July 2019: Road Trip Summer, WiFi and camera system install, event wireless, troubleshooting and designing networks

At the end of June and into July, we helped a winery in NJ fix some major performance problems with their Ubiquiti network. This included replacing a PtP wireless link between buildings, sorting our channel management issues, and implementing a guest portal.

We started the month with a road trip. When finished in September, we will have toured 26 states (give or take), 11,000 miles, crossing every time zone. Started the tour with 4 projects. Picked up three more along the way.

First major project is in Naples Florida. Installed a WiFi and camera system consisting of 16 Ubiquiti cameras (indoors and out), 19 Ubiquiti wireless access points. Plus three switches (1 MDF and 2 IDFs), Meraki security appliance, and building custom mounts for the APs. Install was a success and now we are in maintenance and support mode for the next few years.

Left Naples and headed across the south to Phoenix AZ where we conducted a WiFi site survey in a hospital. Finished that work up as we drove to Mattawa WA next.

In Mattawa we visited Nighthawk Networks, a wireless internet service provider (WISP) we manage remotely. Visited the tower sites, helped with some difficult alignments, and made some configuration changes. Great to finally meet the crew on the ground and see the area. We have been working remotely for 2 years.

While traveling, we also remotely resolved some performance issues for two residential installs of Ubiquiti networks.

Our next destination was Gerlach NV, home of Burning Man. We spent 7 weeks there working with a great team of network experts building and maintaining the wireless network that supports the event. Everything is wireless. It takes an 11-mile wireless link to get Internet to the desert. It takes a network of radios on site to distribute the service. This is our second year working with them.

On the way back from the desert, we worked on a wireless network troubleshooting project for a client in Boston. We found the issues they were having with outside and inside interference and presented them with a mitigation plan.

Finally back in our area on September 21… what a magnificent road trip seeing the country.

June 2019: WiFi install, training, camera system install

We started the month off with some training on a variety of wireless topics. Had a few discussions with peers along the way on best practices. Did some maintenance on our office network and deployed some new cameras to test out.

After all that, we dove into a wiring project that had us deploying an Aruba WiFi network we designed. Seven access points and all new Ethernet drops.

We ended the month with a deployment of a wireless camera system in a church. Will be proposing a new WiFi system and expansion of the camera system.

Quiet month on the surface, but also spent a good deal of time preparing for our July through September road trip. We also added a job trailer to our business this month. Will work on outfitting it while on the long road trip and into the fall.

May 2019: WiFi install, surveys, troubleshooting, designs

Busy month spent all over the East Coast. First up was a WiFI install in a small medical practice. Old system was failing (consumer grade and all end of life). Replaced with a simple Ubiquiti solution.

Next up was a WiFi site survey in a hospital in our backyard. Single floor under construction. Designed for Bluetooth support. Cisco solution.

The we ran up to Boston to troubleshoot a WiFi network in an office that was experiencing high levels of dropouts. Ruckus system that was end of life. Lots of interference in the area, some of it self-inflicted by the Ruckus controller (it was not handling auto channel settings very well). Out of 9 access points, 4 were on channel 5. After the survey we proposed some mitigations to buy them time until they could replace the system. We also provided a technically sound Meraki design for a new system.

From there we ran down to Rhode Island to do some work on a long-term project for a resort hotel. Located potential mounting locations for the over 200 access points we designed (Meraki). Scoped out the outdoor locations in more detail and built out a bill of materials to support those installs. This project will take from now until sometime early next spring as we work around their busy season.

Next we drove down to Naples Florida to do a WiFi design in a warehouse for a moving and storage company. Over 44,000 square feet. Designed a Meraki and Ubiquiti option. Client is going with the Ubiquiti option most likely. Full network design, access points, and security cameras.

While driving down to Naples, we also helped a client in England resolve some of their performance issues with their WiFi network. Nothing like holding a remote access session across the pond via cell phone while zinging down I-95 in rural Florida (I was not driving when I did this!).

In between the projects we attended a number of webinars and presentations on new technology. We spent some time upgrading our core network and working with new technology that is coming out soon. Spending some time writing up articles on wireless technology and performance tuning in my spare time.

WiFi giving you fits? Users complaining of being “dropped”?

