Having a mobile workforce is a must for a small business to maintain a competitive edge. According to a survey conducted by iGR, 75% of businesses say they consider free wireless access to be either “important” or “very important” to their business now.
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End users rely on Wi-Fi to help generate revenue for small businesses. It can be the sales team conducting webinars or demos over Zoom conferencing and they get dropped off Wi-Fi thus crippling the experience of the sales call.
With Wi-Fi being more vital to end user productivity or for enhancing the experience to your consumers, we outline 3 quick Wi-Fi tips for your small business.
- Channel Configuration
- Transmit Power Configuration
- AP Placement
Small businesses experience a large number of Wi-Fi issues due to misconfiguration. Because Wi-Fi is easy to deploy, it is difficult to see what problems may crop up. The symptoms are visible through user complaints.
When there are multiple APs (APs) deployed in your business, it’s important to validate which channels they are operating on by inspecting the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies of the Wi-Fi network management system. A common issue we see businesses run into is having too many APs operating on the same channel, limiting the capacity of the Wi-Fi network.
Minimize the amount of channel overlap by having APs operate on different non-overlapping channels. In 2.4 GHz, there are three non-overlapping channels – 1, 6, and 11. The 5 Ghz range has 24 non-overlapping channels.
The 5 GHz range provides more capacity and less congestion compared to the 2.4 GHz frequency. Migrating users to 5 GHz will result in a better user experience.
Perform a site survey of your area to identify which channels are being used, what the channel utilization looks like, and if there’s interference. The result will assist in creating a channel plan around the most utilized channels.
Channel widths should be configured to 20 MHz in the 2.4 GHz frequency due to the number of non-overlapping channels and capacity available. For 5 GHz, we recommend 20 MHz or 40 MHz. If there’s enough channels to available and the frequency looks clean without interference and other neighboring networks, then 40 MHz channel widths can be used.
Increasing channel widths can increase throughput but the drawback is increased noise floor which decreases signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). The SNR can indicate the signal quality of a device. It can be a major trade-off.
Lastly, it’s important to understand the capabilities of the devices utilizing the Wi-Fi network. Some are not capable of using larger channel widths, some only operate in 2.4 GHz, others do not support all 5 GHz channels, and device drivers are not created equal.
As with any critical network service, we recommend looking into a full design or consultation on your next Wi-Fi implementation.
Transmit Power Configuration
A big issue with small business Wi-Fi is the default settings of the AP. Typically, we see the transmit power of an AP’s radios set to maximum power. Higher power is not always better. This often leads to clients unable to select the best, nearby, AP.
Devices have different thresholds when it comes to selecting the best signal and it’s typically beyond -70 dBm. An AP radio transmitting it’s signal at max power can create a situation called “sticky clients”. A scenario where a user brings their mobile device to another location in the office but the device maintains its connectivity to the AP where it first connected. The user then joins an important web meeting and the quality of that meeting is severely degraded due to the poor signal quality. All the while there’s a closer AP with a better quality signal.
A higher transmit power on the AP radios also creates an issue with devices that are unable to send signal back to the AP. Devices have lesser radio capabilities than APs thus they don’t transmit data at the same power. The device can “hear” the AP just fine, but AP cannot “hear” (demodulate) the device’s signal.
Lower the transmit power to a reasonable amount without creating a coverage hole. There should be 10-20% coverage overlap between APs to help facilitate roaming between APs.
This type of fine tuning requires careful planning and a validation survey is used to ensure the requirements have been met.
Many Wi-Fi issues can be quickly resolved with better AP placement. Omnidirectional APs propagate signal in a 360 degree fashion. There is less signal propagation coming from the back of an AP if you take a look at hardware polarization charts.
It’s important to mount the APs properly. Best practice is to mount them from the ceiling grid or, if you have to, on the wall.
Keep APs away from metal, hidden in the drop ceiling with the HVAC ducts, and other material that can alter the characteristics of the signal.
A thorough design process can predict where APs should be deployed by taking wall materials into consideration and other obstructions.
Wi-Fi is a mission critical service in today’s business landscape. Accessing resources needs to be seamless and fast for small businesses to gain a competitive advantage. These quick tips can help improve your Wi-Fi network in the short-term. For a deep look into lost productivity, Packet6 can be your trusted partner. If you’d like to get to doing what you do best and allow Wi-Fi Pros to manage your Wi-Fi, take a look at Managed Wi-Fi as a Service.