Five Tips to Help Your SMB Switch to 802.11n Wi-Fi

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Eight Tips for Deploying Wi-Fi at Work

Consider these tips before deploying Wi-Fi in your business.

The IEEE 802.11n Wi-Fi wireless standard works in both 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands, and promises transmissions in excess of 300Mbps with the use of multiple antennas. Though it has been around since 2009, only recently was there a surge in companies using it.


To help SMBs get the hang of the more complex 802.11n protocol, network monitoring and troubleshooting specialist WildPackets, Inc. kindly sent along some advice to exploit its enhanced capabilities. The tips are produced verbatim below, and I've added my thoughts about the use of 802.11 towards the end of this blog.


Understand the full capabilities of 802.11n.


Achieving the maximum capabilities of 11n requires combining multiple, complicated new technologies. It's imperative to understand each technology, its overall contribution to your WLAN performance and any downsides to employing the technology.


Understand how 802.11n will affect your existing WLAN (Greenfield or Mixed).


Some of the new 11n technologies do not necessarily play well with existing WLANs, especially in the 2.4 GHz range. You may need to avoid certain technologies, thereby lowering your overall maximum performance improvements.


Remember your wireless clients.


Upgrades are often thought of in terms of infrastructure equipment, but client upgrades are equally important if users are going to experience the full potential of an 11n upgrade.


Design, deploy and verify.


Given the complexity of 11n technology, it's more important than ever to start with a clear design, preferably one generated and analyzed in advance with modeling software, followed by real-world testing of the design before rolling it out to users.


Upgrade your WLAN management and troubleshooting capabilities.


The increased performance of 11n hardware puts much greater demands on your WLAN monitoring and troubleshooting solutions, as does the increased complexity of capturing MIMO traffic using 2 or 3 unique data streams. It's time to make sure your WLAN monitoring and troubleshooting solutions are up to the task.


It should be obvious that properly deployed, the use of 802.11n allows small and mid-sized businesses or small offices/home offices to build a high-speed wireless network adequate for most business environments.


Raw throughput aside, the ability of 802.11n to operate on the 5GHz band is possibly its greatest assert. For one, the greater number of non-overlapping channels allows for greater number of access points (APs) to be deployed to support a higher device density. This is even discounting the benefits of leaving the far more cluttered 2.4GHz band, which is used by the far more common 802.11b and 802.11g devices, as well as interference from other wireless devices. Obviously, client devices must be capable of supporting 802.11n in order to properly leverage it. However, given that most Wi-Fi devices entering the market today will likely support 802.11n, it shouldn't be much of a concern with new laptops.


For now, SMBs or SOHOs thinking of deploying Wi-Fi may want to read my interview earlier this year with Dirk Gates, CEO of Xirrus on the state of Wi-Fi in business. I've also covered how businesses can make the most of Wi-Fi and some common Wi-Fi misconceptions. Finally, larger businesses can also learn about how they can manage multiple Wi-Fi APs.