On the Air
When it comes to laying out access points, you’ll find properties galore to play with. Immediately after adding an access point, the Properties dialog springs to life, and here you give your access point its name, IP address, MAC address, antenna type, model, channel, height, transmission power in mW and more. If you have antennas with patterns that don’t appear on the list, that’s no problem, as you can quickly define the antenna pattern and create a custom antenna. The custom antenna property dialog will ask you for the antenna type (a, b/g, a/b/g), the ring count, the ring point for the centre and its dB reading, and the dB interval between each ring. You can work in either the azimuth or the elevation plane.
Once the physical elements have been placed and configured to your satisfaction and you’ve dealt similarly with the access point placement, just click on the Refresh button and the display will change to show you the wireless coverage for that area. If your specifications have been accurate, the wireless map you’re now looking at will be equally accurate. On the right-hand side of the screen, under the toolbar for the items you’ve been placing on the map, is a colour bar labelled from 0 to -100. This represents signal strength in dBm, and you can drag a slider up and down to preview the effect on the coverage of increasing or reducing the strength of the wireless signal. This is an essential service that enables you to see, for example, whether dead spots suddenly appear if you go from, say, -100 to -60. That’s something you’d want to do to determine whether your coverage is good enough to support voice as well as data (and you’d definitely want to try a drop to -80 to check for data capability anyway). The map updates immediately as you move the slider, and it’s easy to see whether any holes appear in the coverage.
As well as being able to see your coverage in the Planner, you can get a report based on your plan. Clicking on the Planner button and then selecting the Planner Report item produces a report whose components include the following items:
Planner Signal Coverage: effectively, this is what you see when you refresh the Planner page after applying all the items and adding the access points. The colour-coded map provides a fast view of wireless coverage throughout the area in question.
Planner Access Point Location Map: not surprisingly, this is a map showing the location of access points. It’s in the form of a grid that overlays the site map you supplied. Access points are displayed as numbers within circles on the grid.
Planner Access Point List: a list of the access points, complete with all the information you might want to have at your fingertips, including Name, Location (as per the grid, in a number/letter format), MAC address, SSID, Height, Angle, Power, Antenna and Channel.
Enterprise or not?
Here’s an interesting question for you – what makes a piece of software worthy of the title “Enterprise Quality”? It’s a moniker that’s bandied around all the time in certain sectors of the market, and almost anything can be made to appear to be “Enterprise” if the vendor is desperate enough. I ask the question because recently I was visited by a software company that has a pretty decent piece of software soon to be released: I’m still not entirely convinced that it’s exactly the right product for the job, but there’s little doubt that it’s a fairly robust piece of technology. But does that make it Enterprise Quality? Certainly not.