So you've been planning for that new mobile application for months and now you’re all set to go. You’re going to impose a change in your users’ operations with new technology, and you know you have only one chance to make a good first impression.
You’ve done your work and everything is in place—or is it?
Let me talk to you about something people tend to forget—something that I think is the foundation of successful mobile deployment: wireless site survey.
I've asked clients, “Have you done a site survey?” Most times, the answer is yes, so that’s a good answer. To my second question, "What criteria was the site survey based on?" I often don’t get any good answers. So here are a few components to consider before starting a site survey.
Know the client
A critical step in performing a site survey is to understand what the targeted devices are and the application that will be using the wireless network. There are thousands of devices out there and you probably have a very good idea of which ones you will have to support and offer service for. Be sure to identify them and understand the requirements for each device and application to work. Don't just believe the specification sheet.
You should also run the test in a controlled environment and focus on matching this to user expectations. From this, you should be able to derive a set of rules that will dictate how you will design the infrastructure.
Know the environment
Being aware of your environment is also very important. When you look at a floor plan, there are so many things you can miss. For example, I've deployed wireless in many stores for the retail industry, and although two stores may look similar on a floor plan, the end result is completely different when you take into account the neighbors, the construction and other interfering elements. Visiting the site and asking questions about the environment is key to being able to properly plan your wireless infrastructure.
Know the technology
A common mistake is that a site survey can be performed with any kind of equipment in non-specific conditions. I personally think that you should be surveying as close to the reality as you can. Do yourself a favor and perform the survey step only after you've picked the manufacturer, chosen the access point types and finished building the facility you planned to deploy the wireless to.
Furthermore, you want to be aware of the protocols you will need to support, as well as the features that the retained technology has to offer. You should be able to configure these for the site survey.
Have a good tool set
You should be able to support and replicate the results you achieve. That doesn't mean that you should be spending a bunch of money on a site survey tool. You should use a site survey tool that has been calibrated with the different devices you're planning on using. The tool should ideally help you produce some documentation that can be used as a baseline in the future. Lastly, your site survey tool should be available in multiple copies, if necessary, but should still give the same results.
For all of your wireless projects, you should spend a fair amount of time documenting your methodology, the conditions in which you surveyed, the stock level, the floor plan you used, the pictures of the environment, the suspected interferer, the coverage that resulted from your survey and more. This information will definitely be used in the future as a reference for your troubleshooting activities because the environment will certainly change, and that change will have a direct effect on the wireless coverage.
Be ready for constant evolution
So now that you've completed all the correct steps to get your wireless infrastructure built to support your critical mobile application, you’re finished and you can just forget about it. Unfortunately not!
Because the radio frequency is influenced by the environment in which it evolves, I highly recommended that you monitor how the coverage changes over time because your needs will most certainly evolve as well.
In conclusion, you should clearly define which applications you will be running, what response time and capacity you expect, and which devices and wireless infrastructure you plan to purchase or support. Only then can you properly define the rules and have them enforced in your site survey exercise. The success of your deployment depends on this process!
Please connect with me on Twitter @strembla if you need more information. I'll be happy to share my experience with you.