How to Perform an AP on a Stick Survey
Many thanks to the team at Ekahau for this post
The life cycle of a wireless network is the process of designing, validating, managing and troubleshooting that network. Whether upgrading an existing wireless network or designing a greenfield network, you have to account for capacity requirements or potential interference in the environment. Before you deploy your new or upgraded network infrastructure, you need to ensure you have real-world data to provide insight and insurance for your wireless project.
What is an AP on a Stick survey?
An AP on a Stick (APoS) survey is a method of temporarily staging APs at deployment height utilizing a tripod or other mounting options in order to validate your predictive design before a full site deployment. APoS surveys identify the RF signal propagation characteristics of the environment while providing additional confidence your proposed design will work as planned, reducing the need for costly AP location changes, and validating you have the correct number of APs in your design.
Is an AP on a Stick survey necessary?
With the advancements in predictive Wi-Fi design, network experts are often asked whether or not an APoS is still necessary. One rule of thumb for design validation is to perform a survey if the expected cost of installation exceeds the cost of the actual AP. Between dealing with potential asbestos testing, hard deck ceilings, temporary network outages for impacted areas, union labor, cost of running cable, cost of additional switches, etc., an APoS survey can prevent additional installation costs and provide insurance for business-critical Wi-Fi designs.
3 Key Goals of Performing an AP on a Sitck Survey
1. Validate Your Environment
While most greenfield projects have up-to-date CAD files, not all network changes will be that lucky. As companies change buildings and upgrade or expand office sites, site drawings don’t always contain a history of modifications made to the facility throughout the years or communicated to the wireless team. An undocumented atrium, old x-ray room or storage closet with dense files and metal shelving can negatively impact Wi-Fi if not accounted for. An AP on a Stick survey ensures you the opportunity to get eyes on the project, collect data and validate the environment is what you predicted. You should also take the time to fire up your spectrum analyzer and look at neighboring networks to look for interference.
2. Validate AP and Antenna (if applicable) Performance
Network design is an art form. There is no one single way to build a great network, but all good networks have one thing in common—validating the AP and antenna performance. When you are deploying a network, you count on the antenna patterns and signal coverage performing as predicted. Performing an AP on a stick survey validates your design by answering the following questions:
Does the RF propagate as anticipated?
Does the antenna pattern match what you have in your design?
Do you have the signal coverage you anticipated?
If the answer is no, make sure you have recorded the data so you can go back to your design to make the necessary adjustments.
3. Mitigate Risk
One of the most critical components of network planning—and the costliest if done incorrectly—is determining the number of APs you need and where to put them. Incorrect placement or an incorrect number (too many APs or too few), can create major problems for your network, such as coverage gaps, channel interference or roaming issues. This can result in costly future network outages, downtime and a loss of productivity. Performing an AP on a Stick survey gives you the assurance that your design will perform as predicted. The empirical data collected during testing allows you to either sign off on the project as designed or make alterations before racking up unnecessary overages.
Equipment Needed to Perform an AP on a Stick Site Survey
The equipment needed for an AP on a Stick survey can vary by installation (example: a tripod may not provide enough vertical reach for a warehouse with 40+ foot ceilings), but the following list should give you an idea of the type of equipment needed.
For a breakdown of how to perform an AP on a Stick survey, check out our knowledge base article on how to perform an APoS survey.
AP model that was chosen for project (2+ preferred for more efficient surveying)
External antenna used in your design (if applicable)
Tripod or other telescoping stand to stage AP
External battery pack
Pro and Survey apps
6 Tips for Performing an AP on a Stick Survey
1. Plan for 1-Hour / AP
APoS work can be cumbersome, expect to spend at least one-hour minimum for surveying each AP location. Having the right tools, like Ekahau Connect, will provide accurate data and help speed up your survey.
2. Get a Second Pair of Hands
A second person can significantly increase speed and efficiency. Have one person stage the next AP while a second surveys the active AP.
3. Use External Battery Packs
Using an external battery to power your APs can save you countless time. Make sure to charge the battery pack to ensure the AP is adequately powered during your survey.
4. Take Safety Seriously
Add some small cones, visibility tape, or small flashing LED lights to surround your staged AP. The added visibility will ensure both you and your equipment are safe during your survey.
5. Verify the Signal Before your Freeze
While surveying one location and freezing the AP, verify the performance is what you predicted before moving on to the next AP location.
6. Consider Industry-Specific Needs
Every vertical is different and has different needs. Here are a few best practices for different verticals when performing an AP on a Stick Survey:
Industrial, Manufacturing and Warehouse Environments
These types of environments present very unique challenges. Not only are there safety considerations (forklifts and large aisles of shelving), but also ceiling heights and mounting options that may go beyond a typical tripod APoS. It’s critical to get the AP in the appropriate placement so that you can ensure RF reaches where the devices are being utilized. In addition, understanding the inventory the warehouse is stocking (if applicable), and what quantity or level of inventory the warehouse is stocking can significantly impact RF attenuation and design considerations.
Enterprise and Office Environments
Enterprise and office environments have some compounding complexities due to BYOD requirements, security, open collaboration spaces, and aesthetic requirements. In addition, interferers such as wireless cameras, cordless phones, or other wireless devices can wreak havoc on your network. AP on a Sick Surveys allow you to identify potential interferers of your network.
The term “mission-critical” takes on a whole new meaning when dealing with life-critical mobile devices. Healthcare is a dynamic environment so understanding your network requirements is critical when designing your network. Validating your network can require a ticket to be submitted to ensure no plenum space is broken, so make sure you have coordinated with facilities and security for access to locations to perform your survey.
Large Public Venues (LPV)
Temporary high capacity is critical in many Large Public Venues, resulting in a challenge to validating your predictive survey. In order to gain real-time insight into your network performance, you can survey during live events or hire a pool of extras to assist in your survey during the venue’s downtime.
Municipalities and government facilities present their own challenges. Oftentimes the challenge is trying to create a “standard” network for a variety of environments. In addition, historical buildings present unique challenges. Lead windows, renovated wings, and the challenge of not being able to alter aesthetics in historical buildings can require significant design adaptation. Sometimes APoS in historical buildings is to determine onsite where the AP can be placed.
In Higher Education and K-12, not only do you have multiple environments, but you will also have to design for high capacity requirements for multiple devices per student. From lecture halls to student centers and outdoor common areas, additional aesthetic requirements are a significant component in designing networks for education.
AP on a stick surveys will help you validate your predictive design. Whether you take the time to survey and validate the design before you implement, or you rely on the real-world devices to validate the design after you have deployed the infrastructure, one way or another it’s going to be tested. Make sure you document everything. Documentation will be your friend whether reporting to your own CIO or CEO, or to a customer to help them understand the performance of your predictive design. Your biggest priority, and the key reason for performing an APoS, is to validate that your design will perform as predicted.
Do you do AP-on-a-Stick Surveys?
Then you need our WLAN Survey Kit!