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AirMagnet Survey Pro: A site survey powerhouse

By , Network World
June 22, 2009 12:01 AM ET

Network World - Vendor: AirMagnet
Product: Survey Professional with Planner Module
Verdict: A hybrid powerhouse

AirMagnet's robust site-survey product, Survey (sometimes in the documentation called Surveyor) offers an optional Planner Module that results in a combined predictive/analytical powerhouse.

Survey is capable of performing both passive (the traditional listen-only, walk-around strategy for evaluating signal strength) and active scans, in the latter case actually associating with access points with a subsequent exchange of data – thus simulating client behavior.

Survey Pro even takes this one step further, by providing an (active) Iperf Survey, using the well-known Iperf benchmarking tool to yield a very robust estimation of performance.

It's possible to merge all results into a comprehensive display of parameters by channel and SSID, down to the level of a single access point, and even in three dimensions. Detailed 802.11n analysis is also included. Unauthorized stations can be detected by Survey, as might be expected given AirMagnet's history as supplier of omnibus WLAN assurance capabilities, along with the evaluation of sensor positioning.

Additional features include integration with AirMagnet's AirWISE knowledge base, voice performance verification, and a very flexible report generator.

And if that weren't enough, integration with AirMagnet's Spectrum analyzer is also included. We found this feature particularly useful in evaluating performance under conditions of real-world interference.

GPS support is included for outdoor surveys, of, for example, campus or metro-area settings, along with integration with Microsoft's MapPoint and Virtual Earth capabilities, and Google Earth as well. Reporting capabilities are excellent, with many options to highlight potential problems detected. There's also a handy calculator for evaluating technical aspects of RF propagation, including link margin, free-space loss and Fresnel zone.

Aimed at professionals, AirMagnet Planner provides a flexible, detailed simulation environment with fine-grained control over key parameters. The tool has the ability to automatically place access points, although manual overrides will prove quite useful in many production environments. Extensive antenna modeling is included, as is a large library of production antennas.

When integrated with Survey or Survey Pro, it's possible to use real-world data to refine the Planner model over time (or, for example, compare pre- and post-installation scans) via a feature called "Diff View", which pinpoints differences between multiple scans or simulations.

Importing and defining structural properties and performance requirements is easy. It's possible to trade off resolution for time-to-solution (increased resolution requires more compute cycles), and to evaluate results by channel or SSID. The manual for both of these products is excellent.

Note that while they're integrated, these two products are priced separately - $3,695 for survey, and $1,000 for the Planner Module, A scaled-down (in terms of features) "Express" version of Survey, which we did not review, is also available for $1,995, and a standalone version of Planner is available for $2,000.

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