WiFi Survey Software Review: Ekahau for iPhone

Earlier this month, market experts Ekahau launched their latest WiFi survey software update, making Ekahau Survey available on iPhones as well as iPads. Currently Ekahau offer the only enterprise standard WiFi survey tool for mobile devices including tablets.

Our in-house wireless engineer Stewart put the latest update to the test at a construction site WiFi survey last week in the Netherlands. Here are his thoughts:

1. Augmented Reality Improves Usability

The most noteworthy update from the newest version of Ekahau Connect is the ‘Auto Pilot’ survey feature. Traditionally, survey engineers would have to plot their location on a floor plan, walk in a straight line, then plot their location again when they change direction. Auto Pilot allows the engineer to plot their initial location and, using Augmented Reality, walk the entirety of their client’s site without having to re-plot their location with every change of direction. This speeds up survey readings by 33% and ensures more accurate survey results because the software measures the engineer’s walking speed and current location in real-time. This also means the data produced can form a better WiFi network design. “It made a highly accurate and informative survey much, much easier to conduct” says Stewart.

2. Forget Worrying About Pace

The update also means that changes in the engineer’s walking pace do not affect readings, which proved invaluable on a large site where – like most – walking speed cannot be kept steady due to doorways, traffic (human or automotive!), cramped spaces or areas with lots of obstructions.

3. Improved Accuracy

The latest update also allows heatmaps to show very minor changes in direction that couldn’t be seen with Ekahau Connect without manual intervention by the engineer. The previous iteration of the software would attribute readings to a straight line, even if the engineer had deviated from this path to move around an obstruction.

The newest version of Ekahau Connect tracks these deviations using augmented reality and attributes readings to the actual walked route rather than the planned route. This ensures that a new network can be designed with fewer inaccuracies or unaccounted for obstructions.

4. Survey Equipment is Lighter for Travel

Ekahau for iPhone reduces the amount of equipment an engineer needs to take to surveys, which is an appreciated update, especially when travelling overseas!

5. Site Surveys are Safer to Coduct

Autofiring readings means surveyors can focus on their direction and surroundings. So many of our WiFi surveys take place in busy environments like warehouses, where accidents can happen easily. “I spent far less time thinking about where I was going to walk and more time thinking about potential issues with an existing solution, or a suitable design for a new wireless solution” says Stewart.

So are there any limitations of the upgrade? Stewart says yes: “although this update will be fantastic in most situations, tight spaces may be more difficult. In these locations I’ll probably be reverting back to the other methods of survey that Ekahau Connect provides”.

If you would like more information on the range of WiFi surveys we offer internationally, please head to our WiFi Surveys page to get in touch.

While it certainly helps, designing the best WiFi infrastructures doesn’t simply come down to having a lightning fast WiFi connection. If you are designing WiFi for a network environment which is high density, there are many factors to bear in mind if you want to come up with the perfect plan. In this article we offer some key WiFi design tips:

WiFi Design – Place your APs wisely

Where you position your access points (APs) is one of the single biggest considerations which you will have when designing a WiFi set-up. You should ensure that your APs are not blocked by physical objects, and to take into account the effect of thick walls inside a building. Aim to have clear lines of sight from APs to areas which are commonly used by people connecting, and try and keep them at a distance from water, such as pipe networks.

WiFi Design – ‘Aim high’ on your AP numbers

It might be said that you can never have too many APs, and while this could be exaggerating a little, it is undoubtedly the case that it is best to ‘shoot high’ and overestimate, rather than underestimate, the number of APs which you will need when you are planning the investment. If you do end up with surplus APs, you might need them in the long run should performance begin to degrade over time.

WiFi Design – 5GHZ radio bands

5GHZ radio bands are definitely the way forward when it comes to designing your WiFi set-up. You’ll be able to take advantage of much higher connection speeds than you would with 2.4GHZ, and get around the problem of the packed radio band which 2.4GHZ poses. You don’t want to end up competing with Bluetooth and other technologies for the same frequency range, so save yourself the hassle and use 5GHZ.

