ENABLING A MASSIVE REMOTE WORK-FORCE MID-STREAM
The current global situation has many teams working remotely. This causes innumerable issues, not the least of which is: “How does an entire team access Wi-Fi all at once?”
Wildflower’s team of technology experts ensures that you’re on the cutting edge of whatever problems may arise for you and your agency, whether that’s adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic or just moving forward.
MG Winski, Fort Campbell Commanding General, talked to Military.com on April 3rd about soldiers on Fort Campbell focusing on training videos during the lockdown. On April 10th, Defense.gov reported modifications to training: “Modifications include splitting training into shifts to reduce class sizes, using distance learning more often, and moving classrooms outdoors… Training that can only be done in close quarters or large groups has been deferred.”
In response to health concerns brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, training in the federal government has changed drastically. One federal agency Wildflower supports recently ran into a similar issue: provide Wi-Fi capabilities virtually overnight to many people. Training had always been conducted in-person within dedicated classrooms and onsite campus facilities. In an unprecedented move, thousands of users would be expected to attend training remotely, from their dormitories and barracks. The agency had to plan, design, and deploy Wi-Fi while training was still in process.
Our challenge was to make sure this organization was well-equipped to handle this drastic change. We quickly gathered the requirements: Signal Strength, Signal-to-noise Ratio, Data Rate, Secondary Signal Strength, Channel Interference, number of students, and types & number of devices connecting to the Wi-Fi network.
Developing a plan is the most important step of deploying a high-performing resilient network. When developing a plan for extending an existing Wi-Fi network, there are many concerns to keep in mind, such as building materials and the expected Wi-Fi load. Different materials can impede the Wi-Fi signal based on factors as simple as the thickness of the walls in space; this is known as attenuation. Additionally, more users mean higher traffic on any given Wi-Fi channel, which means a potential bottleneck for the many users who are trying to access the same Wi-Fi. Only Channels 1, 6, and 11 should be used on the 2.4Ghz spectrum. That’s why it’s critical to have the correct number of access points in order to keep the noise down. Keeping traffic evenly distributed means that each user will be able to access the internet – and critical data.
So, how many access points are necessary for maximum efficiency? The issues relating to too few access points are obvious – not enough capacity to handle a number of devices required. But there are problems with too many access points as well. Channel interference is caused by too many access points within the network, which causes connectivity issues, or interference. If you imagine that each access point is like an audio speaker; more speakers don’t always make better music. Sometimes they just make more noise. And so it is with access points; too many access points mean too much noise. It’s important to get the right size speakers (access points) and deploy them in the best location to enjoy the music (the network). The key, then, is determining the correct number of access points.
In this particular scenario, we were able to conduct a predictive site survey and create a heat map to predict the strength of the Wi-Fi connection around each potential access point and generate a heat map showing many data points such as; signal strength, interference, and network health as it relates to the client’s requirements.
This heat map (not the one pictured below) provided to the customer shows the exact number of access points that agency will need and where they should be deployed for a high-performing Wi-Fi network.
Using the predictive heat map, we can accurately predict the number of access points and the correct amount of hardware, saving the customer both money and technological headaches down the line. For this customer, we used fewer access points than the product manufacturer suggested, because of the accuracy that we were able to achieve in assessing the situation and the planning that occurred before the installation process. A second, active survey will be conducted to analyze the actual performance of the Wi-Fi network and ensures that the network is working as predicted, with minor adjustments to access point placement (tuning) for ongoing maximum efficiency.
Fernando DeLosReyes is a Solutions Architect for Wildflower Intl.
Do you have unique challenges relating to remote work environments? Contact Wildflower to see if our team of experts can help you design, integrate, and deploy a network solution that is perfect for your unique situation.