Conducting a wireless site survey is the final step of a carefully planned journey. Before rushing to the facility to be surveyed with your laptop and some access points (APs), however, you must collect information about the purpose of the required wireless coverage. This chapter helps you prepare for this site survey by listing the pieces of information that you need to collect before meeting your customer and planning the survey itself.
Identify Customer Requirements
One of the most obvious tasks of the site survey preparation is to consider the customer requirements. By conducting a site survey today, you may have to deploy a new network or perhaps update an existing network (built in the days where “basic coverage” was the only target) to 802.11n/efficiency standards (providing high throughput/low latency) with smaller and faster cells.
Collect Information About the Customer and the Deployment
Even before the first formal meeting, collect information about your customer (through informal discussions with your contacts or research on the Internet, for example): Try to get an idea of your customer line of business and the products and services offered. This can help you anticipate customer needs. Ask whether the project is to deploy a new network, extend an existing network, or modify an existing WLAN to offer more services. You also need to know whether the deployment is intended for indoors or outdoors.
For outdoor deployments, will it be a campus outside of already covered buildings, an open space in the middle of nowhere or an urban environment? Will there be moving objects (vehicles of any type)? Is there power everywhere? Are there switches less than 328 feet (100 m) away from any point where an AP is needed?
For indoor environments, is it a warehouse, an industrial environment, an office building, a store? What kinds of goods are stored or manufactured? Are there moving objects? Is the layout fixed or changing often? What is the ceiling height? Where are the switches and sources of power?
You also want to know the scale of the deployment: one small store or many campuses across different countries? You also need to have an idea of the timeline. Your effort (personnel and equipment involved) will not be the same if the survey or the deployment can be rolled over several months, or if several locations must be covered within an amount of time that involves many surveyors and survey kits deployed simultaneously. This constraint also affects the cost. A tight budget limits the possibilities in terms of survey type, timeline, methodology, and in terms of the wireless solution (AP type and density) that you can offer.
You also need to know who the users will be (staff or paying customers) and what they intend to do with the wireless solution (access the Internet, download large files, extend the VoIP network, and so on).
You also need to know who is involved in the wireless project on the customer side. Four types of stakeholders are usually involved:
- Project initiator: The person (or group) who initiated the idea that wireless coverage was needed. They may have a deciding power, or not.
- Sponsor: The person (or group) who will approve the project (cost and timeline). You might not meet the sponsor directly, so you have to know who that person is and understand the criteria by which a positive or negative decision will be made.
- IT team: Their wireless knowledge can be anything from “experts too busy to run the survey themselves” to “have no knowledge, and they know it.” In any case, their voice will be heard by their management, so you need to work closely with them. They may also provide information you need that the other stakeholders might not be aware of.
- Influencers: They are people not directly involved in the project but whose voice is heard or who may impact your project. They can range from hidden decision makers influencing the sponsor choices to people whose agenda may affect the wireless project (because the wireless project contradicts their other projects, or because they intend to use the wireless network in a way that was not communicated to you).
Trying to understand who the stakeholders are and how the decision process works in your customer company will help you anticipate changes in the scope of the project.
Document the information you collect. You can also build a pre-survey questionnaire. You will find many examples of documents on the Internet, and you can create your own. It should list all the questions you need answered to understand the scope of the survey, including the following:
- General information about the deployment from the questions listed previously
- Intended applications and client devices
- Details about the structure of the facility to cover
- Information about the current network infrastructure
This questionnaire is important because it is used to build the statement of work (SoW), which is a legal contract between you and your customer, describing exactly the scope of your mission. A precise SoW, built on documented information about the project, helps you define the boundaries of your mission. It prevents conflicts if the customer wants to include in the mission aspects that you think are not part of the contract. Changes to the SoW are possible, of course, but they also usually mean a change in the cost of the mission. Clear SoWs avoid misunderstandings on both sides.