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Home Powering up networks: Part 4 of our six-part New Data Center series

Four tips for building better wireless networks

How to improve wireless LAN performance and provide great application experiences

By , Network World
June 18, 2007 12:08 AM ET

Network World - How much performance capability do companies expect when they deploy a wireless network? Chances are, not enough -- especially as wireless becomes a mainstream part of the New Data Center infrastructure.

"It's a misconception -- a very common one -- that wireless LAN performance is always poor," says David Newman, a Network World Test Alliance partner and president of Network Test. "People say, 'It's just wireless; what do you expect?' In fact, wireless LANs can be made to perform quite well, but it does involve thinking some about network design."

Here then, courtesy of Newman and other wireless experts, are four tips for optimizing a wireless network and improving application performance.

Wireless tips

1. Install more access points than you think are needed.

Having more access points improves reliability, throughput and capacity, says Craig Mathias, principal of Farpoint Group. "People try to get as much range as possible out of access points, and that's the wrong thing to do with any radio-based device," he says. "Back when access points cost a couple thousand bucks, it was a good [money-saving] strategy. But now that they're pretty cheap," usually $400 to $600, that strategy no longer is warranted.

Mathias says he favors optimizing for capacity instead of range. That means making sure there are enough access points to handle users' varying needs. Some users just go on the Internet once in a while and check e-mail, while others run more intensive applications and need more capacity, he says. Determining the right number of access points means studying network-management logs to see what types of applications users are accessing, from where and how often. There is no single answer, and even the rules of thumb aren't very good, he says.

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