely any devices connecting.
On the surface level, your company should be able to guess major areas where WiFi connections will be plentiful. Employee work spaces, break rooms, and waiting rooms are fairly high candidates for access points because it’s easy to expect that there will be a lot of devices wanting to connect.
Precise access point placement is key
Access point placement isn’t just about picking the right general area to install a device. You also need to consider the precise physical placement for the access point in each room/location you need to service. Access points need to be built in optimal locations to provide the best signal strength to the areas it will cover. For best results, access points should typically be installed below a ceiling in a location that will boost signal strength in every key portion of the area. However, an access point vendor may recommend a different specification, so any installation instructions should be followed carefully.
Avoid coverage overlap whenever possible
When designing your wireless infrastructure, you need to select the best access point locations that will provide maximum coverage for your business. The simple answer to this problem is installing access points anywhere you can, but this is almost always a bad idea. Not only does this introduce unnecessary costs, but it also generates a lot of coverage overlap. This happens when an access point’s area of coverage intersects with another’s.
Inevitably, your company will experience some overlapping with its access points, especially in heavily condensed areas of your campus. However, whenever it’s possible, overlap should be avoided. If you’re building your access points too close to each other, you aren’t optimizing your access point placement. You only need one access point to cover a specific area – having too many access points to latch onto means one of your access points is being wasted.
Wireless interference planning
Interference is an unfortunate risk of running a wireless network and can bring down the network’s performance and availability. Wireless signals can be intercepted or blocked by various factors, preventing devices from connecting to the wireless network efficiently. Sometimes, interference can’t be predicted or prevented, but there are some ways you can design access point placement around known areas of interference.
Devices that emit electromagnetic signals, such as microwaves, are notorious for completely blocking wireless signals. Whenever possible, access points should be placed as far away from these devices as possible.
The building materials of the structures your business operates in can cause varying degrees of wireless signal interference or blockage. Concrete, brick, and other dense materials are infamous for blocking WiFi signals. Your team should place access points in areas that provide the best area of coverage when considering the building materials around it.
Other wireless networks
Depending on your company’s location, there may be several other wireless networks that send signals to your campus. Typically, these are other company networks or public WiFi transmissions.
Indoor vs. outdoor access point placement
Your business may be large enough that it requires your wireless network to extend outdoors. If this is the case, you’ll need to set up access points outdoors as well. Some vendors offer specific access points that are built for use in outdoor environments. If you want the best outdoor coverage for your enterprise, these outdoor access points are worth looking into. Outdoor access points need to be able to reach a large area in order to be effective. While your company’s outdoor area may be more open, foliage and outdoor installations (sculptures and buildings, etc.) may cause interference.
Signal strength testing
While access point placement is mostly planned out before any access points are installed, you’ll still need to consider your access points’ positioning beyond the initial building period. While you can estimate the area of coverage each access point will bring in the design stage, you usually can’t completely account for interference until the access point is installed.
After you’ve built an access point, you should perform some signal strength tests to determine the actual efficiency of your access points. This will confirm for your company just how far each access point can reach, which can influence where you place the rest of your access points. In essence, your business can’t stop thinking about the placement of your access points when you’ve finished installing your infrastructure. Even when you have your wireless network up and running, you may need to move access points or build additional ones in order to operate an efficient, accessible network.
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