The Importance of a Wireless Site Survey

Date May 26, 2016 Author Comments Leave your thoughts

Businessman forecasting the future with his crystal ball in the office

So, you have decided to implement a wireless network for your business. You have made contact with a wireless specialist and discussed your options, but what comes next? Don’t leave it up to the crystal ball…

What is a Wireless Survey?

The first distinction to make is between predictive site surveys (sometimes called ‘remote site surveys’) and onsite wireless surveys. The former are undertaken with the use of your building site plans, alongside some clever software, which help our engineers to establish the best possible position of your access points for optimum network coverage.

There are some clear advantages to a predictive site survey – not only is it more cost effective than other options, but a predictive survey avoids any potential disruption to your business or staff and is – in most cases – around 90% accurate.

However, there are definite drawbacks and possible perils in choosing a predictive survey over an onsite visit. The operative word here is ‘predictive’ – although a high degree of accuracy can be achieved, there is no way to measure or trace the presence of RF interference, which is a very common problem for the deployment of wireless networks.

Similarly, a predictive site survey does not account for the number of concurrent users per access point which, again, can cause performance issues should the access point be pushed beyond its capacity. And finally, it is often the case that a predictive survey will not be 100% accurate in calculating the Wi-Fi penetration of building materials and structures such as lift shafts, particularly thick walls or concrete floors.

Why a Wireless Survey is So Important?

Engineers at Ensign, through their vast experience in a broad range of working environments, suggest that certain construction materials can lead to significant signal loss, simply by roaming from one room to another. When you consider that even a slight loss (around -3Db) in RF can half the strength of your wireless signal, it is essential to highlight areas of poor RF performance in your building or structure.

During an onsite Wi-Fi survey, our engineers will monitor the various signal strengths achievable within your wireless environment, whilst using specialist equipment and software to identify any RF blackspots prior to the commencement of installation.

The relative complexity of an onsite survey will, more-often-than-not, justify it as as a chargeable service. It is understandable that some budget conscious businesses may be put-off by this – instead opting for a free option – although avoiding relatively modest costs at the beginning of a project can lead to a sting-in-the-tail further down the line.

How Much Should You Pay?

It should be noted at this point that both the cost and the quality of professional wireless site surveys can vary dramatically. All site surveys are not made equal and it is often the case that you ‘get what you pay for’ – if it’s free, or very cheap, then the chances are it won’t be very good, and it won’t come with a guarantee.

Taking the value of your survey into consideration during these early stages is crucial to avoiding potential RF pitfalls down the line. We all enjoy a ‘freebie’ every now and then but when the ‘saving’ results in a poor performing network and leads to unexpected costs to put things right, it may not be the best route to business Wi-Fi success.

Ensign’s on-site wireless site surveys not only come with a coverage guarantee, but our comprehensive survey report gives you all the information required to move forward with your project – even if it is without us (not advisable!). We have been building wireless networks for long enough to know that a comprehensive site survey is the most important part of any project and because of this, Ensign offers a £400 rebate from the original survey cost on completion of the subsequent Wi-Fi installation.

So, Now You Know

If you weren’t before, you are now a bona fide wireless survey expert, armed with the knowledge to make the most informed decisions towards a successful Wi-Fi project. However, if you’d like to know more about our process, costs, our coverage guarantee or our money back offer, do get in touch.

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Author Vicky Atherton

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