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Selecting and configuring access points



There are different types of access points and different types of antennas that can connect with the access points for different type of coverage and features. Beside the types, there are other vendors with other solutions. So, in short, it is very important to make the correct decision for vendor and type.

The first step is to determine the location of the access points. When it is indoor and protected from weather or other dusty areas, an indoor access point should be selected. However, if it is indoor in some dusty areas or outdoor with rain, snow and other weather-exposed areas, an outdoor access point is the best selection. Outdoor access points have more costly materials so the access point is more ruggedized.

When this decision is made, the second question is, are we going to use internal or external antennas? For indoor most of internal omnidirectional antennas are good enough; however, there are situations in which a directional antenna would be a better pick. Omnidirectional antennas should be, best practice, mounted horizontally at the ceiling. In places where you cannot mount on the ceiling, but on the wall, brackets or directional antennas can be a better choice. Other situations, where directional antennas might be the best option, are aiming into an aisle in warehouses or in high-density rooms where you need multiple access points for capacity. Outdoor locations most of the time need high-gain omnidirectional antennas or directional antennas with rugged enclosures.

Other options that you need to take in to consideration are the features like how many antennas for SISO or MIMO or Maximal Ratio Combining (MRC) and Transmit Beamforming (TxBF).

When the right access point is selected, then the power source needs to be chosen. You can use Power over Ethernet (PoE) powered access point, Those access points receive their power through the same Ethernet cable as the data. There are two types of PoE, 802.3af and 802.3at. 802.3af provide 15.4 watts at the power source and around 12.95 at the power device. 802.3at provides 30 watts at the power source and around 25.5 watts at the power device. Before deploying access points, the power budget at the switch needs to be enough. When the power budget at a switch is only 300 watts, 10 ports of the 24-port switch can provide PoE. So, when designing for PoE you need to know how many devices need PoE per switch and see if the switch can provide enough power. The second way to provide power is with a power injector.

When you have selected the access point and the way to provide power to the access point, you need to install them. Are you going to enable SNMP? Consider what kind of firmware will be used, and create a baseline for all the access points.

With all this said, it still can be mounted wrong and affect the signal of the access point in a negative way. There is a blog on the internet, Bad-Fi, that shows funny placement of access points, such as access points mounted in metal cases, duct taped to the ceiling or wall, or in plastic bags for protecting from rain and snow. It is very important that the access point is mounted correctly and the vendor documentation should explain the appropriate mounting position.

Configuring
There are different types of configurations of access points. Autonomous access points need to be configured manually. When the access points are connected to a wireless LAN controller, the access points get all the settings from the controller.

With a controller, you do the entire configuration on the controller and you assign the configuration or profile to the access point based on the MAC address. The access point is connected on the LAN and finds the controller through configuration, DHCP, DNS, or broadcast.

Cloud-based access points are working almost the same as a controller. Instead, the access point now uses the internet to contact the controller/management tool for the configuration.

With autonomous access points, you need to do it individually or there are vendors that have a WNMS solution. This is not a controller, but it takes out some of the manual configuration.