In today's hyper-connected world, wireless networks have become the foundation for communication, enabling seamless connectivity across various devices and locations. Regardless of business size or industry, designing and implementing a wireless network requires careful planning to ensure optimal performance and scalability. The purpose of this blog is to highlight key considerations for wireless network design and architecture, while focusing on performance and scalability.
Understand the Environment
The first step in designing a wireless network is to understand the environment in which it will be deployed, regardless of if it is a new network or a network upgrade. Factors such as the size of the area, building materials, obstructions, safety codes and potential sources of interference play a crucial role in network performance and scalability. The best way to gather data and understand your environment is through a site survey. Conducting a thorough site survey allows you to identify dead spots, areas with weak signal strength, and sources of interference. This information and data ultimately set the stage for the final network design, and successful deployment.
Capacity and Coverage Requirements
Determining the required coverage area and capacity is paramount for designing a wireless network that meets performance expectations. Coverage planning refers to where wireless access points need to be placed throughout a space to ensure seamless connectivity. Capacity planning is focused on estimating the quantity of users (and future users), usage patterns, and total bandwidth requirements. Capacity and coverage go hand-in-hand when it comes to the performance of your wireless network. Your capacity requirements help you determine the number of access points and their placement to ensure your network can support your needs.
Wireless Standards and Technology
Wi-Fi standards like 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6) offer higher data rates, improved capacity, and better spectral efficiency compared to older standards. When designing a new network or upgrading your existing network, it is important to take the latest industry standards into account as the latest technologies will help you achieve optimal performance. Additionally, emerging technologies such as beamforming, MU-MIMO (Multi-User, Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output), and OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiple Access) can enhance network performance and support higher user densities. Implementing the latest technology and wireless standards will not only help you achieve the results you are looking for today, but also aid you in easier and more cost-effective upgrades in the future.
Network security is critical with designing wireless networks. Including robust security measures like strong encryption, authentication protocols, and intrusion detection ensures the protection of sensitive data and prevents unauthorized access. Network segmentation and VLANs (Virtual Local Area Networks) can help isolate different user groups and enhance security by limiting access to specific resources. Every business has unique security needs and depending on the industry, specific standards to follow (looking at you finance and healthcare). When you are considering a new network design, or working with an IT infrastructure provider, make sure you mention any specific network security standards that need to be followed by your industry.
Quality of Service (QoS)
We use our wireless networks for a multitude of operational tasks including voice, video, and data, but not all those tasks carry the same priority level. For example, your printer may not be as high of a priority as your video conference capability. Implementing Quality of Service (QoS) mechanisms ensures that critical applications receive the necessary bandwidth and prioritize latency-sensitive traffic. QoS tools such as traffic prioritization, traffic shaping, and bandwidth reservation can optimize network performance and enhance the user experience. Consider creating a list of the top wireless uses for your business so that you can configure your wireless network in a way that supports your users.
One thing that almost all businesses have in common is the desire to grow. Designing a wireless network with scalability in mind is vital to accommodate future growth and technological upgrades. Anticipating increased user demand, increased devices, and emerging applications can help prevent the need for significant network overhauls in the future. Modular architectures, where individual components can be added or upgraded without disrupting the entire network, are most efficient way to prevent costly future redesigns. Scalability can also be enhanced with centralized management systems that streamline network administration and provide scalability features.
Network Optimization and Monitoring
Once the wireless network is installed, ongoing monitoring and optimization are required for maintaining performance, identifying threats, and managing upgrades or emerging technology. Network monitoring tools provide visibility into network performance which allows IT teams to proactively address network security threats, connectivity problems, or performance issues. Regular performance assessments, firmware updates, and periodic site surveys can further optimize network performance and ensure long-term scalability. While you are designing your network and planning the deployment, it is easy to push off post-deployment network management. However, we recommend you have a plan in place for network monitoring from the start as technology continues to evolve more rapidly each year.
Designing a network with performance and future growth in mind may seem daunting, but with a robust plan and prioritization list in place it can be quite simple. Working with an IT infrastructure expert, like Matrix-NDI, can ensure that your wireless network project is done correctly the first time. We will work with you to customize a solution that fits you, not only today, but for years to come.
If you have any questions about network design and architecture, reach out to us at 763-475-5500 or ContactUs@matrix-ndi.com. We have a Professional Design Services team complete with RCDDs to help you.