Do you suffer “drops” and “disconnects” when using your corporate WiFi network? Access to the Internet is slow and eventually you get the dreaded error that indicates you could not reach the webpage or you have no Internet. 

If so, there are a number of things that can cause it, to include channel interference, poor signal strength, and too many users on one access point. The only real way to figure it out for sure is to conduct a professional WiFi Site Survey that reads not just signal strength, but looks at other factors such as spectrum usage, channel overlap, noise, and actual device placement. With this information in hand, a good wireless engineer can fix your issues. 

Wireless networks are different than a traditional wired network. They require constant care and feeding! They are not “set it and forget it”. The wireless environment is constantly changing. Some of the biggest polluters of the WiFi spectrum are the ISPs that are pushing open hotspots on every install they do (even if you don’t ask for it). They love to set the WiFi router they give you to an 80MHz channel (chewing up 4 usable 20MHz channels). If two wireless access points can “see” each other and are using the same channel, you will likely have interference causing these “drops”. Imagine how many companies are using the same 80MHz channels in one office building with many tenants!

Recently we were engaged by a client that had numerous user complaints. Typical complaint was “slow internet” that would eventually stop altogether. The users were trying to stream videos mostly and would experience high rates of buffering that eventually would disconnect. Reboots seemed to resolve it but it would return again eventually. The client was in a large office building with roughly 10 other companies, all with WiFi networks. The clients network was end of life product. About 25,000 square feet of open space and offices. After we completed our survey we discovered half of their APs were on the same channel and all within visual range of each other (despite their controller using auto channel). Their neighboring systems were all set to 40 and 80MHz channels and the same ones as theirs. Power on all APs was turned up. Our final report indicated which channels they should use and on which access points. We also suggested a “good neighbor” policy whereby their IT staff would reach out to the IT staff of the other building tenants and work together to reduce channel congestion. The result… no more dropped connections. While there, we also found a point-to-point 5GHz radio on the roof above their office that was chewing up 80MHz of spectrum to transmit small amounts of data about the building systems to another building nearby. That was also addressed.

We use professional grade tools that allow us to gather data on your network as well as those around you. All you need to provide is a decent copy of your floor plans (to scale). If you don’t have floor plans, we can work with you to create a basic floor plan we can use. A typical office that is up to about 25,000 square feet takes 5-7 hours to walk thoroughly. After we gather the data, we will take a few hours to analyze it and produce a report with options on how to fix your issues.

Call 717-817-2503 to discuss your needs or email alex.wilson@collabsion.com to set up a time to call.

#wifi #wifisurvey #ekahau #wireless

April 2019: Wireless Network Design, Predictive WiFi Design, WISP Design and WISP Support

Early in the month we designed a wireless network to WiFi and cameras into four parks in a small city. The design calls for a short point-to-point link form City Hall to a nearby radio tower. The radio tower has 2 sector antennas aimed across the city to cover the parks. At each park we will mount a radio, switch, WiFi access point, and security cameras. This is being designed as a managed wireless network solution based on Ubiquity AirMax, EdgeMax, UniFi, and UniFi Video. Digital Ocean is hosting our UNMS management server. Install to begin May.

Completed a predictive WiFi network design for a cold storage warehouse of over 200,000 square feet. Design based on architectural drawings and interviews with the various contractors to understand the various systems and construction methods used. Designed network based on using Meraki access points and switches. Temperatures in the facility are -20 degrees Fahrenheit so all switches in IDFs had to be placed in heated cabinets.

Started work on designing a new WISP on a remote island. Preliminary design awaiting approval and funding to go forward with a full design and rollout to serve over 600 homes and over 200 businesses in a very tourist heavy area. Current Internet service on the island is about 2Mbps down on a good day. Our design will ensure everyone can get at least 25Mbps down, with options for 50 and 100Mbps for high need customers. The design includes a short fiber buildout to reach the NOC, multiple towers, point-to-point and multipoint links, managed WiFi for internet customers, outdoor municipal WiFi in the business district with security cameras. Based on Ubiquiti AirMax, EdgeMax, UniFi, and UniFi Video with management services hosted on Digital Ocean.

We did some support for the WISP we manage, Nighthawk Networks. Designed two new tower sites and acquired the equipment for them. Created a few new links for camera systems deployed. Planning on migrating the main tower to a new site in May.

