Three Types of Wifi Site Surveys

a man doing wifi site survey in building construction

Before starting a business or beginning to operate in a new building, you need to know how your wireless network is going to function. Even if you already have a network up and running, you may need to troubleshoot issues from time to time or simply get an idea of how the network is performing as a whole. This is where wireless site surveys come in, and they can help you plan and maintain a healthy wireless network. Wireless performance can change from even the simplest of things such as moving a desk or changing the layout of a room, so it’s important to look at the big picture when planning and troubleshooting a wireless network.  

There are three main types of wifi site surveys: predictive wifi site surveys, passive wifi site surveys, and active wifi site surveys. A site survey helps ensure that your wifi network will work optimally and perform well. 

Learn more about each type here along with how you can use a wifi site survey to ensure a well-functioning network. 

When to Conduct a Wifi Site Survey

Surveys should be done from the very beginning planning stages, and they should also be done regularly as part of routine wifi maintenance. It’s also important to conduct a wifi site survey if you’re adding new computers or any equipment that will use your wireless network. The survey will help you examine what equipment you’re adding, what signal strength the equipment requires, and what the signal strength is where you’re going to put the equipment. If there is a disconnect between the equipment and the signal strength, you’ll need to change your plans or add additional access points.  

Predictive Wifi Site Survey 

A predictive wifi site survey is the type of wifi survey you do before moving into a new space or before adding a wireless network. You can even complete a predictive survey before your building is done being constructed. When designing a wireless network, you need to take the type of building and layout into account, and a predictive survey helps you do this.  

This type of survey looks at the radiofrequency environment to help you figure out how many access points you’ll need and where to put them. The goal of a predictive survey is to map out the system that will provide the best performance for your business and its needs. 

When conducting a predictive survey, the surveying software will use tools to anticipate how wireless signals will function in your space. It uses floor plans and the planned wireless standard to come up with a prediction. A predictive survey does not need to be conducted on-site, which is why it’s ideal for a building that isn’t even built yet. It’s great for the planning stages, and it’s especially ideal for moving into a new space. 

Keep in mind that a predictive survey works well to help you get an idea of what equipment you might need and how much your network might cost, but it doesn’t provide a concrete plan. Think of a predictive survey as a loose estimate that can help you budget and plan. 

predictive wifi site survey

Passive Wifi Site Survey 

A passive wifi site survey is a bit more accurate and involved than a predictive survey. It involves a physical survey of the building, so this type of survey needs to be on site. The surveyor will conduct a walk-through of your property. This will help make sure you account for all variables that could affect the function of the wifi network such as the physical space and the location of any furniture. 

Passive surveys use a surveying tool that isn’t connected to the wifi network. However, it does listen to the wifi environment to get a sense of how the network might function. The tool can learn about signal strength, interference, and noise. 

Typically, you’ll do a passive wifi site survey once your site is built and your wireless network is installed. It provides important information about the environment and the wireless signals. This type of survey can also be done after your site is built but before your network is up and running. If you conduct a passive survey before your wifi network is up and running, it might give you a better idea of the costs to expect, than what you’d get from a predictive survey. 

Wifi Installation by technician

Active Wifi Site Survey 

An active wifi site survey uses surveying tools that are connected to access points, and it’s conducted on your network. These tools can gather a lot of information including traffic, round-trip-time (RTT), upload speeds, download speeds, and throughput. It’s a good idea to conduct periodic active surveys across all of your properties, and it’s particularly important if there have been any changes to the building, the furniture, or the way the wifi network is used. Don’t underestimate the way the interior layout of your building can affect your network. 

An active wifi site survey needs to be done once your wireless network is up and running on your property. Often with this type of survey, you may be troubleshooting or looking to examine the function of a specific signal. You can also use it to look at the overall performance of your wireless network and to see how the network is really functioning.

For the best results, an active wifi site survey needs to be done during normal business hours so you can actually get an accurate picture of how the network is functioning. If you try to conduct the survey after hours, your network will be functioning differently, and the results won’t actually show what’s going on with your network when it really matters.  

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