Those are just three pieces of advice from us on WiFi design. Especially where education WiFi is concerned, in the modern day, institutions require a high level of connectivity to meet the demands of many people on campus – from students to lecturers, administrators and guests – making optimum WiFi design all the more important. Contact us for more details.

Read more about wireless solutions

Wireless planning is a topic that many people don’t consider when setting up a new network. Yet, if you don’t get the planning stage right, your users will find getting online to be an absolute nightmare as the number of users (and their expectations) grow. Our tips for wireless planning will help you to build a wireless network that can scale into the future and delivers the fast and efficient connection that your users will demand.

Wireless planning – Consider the locations carefully

Where are people actually going to be using wireless internet? If most people sitting at desks are using wired connections, then it’s probably more important to ensure that your corridors, break spaces and receptions are well covered than every individual desk. If possible, conduct a survey to see how your existing wireless is being used and plan your network accordingly.

Wireless planning – Power over Ethernet is your friend

Running power cables through your office can be a major pain point when you’re rolling out a wireless network, especially if you’re planning to place your wireless access points in the ceiling. Power over Ethernet allows your access points to take their power from the Ethernet cables that connect them up to the central hub. This significantly reduces the initial cost of installation and makes it far easier to add additional access points to the network as your requirements change and the number of access points on the network starts to grow.

Wireless planning – Plan for the future

It’s almost inevitable that demand for your wireless infrastructure will grow in the future and it’s important that you consider this when you’re setting up the network in the first place. Under specifying the network at the outset will only lead to user frustration and significant pain for everyone in the building at a later date. It may well cost more to upgrade the network retrospectively, so it’s worth being a little more generous in your specifications now to save yourself a job later.

Taking the time to plan your wireless network carefully is an investment in the future productivity of your business. Cutting corners now will cost you significantly later on. Redway Networks offer a range of wireless site surveys to assist with the planning and design of your wireless network, contact us today on 01908 046400 to find out more about how we can assist.

Find out more about WiFi Site Surveys

In the past, networks were designed with either coverage or capacity in mind, however in today’s world WiFi has become such an intrinsic part of life that high-performance connectivity must be offered in spite of the simultaneous demands on capacity and coverage. Network managers must ensure that the digital experience is both seamless and superior whether a user is underground, surrounded by interfering materials, in a football stadium or in an office meeting room. Slow speeds, drop-offs or black spots are simply no longer accepted.

Understanding the interplay between capacity and coverage in today’s world of WiFi is key to understanding how to balance the two elements.

What is wireless coverage?

The coverage of a wireless network tells us just how far your wireless signal transmits; if you’re running a large institution or organisation, ensuring that your WLAN coverage reaches everywhere on the premises is crucial. Predicting the area a WLAN will cover isn’t always simple; power settings, environmental obstacles and antenna gain can all affect coverage. One of the most accurate ways to assess wireless coverage is wireless surveys, which may include heat maps and spectrum analysis.

What is wireless capacity?

Wireless capacity relates to the number of users who can use your wireless simultaneously in one place, and how (and at what rate) they are using bandwidth. Wireless capacity is just as big a consideration as coverage when designing a new WLAN; if your network doesn’t meet capacity in peak locations, the result is unusable WiFi and disconnected clients.

As an example, in schools, colleges and universities you might find that canteens, social areas and computer rooms are WiFi hotspots – these are areas where large groups of students gather to study, socialise and check their Twitter accounts on smartphones and tablets. In these locations it’s important to maximise WiFi capacity to meet the needs of all users in the network, taking into account potential traffic at peak hours.

Do I need more coverage or more capacity?

So how do you know whether your coverage or your capacity is the problem? Or both! The best way to find out is to have an on-site survey done by certified WiFi engineers. This will diagnose network problems and offer a series of immediate fixes as well as longer-term recommendations with the future of connectivity in mind.

Do I need more access points?

Wireless networks need to be usable to be worth having, and in today’s constantly connected world, WiFi is no longer optional in large businesses and educational institutions. More access points are a potential solution, but can cause overlapping signals and even poorer performance – yes, it is possible to have terrible performance despite high signal! Currently there are only 3 channels in the UK wireless spectrum which guarantee zero interference, so overlapping signals can very easily become an additional problem compounding your wireless’ poor performance.