March 2019: WiFi Site Survey and Phone System Wiring

We designed a WiFi and camera system for a community center using Ubiquiti UniFi and UniFi Video. Includes switches and routers.

Later in the month we assisted one of our managed WiFi customers with sorting out problems with their phones. The phone system wiring was the source of the problem. The lines were installed in the early 1990’s and had not been maintained. The phone demarcation point looked like a bomb had gone off inside of it.

We ran all new phone lines throughout the building through multiple floors, high ceilings, and tough architecture. The building was over 250 years old. We installed proper punch downs and outlets.

February 2019: WiFi Survey and Wireless Network Surveys

Conducted a WiFi site survey in a large ocean side luxury resort. Needed to design flawless WiFi to support a Vocera system as well as large gatherings. Completed design called for 200 Meraki access points inside and outside. Installing the new network starting later this spring.

We worked with a hospital this month designing a wireless replacement for their expensive MPLS network. We conducted a thorough site survey of their facilities. Our design called for a three site microwave ring. At each of the three hub sites, there would be a sector array on the building connecting to several offices to the network. Total of 10 remote sites and 3 hubs.

Our design was based on using Ubiquiti AirFiber, AirMax, EdgeMax, and for remote management, UniFi and UniFi Video.

The last part of the month we trekked up into the mountains of North East Pennsylvania, known as the Pocono Mountains. We were going there to design a wireless network to bring a large summer camp Internet service from 5 miles away and then distribute it around the camp.

Our design called for a 60-80ft tower at each end of the link in order to clear the foliage on the 5 mile link. At the ISP side of the link, we had to use a wireless relay link to reach the fiber connection. On the camp side of the network we had to distribute the service throughout the camp using a point-to-point and multipoint system to reach each area of camp. From there we would deploy a WiFi network throughout the building. This network linked 20 buildings.

The design was based on Ubiquiti AirMax, EdgeMax, UniFi, UniFi Video, and Rohn Towers. The plan is to implement this design in the next year.

January 2019: WiFi Site Surveys

One hospital in Atlanta… tough design. Needed to support Bluetooth and every room had concrete walls all around and metal doors everywhere. Cisco will love this purchase!

After Atlanta we headed north to Massachusetts to work with another team doing a WiFi site survey in another manufacturing plant. Surveyed warehouse space, outdoors, offices, and production areas. Spent time duck walking an entire area so we could survey the “mezzanine” that was full of very hot pipes full of steam and water. Had fun doing the outdoor work including surveying around their “tank farm” with over 40,000 gallons of iso-pentane. The smoking lamp was out. Had to be very careful our equipment did not ignite any floating fumes. When we finished we had walked an average of 8 miles per day for 10 days and had surveyed 600,000 square ft indoors and another 400,000 outdoors.

To end the month, we headed south to Jacksonville FL. We were there to survey an aircraft maintenance, repair, and operations facility. Four buildings at over 1,000,000 square ft under roof and over 500,000 square ft outdoors on the ramps. We did some interesting modeling of how WiFi does in an airplane fuselage. We tested two versions of a Boeing 757. One set up for cargo and one for passengers. We needed to design a system that would project the WiFi network into the plane while it was in the hanger or on the ramp. No wires allowed.

Our design uses Ubiquiti AirMax technology to bridge the network out to a WiFi access point (Cisco or Ubiquiti) inside the plane. We surveyed hangers, warehouses, paint booths, office space, and the ramps.

December 2018: WiFi Site Survey

Ended the year with a long WiFi site survey at a manufacturing facility for pharmaceuticals. Over 650,000 square feet indoors and over 400,000 square feet outdoors. Full AP on a Stick in manufacturing areas, warehouse, special labs, clean areas, and office space.

Designed for a Cisco solution that would support their barcoding system as well as routine network access.

November 2018: Recruiting, Wireless Network Install

Worked on recruiting for two clients this month. A new client, a well-established WISP that was growing and needed a number job descriptions and job postings written, along with interview questions to evaluate skills. Then began actively recruiting for their positions.

Designed a wireless bridge system for the a regional office for the PA Game Commission. Used Ubiquiti AirMax devices to bridge three buildings together.