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Home » Hacking News » WLAN with no plan spells failure

WLAN with no plan spells failure

by Nikola Strahija on September 12th, 2002 A comprehensive enterprise site survey is critical when deploying a wireless LAN. IT organizations must consider required coverage, security, potential interference, and approximate cost when establishing the business case for wireless initiatives.

Enterprises must recognize the inherent differences of a wireless network and optimize all deployments by conducting a comprehensive site survey. Due to the nature of 802.11b technology, wireless LANs have potential security weaknesses and can interfere with one another, offer varying degrees of coverage based on signal strength, manufacturing source, and the environment in which they are deployed. The composition of walls can greatly impact the coverage area of the wireless signal and may also introduce substantial interference, resulting in lower data rates. As standards evolve and enterprises are looking to deploy systems versatile enough to support current Wi-Fi (and, in the future, Wi-Fi5), a site survey becomes an even more important step to prevent costly changes to access-point placements due to system migrations (for example, moving from 802.11b to 802.11a).

Many enterprises are experiencing a substantial grassroots push from lines of business and senior-level management for deploying wireless LANs. A site survey will optimize comprehensive coverage at adequate data rates, substantially mitigating the risk of rogue access-point deployments in these areas. Current Wi-Fi products only have the capacity to support three non-interfering channels. In a large enterprise deployment, the IT organization may need to be creative to eliminate channel interference--especially in those areas requiring higher user density (such as conference rooms and cafeterias). With minimal configuration, users can install a wireless LAN and have it be operational in minutes. Software for security, management, and maintenance will distinguish enterprise systems as hardware moves toward commodity.

Few vendors offer more than the basic capability within the client configuration tool to perform link testing and the detection of access points. Incumbent wireless LAN vendors (Proxim and Symbol, for example) have strong experience and best practices in wireless site surveys for vertical markets, and they are in a good position to leverage this into the horizontal enterprise market.

Through 2002, enterprises will rely on systems integrators for comprehensive site surveying and radio frequency (RF) troubleshooting. Our research indicates that the market for wireless LAN management and site survey tools is expanding; many startup vendors are entering with point products. As wireless LAN hardware (both Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi5) becomes commodity by late 2003, the vendors that do not focus on services and software will lose ground in the market.

By 2004, major wireless LAN vendors will offer a comprehensive suite of products (primarily software) focused on site surveying and RF troubleshooting. Longer term (2006/07), wireless LANs will be deployed by the large majority of the Global 2000 as an additional access mechanism within the enterprise--complementing existing wired infrastructures and further demonstrating the requirement for such tools.

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