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Wireless design considerations for a nine-floor office building

I want to deploy wireless in one of our customer sites using Cisco 350 Series equipment where there is a building consisting of nine floors each with about seven to eight offices. There are about four to five users on each floor, and we plan to use one access point per floor, all connected to a centralized switch. The width between walls is about six inches. Can you help in the deployment of the access points and tell us what some design considerations are? We are also using an NT Server because it offers centralized data storage.
My first concern is where is the coffee maker in relation to all of these offices and floors? Forget about wireless access points, just give me a strong brew in the morning!

Seriously, from the initial look of things you don't seem to have any difficult problems to overcome in deploying...

wireless access points on each floor and planning things so that everyone has sufficient access to your centralized server and resources. Unfortunately, looks are deceiving. A large number of the end users we have talked to who have deployed wireless almost unanimously share the same regret, which is they all should have put more time and effort into site planning and wireless access placement at the very beginning of the project. Now, as a result of poor or insufficient planning, their offices suffer 'dead zones' and areas where low signal strength has ruled out any type of wireless access in those marginal zones.

Out advice is to work with your Cisco representative or systems integrator to map out your office space across all floors and plot the placement of your wireless access points so that you have full or near-full coverage. Bandwidth won't be a problem is you are dealing with only a handful of people on each floor. You should, however, pay careful attention the control and management of these access points and how you will manage and control access from a central point. Cisco and other vendors (Bluesocket, Reefedge, etc.) provide very good control boxes that manage the wireless traffic to and from these access points, with an eye toward security and single-point control. Do try to limit the number of 'boxes' required to set up this managed network, though, since less is definitely more in a small operation.

Cisco is obviously a wise, albeit a little more expensive and proprietary choice in terms of wireless networking equipment. We might question the selection of the 350 Series though, since it is limited to 802.11b technology and cannot be upgraded to faster wireless technologies. We recommend looking at the 1200 Series as an alternative, since it can easily be upgraded to 802.11g, which offers nearly five times the speed of 802.11b and is still compatible with your legacy wireless systems.

This was last published in December 2003

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