In the world there are many questions that polarize us all; did Han shoot first, Kirk or Picard, Left Twix or Right Twix. But the most important question of them all, should predictive site surveys exist. If you follow the wireless community this is probably the most polarizing topic right with lower data rates being enabled or not.
Designing wireless is one of the most challenging things we do. We receive a set of drawings and put the Solo cup down and start drawing circles. Wait, bad flashback. These were the good old days. We would draw our circles, place APs and then go on site and verify locations and take some survey readings with an AP on a stick to verify all looks good, what does the spectrum look like, are there interferers in the area.
Today we still draw circles, but they are really cool looking ones using Ekahau typically. We draw walls that can help us predict what loss may occur from walls, doors, etc. Then we go on site and take readings with the same software and an AP on a stick to make sure those pretty circles match. But why do it ahead of time and not when you are on site?
I have had many instances over the years where a predictive survey was all I was able to do. The customer would not sign-off on doing an on-site active survey because of the disruption it may cause, the building has not been built yet, or just no budget for it in the project.
I have also had the opposite where a customer would tell me that they saw no reason for a predictive and the coverage they had was ‘good enough’. But is it?
With the stuff we are putting on wireless today can we really be ok with just good enough? In a large portion of organizations, we have gone from wireless being a nice to have to a wireless first strategy. This includes VoWIFI using Skype or some other demanding application/protocol. How do we handle this without trying to do some kind of prediction? Are we to just install the network and then do a remediation at additional cost after things blow up quicker than Lee Badman’s temper when they take the all you can eat steak away??
With tools like Ekahau, and no they are not paying me, but they have awesome swag, you can do predictions based on applications, number of users, and device types. We no longer need the Solo cups, oh what? The keg just got tapped…
But all joking aside, is it really worth us guessing and throwing APs up and then coming back doing remediations after the fact to make sure we handle the new generation of wireless networks appropriately? Or should we just do the extra work up front so we have an idea of what we are walking into? The reports we can provide ahead of time as well as comparing to post-installation surveys are invaluable to this bloggers opinion and will continue to be fought for as long as I do wireless.