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Develop a wireless network plan

There are a few pitfalls that organizations should watch out for. Here are some tips for avoiding wireless blunders:

  • Wireless devices that are designed for use in homes are not a fit for the business environment. Organizations with multiple access points need appropriately designed devices to achieve a seamless connection. Although home access points are less expensive, they are not designed to achieve the results necessary in the commercial arena, as they are made specifically for single deployments and can actually interfere with each other when used simultaneously.
  • Figure out the best locations for the access points -- not just the easiest. You can approach this challenge several ways:
  • One option is to conduct a comprehensive wireless site survey, but that can be highly technical and costly.
  • Another option is to simply set up multiple access points and err on the side of over-coverage. The initial investment in multiple access points will save you money in the long run, compared with commissioning a site survey.
  • Alternatively, a small shop can perform a rudimentary site survey on its own by simply setting up one access point, charting its coverage using one laptop, and using its coverage range as a guideline for access points throughout the facility.
  • This problem is yet another reason to employ a WLAN controller. The controller will recognize all of the connected access points and set the appropriate channel and power setting. Some controllers even allow users to load a diagram of the floor plan, providing a heat map that shows the signal strength of each access point
  • Don't become complacent in old wireless routines. Network equipment is improving continually, with networked devices becoming smarter and more complex -- just like the technologies that hackers use to attack networks. Organizations need to know exactly where the wireless marketplace stands and where the technology is headed. Failure to do so will expose users to security risks and potentially waste time and money.
  • Watch out for do-it-yourself wireless networks. Consumer-grade wireless access points are so affordable that, if an organization decides not to implement wireless, it is very possible some employees will build their own. Without adequate security protection, "rogue" wireless networks can create holes of vulnerability in the wired IT network. A centrally managed wireless network, however, will detect rogue access points within its bounds and disable them.
As technologies evolve, organizations must also evolve, which is why it is important now more than ever to make the wireless leap if your organization hasn't already done so. When switching to wireless, be careful to consider your objectives, your limitations and the possible future benefits. Also, be aware of the possible pitfalls so you can avoid disappointments and lost time in the future. Developing the right wireless plan for your unique situation will translate into budget savings and productivity increases.

Rasmussen is a network technology specialist at CDW Corporation.

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