Adding or expanding a Wifi network is a great step for any business, as the importance of Internet connectivity continues to increase in the commercial landscape. If this is something you and your business are considering, you might be wondering what Wifi installation really entails.
The main Wifi installation steps are these: nailing down a budget and a time frame; planning and testing the best locations for Wifi access points; installing and conjuring a router to connect the local area network to the wide are Internet network; and finally troubleshooting the system to make sure that all components are working together.
Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps so that you can get an idea of what Wifi installation steps look like:
1. Determine your budget and time frame
Here are the two questions to ask at the outset of any Wifi network installation project:
What can I afford to spend on equipment and manpower?
How soon do I need a functional Wifi network?
If you’re unsure about either of these questions at the outset of the project, costs and delays can get rapidly out of hand. Clearly define a (reasonable) budget and a solid timeframe to lay the groundwork for a Wifi network that meets your needs.
If you’re unsure what amount of money constitutes a reasonable budget for tech-related projects like Wifi networks, consult a few different installers in your area to get ballpark numbers. Be aware, however, that estimates based on over-the-phone information are usually inaccurate, whereas in-person site surveys–like the ones we offer at Network Installers–are 90% accurate to the ultimate cost.
2. Plan out your access points
Wifi networks are somewhat different from wired networks in that instead of using a single data port for each device, they use radio waves to cover a larger area.
For practical installations, that means that a Wifi access point is more of an access zone: the space or spaces throughout which devices can link up with a Wifi network.
Take stock of your workspace and determine what areas must have Wifi access (offices, lobbies, conference rooms), which ones don’t (parking garages), and which ones it would be nice to have (break rooms, storage areas, outdoors, etc.).
Then, identify high points in these areas to mount Wifi access points. Keep in mind that these points should be fairly easily reachable for maintenance purposes. They will also need to connect to Ethernet cable on the backside, in order to be connected to your ISP switch which provides internet access. For runs of over 100 meters, the cable will need to be fiber optic.
Another consideration is power supply, but in most cases, power-over-Ethernet (POE) cable is a convenient and appropriate choice.
For many offices, the best place to install Wifi access points is inside the drop-down ceiling, which is easy to access, install, and maintain, and is also out of sight of the general population.
Radio frequency (RF) site surveys are essential pre-installation tests for these access points, since they identify potential areas of interference from obstacles, equipment, and other radio waves.
3. Install and configure router
In addition to the placement of access points, a major Wifi installation step is the installation and configuration of the router.
A Wifi router is a device that connects your network, established through Ethernet cable and access points in your property, to the network of the Internet. Powering up and configuring your router will almost immediately put your WiFi network in place. Here’s how it works:
The router is first plugged into an electrical socket for power. Then it is connected to the Internet Wide Area Network with a WAN cable.
A laptop is connected to the router with an ethernet cable. This becomes the control unit to configure the router, either through a web browser or with proprietary software from the manufacturer.
During the configuration process, the user (or admin) will choose a name for the Wifi network, as well as a password. For more secure passwords, choose a mixture of lower case, upper case, and numbers or special characters.
To test the connection, the user can use another laptop or smartphone and see if they will join the Wifi network. The admin will obtain an IP address for each connected device, often automatically by DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol).
Once you have your Wifi network up, take some extra time to really get it running.
Troubleshooting will make sure the Wifi installation steps have created a network that functions properly in all respects. In Wifi installation, troubleshooting addresses things like:
- Dead zones (where there is no signal)
- Devices that won’t connect
- Dropped or interrupted signal
- Radio wave interference
- Power supply issues
Experienced installers will know what to look for when it comes to bumps in the Wifi installation road, and they’ll know how to address these problems. This may mean adding repeaters or boosters to the system in order to increase the range of the router’s signal, or it might mean repositioning the router or its antennas.
In any case, testing your Wifi network after activation is an important step in Wifi installation.