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Tuesday, December 16th, 2008
We received a call from a distressed customer whose wireless network was gradually becoming more unreliable. “We have a large wireless network, it isn’t working and we need it sorted out!” they said. Now we have done a fair amount of project work for them in the past but not wireless, so we set off down there and conducted a wireless survey of their premises.
What did we find? Well, it was mostly possbile to get a wireless connection in every room, though in some places the connection was unreliable despite strong signal strengths. Moving from one room to another often lost the connection and the number of people that could get a stable connection in each room simultaneously was limited.
Almost all the access points were the same model from the same manufacturer and most of them contained the same settings, but they did not have features enabling them to work together or as a wireless group so connection roaming did not work effectively.
When I say most of them had the same settings, they were generally all advertising the same SSID but some of the access points were advertising open unsecured networks where as others had a key, and the keys were inconsistent too.
One of the wireless access points was advertising an open SSID and was therefor accepting wireless connections but did not have a LAN connection so connected devices did not recieve an IP address and access to network services. One of the others had a LAN connection but the CAT5 was faulty.
As we moved around the building we found different SSIDs and the encryption standards in use varied as well. Furthermore there wasn’t any documentation so we couldn’t get a connection at all to a few of the access points and a factory reset and reconfiguration would have been the only way to get them working again.
We had fun finding all the wireless access points too, some where in cupboards or hidden behind boxes on a shelf. One was actually installed behind a wall partition so getting access to that one wasn’t possible and as you would expect, the wireless signal was poor.
And finally one of the access points which was located in a key area was faulty.
These kinds of problems are typical of a large wireless network that has grown as the need for coverage has increased over a period of time. One minute coverage is only required in one room, the next it is two and before you know it, the rest of the building.
We have now planned the installation of a new wireless network with a 3Com wireless controller and access points. When it is finished it will meet all thier needs with room to add further capacity as they need it.
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