Technology Blog

Survey Says.....

Community Manager
Community Manager


A site survey is a really important task to perform. The evidence of this may not be quickly felt. Down the road when you encounter a problem you have the survey to fall back on. Sure there are several reasons for the wireless not to work. I have personally asked a customer about the coverage and whether or not a survey was performed. Most likely then not the answer was no. As luck would have it the problem turned out to be a gap in coverage. This was a shiny new network that added an AP every other classroom and resulted in unforeseen gaps. Had they had a site survey performed they could have remedied this to start with.




 We all know that the biggest reasons to forego the survey can be money reasons or time constraints. Whatever the reason, sometimes it just doesn’t get accomplished. I believe network planning is a must and part of planning is the survey. Some networks may operate fine, with very little planning based on the premise of scattering out random AP at intervals but most will not. I think the best foundation for a network is a complete survey suite consisting of predictive , active, and followed up with a validation (passive) survey. If you had to pick 1 and only 1 form of survey I would say the validation would be the next best alternative to the full survey. The validation will locate the trouble areas before the day of the rollout and allow you to remediate the gaps in coverage.




When you get ready to perform a survey you should take everything you might possibly need. (This was beaten in my head from the start.) You should plan for a worst case scenario for your equipment. You could have batteries die, bricked laptop, you may need to capture some packets or do some spectrum analysis. Unless the survey is next door to your home or office it will probably be inconvenient to make another trip to see what the microwave will do to the network.


 ap pole.jpgsurvey toolbox.jpg




Another important part of the survey will be spectrum analysis. Spectrum analysis is not a site survey, but it should be used in tandem with the active survey to determine problematic areas of interference. One large source of interference can be the break room. Most likely the break room will have a microwave oven in it which plays havoc with 802.11 transmissions as the microwave is not polite to the rf spectrum. All sources of interference should be documented with the findings from the spectrum analysis.


2.4 802.11 g dsss hot.PNG


Networks are used for many different applications, and your survey should reflect the needs of the network. If a network is destined to be used for VO-WiFi then you should incorporate an active call into your survey and record information on the call quality. 


What process do you use in site surveys? What gear do you take? What are your favorite tools? 




If a site survey is done properly the wirless network should not bother, but if it not do it properly prepare to take alot of support calls, which cannot be fixed until you do it the right way...


The only bad thing of doing a proper site survey is that it will make your design a way more expensive than the competition sometimes and you can technicallly tell that client that  your design is right and the best one, but then the budgets come in and you are not picked because it was too expensive hah...

The funny part is that the provider and the design that they picked becasue its was cheaper didnt work but they stick with your competition, because they already expend X amount of money and buying a new WLAN brand and new design is a way to expensive...


Jeezes... does this happened to you guys anytime? because that happened to me a lot :)




Community Manager

Yes and its hard to convince someone not in the industry just how important they really are.


They think, Hey your a pro you should know how to spread these AP out so I get proper coverage.


Yes it is Jamie...

I need to improve my skiis to convince these type of audience...  Its really hard...

But i have to say that there are some people which are not on the IT industry that you can explain them, why, and they do understand.   I rarely see them.

Super Contributor I


While we have performed site surveys on our campus, and continue to perform spot surveys

when we have the resources or especially where we suspect trouble, it is very time consuming and

examining results has made me rather skeptical that even industry-leading tools in this area

are as accurate or useful as they claim to be.


The cost and accuracy of site surveys could be significantly improved were they throughly integrated

with an accurate (non-802.11, non-GPS) location system.  Improvements could be as simple as

using consumer MEMs sensors to adjust for antenna orientation on the client device, or as complex

as setting up beacons, with the primary goal being to eliminate the need for humans to input

position information into the system as they walk the floor or position test systems, which is

a primary source of error and delay during the process.


New Contributor

I spend a lot of time convincing people to do as many and hopefully all the surveys. They often roll their eyes and says the wifi works just fine. Then I relent and lower my price and walk faster.


Question: What tripod are you using in the photo of your kit above? I have the long arm but getting tired of peeling gaffing tape off the chairs or hand truck I attach it to. 



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