Optimize your network to provide faster speeds and greater reliability for a variety of mobile devices
When you first built your company’s wireless network, you had to support just the desktop PCs and laptops you chose for your small business. Now, your wireless network is probably host to a more diverse array of mobile devices from different vendors. On any given day, you may have tablets, iPhones, and Android-enabled devices accessing your network. Instead of trying to control the personal devices that employees bring to work, it may be easier to optimize your wireless network to better support these devices. (If you’re just building a wireless network for the first time, this post can help.)
We offer five steps to help improve the performance of your wireless network and provide a better user experience regardless of the devices employees are using to access company data.
1. Standardize on 802.11n. Wireless standard 802.11n is the latest standard for Wi-Fi networks, and it offers many improvements over older versions, namely faster speeds and greater range. The 802.11n standard is backward compatible with 802.11a/b/g, so you can support modern 802.11n-enabled devices like the Apple iPad as well as your older computers. Backward compatibility also means that you can phase in the new 802.11n standard as your budget and purchase plans allow for new wireless access points (WAPs).
2. Install 802.11n WAPs optimized for mixed-client environments. Choose a small business WAP that is designed to support Wi-Fi devices running a mix of 802.11n and 802.11a/g devices. For example, the Cisco Aironet 1140 Series and Aironet 1260 Series use Cisco’s M-Drive with ClientLink technology to improve the reliability and performance of 802.11n devices. These WAPs make sure that legacy 802.11b/g and modern Wi-Fi devices operate at the best possible speeds, which can extend the life of older clients.
3. Configure the 2.4-GHz frequency for 20-MHz and three non-overlapping channels. Each Wi-Fi spectrum has two frequencies, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, and they have a limited number of channels based on the 802.11 standard. In the U.S., 2.4 GHz supports three non-overlapping channels, with each channel supporting 7 Mbps for 802.11b, 13 Mbps for 802.11b/g, 25 Mbps for 802.11g/a, and 150 Mbps for 802.11n. Cisco recommends this configuration because it provides greater flexibility in the way you design your wireless network and where you install your WAPs. When you create three non-overlapping 20-MHz channels, you can optimize your wireless coverage and capacity.
4. Configure your network for reliable connections. Even small businesses should make sure their wireless network is configured for high-density usage. This requires understanding and meeting the bandwidth requirements of each user, assessing the number of channels available on each WAP, and learning about any radio frequency (RF) obstacles in your office. Armed with this data, you can determine the best place to install each WAP. Usually, WAPs are placed about 25 feet apart in a very high-density wireless network. If you have fewer users connecting to your network, you can place the WAPs farther apart, up to 50 feet away.
5. Help users configure their Wi-Fi devices. Your company’s sanctioned laptops and PCs are already configured for your wireless network, but chances are good some of your users don’t know how to ensure their Wi-Fi devices are also properly configured. Consider providing them with information about the best way to configure their devices for your company’s wireless network. For example, encourage users to set their smartphones and tablets to automatically select the correct 802.1x method for securely connecting to a wireless network.
Does your wireless network support a variety of personal Wi-Fi devices?