How can I resolve coverage and capacity issues?

If you’re experiencing issues with capacity and/or coverage, there are other ways to resolve the problem: upgrading your institution’s wireless network can improve coverage and capacity without the need to install more access points, and will offer long-term ROI rather than simply putting a plaster over an increasingly problematic flaw in your network infrastructure.

Newer solutions can offer automated network management to avoid overlapping signals and channel ‘conflict’ which means network managers can save time and focus on more important tasks. As devices, applications and security risks continue to rise, networks that support machine learning and automation will be increasingly valuable to IT departments and businesses as a whole.
The best solution will depend entirely on your WLAN design and requirements.

For more details about capacity and coverage in your wireless network, contact us today.

Read more about WiFi solutions

Busy public or office areas often suffer from slow WiFi due to the number of users and their combined download demands often overwhelming the network and routers. However, rolling out now, 802.11ax access points will help relieve these issues and make for higher quality, enterprise, education and public WiFi access.

Aiming for 10Gbps of throughput, the official release of 802.11ax access points isn’t due until 2019 but the very early “ax-compatible” products to hit the market can deliver half of that. The key benefit of the standard is the ability to deliver fast and reliable WiFi in crowded locations with up to four times the throughput of current standards thanks to the more efficient use of available radio spectrum.

Smarter radio usage means happier users

A range of technologies and software features built into new baseband processors help to boost performance, even though the actual data rates are only around a third-higher than existing standards. Features such as dynamic data packet sizes mean no more wasted bandwidth sending near-empty packets to devices.

Also, so-called “colouring” of network transmissions means that the router can “see” other networks in the area and can still broadcast on frequencies where they would have previously clashed. All of this should result in higher quality connections and more efficient use of bandwidth.

For customers with campus-wide WiFi installations, users can benefit from signals from multiple transmitters to deliver the strongest signal and fastest data rates. We expect 802.11ax access points to gain in popularity over 2018 as the official launch date nears. Check back for product availability and upgrade information to help your workers or users benefit from enterprise WiFi using Aerohive products.

Aerohive plans to add machine learning technology to their access points to improve performance further through features like smart changing of polarity of antennas, and the ability to jump channels depending on the local RF environment. All of which should make your public or business network faster and help users work more efficiently, no matter how many there are, or how high their bandwidth demands become in the years to come.

Read more about WiFi solutions

There’s a problem with your wifi – so who’s to blame? Many of us might have a propensity to blame the network – but if you are signed up to a reliable wifi provider such as Aerohive, this might be wide of the mark. In many cases, the problem can lie in the wired network in your commercial enterprise, and luckily Aerohive have designed the perfect tool for getting to the bottom of this issue.

The VLAN Probe is available in the enterprise mobility management solution HiveManager NG. It’s an incredible troubleshooter, and allows wifi network administrators to get to the bottom of whether an issue exists on a wired network, rather than the wireless network. The logical way of assessing a wifi problem is to look at the entire network (wireless and wired) from a holistic point of view. This involves looking at an issue from the ground up, which in this case in a wired network.

In the case of a school, for example, there might be three separate SSIDs for students, teachers and guests. Each of these SSIDs can be mapped to a separate VLAN as part of the VLAN Probe, before being mapped to different subnets, with IP addresses being supplied from the network DHOP server.

This system responds perfectly to a common problem encountered by IT support, in which users complain that they appear to be connected to have a wifi connection, but can’t connect to a network. All you need is the VLAN Probe to conduct a quick check which will determine if the wired side of the network is the problem, by assessing the range of the IP addresses which the various SSIDs have.

And the VLAN Probe’s capabilities don’t stop there – you can keep a constant eye on your various networks and client applications by reviewing the client health score which it provides, based on if a wireless client is successful in acquiring its network settings from a DHCP server.

This easy to understand points system makes maintaining a wifi network in good health a far less complicated process – here’s to the VLAN Probe. Contact us today to find out more or visit our website. https://www.redwaynetworks.com/enterprise/

It’s safe to say that WLAN controllers are yesterday’s news – being costly and complex to deploy, scale, maintain and upgrade over time. WiFi solutions are now increasingly delivered by the cloud or through distributed architectures, offering a range of benefits. Distributed control is the preferred solution, with some serious economic wins for organisations to enjoy. Here are just some:

  1. There is no CapEx requirement for a controller purchase. Controllers can be expensive and require operating software licences, regular upgrades and periodic replacements as traffic volumes and technologies change.
     
