WIFI Access Points
Infrastructure – Part 5 of 7
What is a Wireless Access Point?
Wireless Access Points (WAP’s) are, indeed, part of your network infrastructure. These devices allow your wireless devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, etc.) to connect to the physically wired / cabled portion of your I.T. network infrastructure. WiFi access points are the bridge between your wireless network devices and your wired network devices. They can be configured to allow guest access (restricting access to your network devices) and full access. Our discussion in this article will focus on WIFI network speed, radio frequency, security, and range of signal strength.
WIFI Network Speed
When it comes to the speed of a particular WIFI access point, there are no guarantees. In fact, speeds are often referred to as “capabilities” or “maximum theoretical”. Here’s how the capabilities are broken down…
speeds up to 11Mbps
speeds up to 54Mbps
speeds up to 54Mbps
speeds up to 300Mbps
speeds up to 1000Mbps
In reality, the actual WIFI speed you experience will rarely perform at peak levels unless the environment is optimized for the specific WIFI equipment being used. It’s pretty typical that the realized speeds are approximately 50% of the boasted speeds for each technology. This is because there are many factors, typically outside your control, that can influence the performance of your wireless access point. These range from physical obstructions, distance between devices, multiple devices fighting for the same signal, complicated encryption settings, and radio frequency interference. Physical placement of your WIFI access point equipment is important in obtaining the highest speed and performance.
For a free software tool that can help you identify the best placement of your WIFI equipment, check out Ekahau HeatMapper.
Wireless Radio Frequency
Wireless Access Points typically transmit on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz radio frequencies. One is not necessarily better than the other. When deciding which radio frequency you should use, it’s important to choose the one with the least potential for interference. This factor varies at each environment. Some very common equipment (microwaves, cordless phones, televisions, etc.) can cause excessive interference and can degrade your WIFI performance. It’s important to perform a thorough assessment of the environment before deciding on wireless network equipment type and placement. We always perform a Wireless Site Survey whenever we install a new WIFI access point.
Wireless network security can be a very complicated subject. I’m going to try to break it down as simply as possible here. Let’s summarize the different levels of security:
Absolutely no security. Don’t EVER leave your WIFI network unsecured. Seriously! Your network could be used by literally anyone to perform illegal activities.
Very easily hacked. There are two versions of this security type (WEP 64 & WEP 128) and both of them are very dangerous and insecure.
Currently the most secure option available. This is the ONLY recommended wireless security option. Although, it should be noted that choosing the wrong encryption settings when configuring equipment with WPA2 can detrimentally affect the speed of your network. Whenever possible, choose “WPA2 (AES)” for your WIFI security.
Wireless Signal Strength / Range
In general, a typical WIFI network has a range of approximately 150-200 feet. Obviously, many factors can affect the distance over which you can expect to keep a healthy wireless connection. Physical obstructions, such as appliances, brick walls, steel beams, and metal doors and construction materials, have a dramatic impact on WIFI network range. To maximize range, place the access point up high in your building and make sure to research the specific device to determine the best positioning of the antennas.
There are many good ways to boost the signal strength of a WIFI network over longer distances. For some good ideas on boosting your WIFI signal strength, check out the article on PCMag.com – “10 Ways to Boost Your Wireless Signal”. They have posted some really great advice.
Proper planning and application is always a critical component of maintaining healthy communications in any network infrastructure. Fortunately, our team of experts and engineers at TechWorks is very qualified to assist when it comes to selecting and positioning the right equipment for your wireless network infrastructure.