21 Mar Unpacking wireless Access Points and why it matters
Unpacking wireless Access Points and why it matters
We have seen many businesses purchase Internet connectivity and then make mistakes with their selection and setup of wireless Access Points (APs). APs are not given a second thought and viewed as a last minute add-on.
AP stands for Access Point; it is a hardware device that acts as a communication hub for users of a wireless device to connect to the Internet.
Most offices today use wireless over a physical LAN cable to access connectivity for computers, mobile phones, tablets and wireless printers. The choice of which APs to purchase and how to set them up correctly, are therefore key components to ensure the best connectivity at your office.
There are some common mistakes that we see with wireless APs:
Frequency and channels
Devices are often set up on frequencies with high interference, along with running on overlapping channels. This affects the quality of the Internet for your users as well as the speed. There are two frequencies available: 2.4 MHz travels further but your speed is lower; 5.8 MHz has higher speeds but travels less. You need to know what frequencies your devices are on and do a proper plan for how the APs will work together. There are three non-overlapping channels 1/6/11. These channels can run on the same frequency without interfering. Often multiple devices are running on overlapping channels which can cause problems.
To solve the problem more APs are added
With a 400 Mbps Internet connection, a laptop or device may only receive 4 Mbps due to the AP you are using. The common approach is to buy more cheap APs, however what happens is your interference goes up by 80% causing further problems with connectivity. Adding more APs will not solve the problem.
The speed of an AP is calculated as follows:
= Speed of AP in frequency band / 2 / number of concurrent users – interference
Water interference – the human body
Water is the largest factor of interference with wireless: because the human body is 80% water, people interference is the biggest problem; so too are fire detection and irrigation systems. It is imperative to do a heat map of your office environment to assess the interference and ensure you have the right setup in place.
Slow transmit and receive
In an office where everyone is connected via cable they receive fixed full synchronous 1 GB up and down at the same time per computer. In a Wireless scenario cheaper APs can only send or receive at once, so it does one thing at a time and everything is queued, slowing speeds down dramatically. However, high end APs have 1/2/3/4 MIMO enabling you to transmit and receive more at one time, improving performance significantly.
Drop when out of range
As your staff move within the office from one AP range to another, their speeds decrease significantly, even when they are closer to the next AP. The device will not move to the next AP unless the connection drops completely. The device then has to authenticate on the new AP before it connects and therefore slows down dramatically. Enterprise quality APs have Controllers and a function called Client Match built in. As you start to move from one AP to another, the Aruba controller simulates a drop of the current connection, forcing your device to move to the next and does the pre authentication, ensuring there is no lag in connectivity. This function allows the user to benefit from consistently fast speeds while moving.
There are many benefits of using enterprise-grade APs:
- Interference mitigation – dynamically searches your environment, resolves interference and does not have to be managed by a person.
- Improve performance – strong processors and better antenna’s means more packets can be transmitted and received, improving performance dramatically.
- Seamless – by aligning firewall, security and APs – all made by the same company – you will ensure seamless routing of traffic in and out.
- Intelligence and control – by using intelligent APs you will have a central control to view statistics about users connected, their average speeds and behavior patterns to better manage the environment. You can setup the AP to block access to bandwidth draining sites like Facebook or YouTube, allocate speeds per user and view what is happening with all your APs even if they are located at different geographical offices.