  2. There are advantages on the OpEx side too. By removing the need for a controller, there is less need to manage multiple network elements. Cloud-deployed upgrades don’t come with the same disruption – the AP just needs to be added to or replaced in full. This means almost guaranteed lower operating costs, thanks to the simplicity of the solution.
     
  3. As management services migrate to the Cloud, there is an associated further fall in local hardware needs such as management appliances and servers. Cloud deployed services are both transparent and scalable. New functions – such as automation and analytics – can be added seamlessly and without operating downtime.
     
  4. By removing the controller, there is no need to remove anything else from the network – giving network planners an easier time. Financial controllers don’t need to worry themselves either, as this equates to a removed expensive. The removal of the controller acts to reduce the total cost of ownership.
     
  5. And last but not least, these cost benefits apply for organisations of any size, including SMES and start-ups. Many small businesses have struggled to justify enterprise-grade WLAN investments due to controller costs, and have instead been forced to buy into insufficient solutions which failed to offer the right degree of security, management and broader functionality and scale.
     
  6. Today’s enterprise WiFi network systems give businesses of all sizes the network solution that they need to grow over time in a measurable, transparent and simple way – realising the same gains that bigger companies have long been able to benefit from and without disruption, high costs or onerous ongoing operating expenses. It all spells good news for forward-thinking businesses. Speak to one of our Wireless specialists to find out how Redway networks can help. https://www.redwaynetworks.com/enterprise/

Find Out More

You can’t be in a room five minutes without someone declaring knowingly, “there’s an app for that!”. We sort the wheat from the chaff with our lowdown on the top apps enterprises and IT professionals shouldn’t live without.

1. Speedtest.net

Struggling with downloads, uploads, deployment or loading times? Download Speedtest.net for a quick, simple assessment of the speed of a device for free.

2. WiFi Analyzer

Turn your device into a WiFi Analyzer with this useful app. Find the st3rongest and least crowded network in your local area.

3. Transmit

It may be £7.99 but this app, said to be the best FTP app available on iOS, is well worth the investment. It connects easily to a server in order for you to manage your files.

4. AirPort Utility

Apple device users can utilise this app to manage WiFi networks and AirPort base stations simply and accessibly.

5. Calcbot

Calcbot is ideal for IT/WLAN professionals. Convert bytes, kilobytes, megabit, gigabit, and more for just a small cost.

6. CIDR Calculator

Need a little help with subnetting and IP addressing? This app will keep you right. People rate it for its attractive and easy-to-use interface.

7. Net Scan

Use this popular app to scan networks and analyse for flaws and loopholes, including searches on name, MAC address and IP address. It’s also one of the few apps without ads.

8. Linux Monitor

Those working with Linux servers can breathe a sigh of relief – the app you’ve always wanted is here. Keep an eye on the vitals straight from your phone, including RAM and disk usage, port activity and CPU load. Worth every penny.

9. Phoenix MySql Client

A free app to provide a simple connection to MySQL databases. Perform SQL queries and execute statements: select, create, insert, etc all from your phone.

10. Overlook Fing

And finally, the last app you can’t live without if you do any kind of networking work – Overlook Fing. From TCP port scanning and DNS look-ups, to pinging and trace route, this app has it all.

What are your must-have apps? Comment on Linked In or Tweet us at @RedwayNetworks today!

TUESDAY 28TH FEBRUARY 11AM GMT Aerohive Webinar:

Is your current WiFi solution costing much more than it should? Check out Aerohive’s webinar and see if you’ve a better option than staying the course with an outdated solution – given dramatic recent market changes in architectures, hardware price points and software capabilities.

Qualified attendees will also receive a free .11ac Access Point and switch, to see a different approach for themselves. Join Aerohive’s top Systems Engineers as they review the biggest market changes and help identify what the economic gains could be.

They’ll be sharing insights on:

Register For Webinar