Planning WLAN Step 6 - Communicating the Final Plan with Higher Executives and Potential Users

The wireless LAN deployment plan should be carefully documented to present an unbiased solution that provides reasonable benefits over a wired LAN.

It should address all the points discussed here along with any future upgrade options that might benefit wireless LAN deployment and protect the investment on the wireless LAN.

We suggest that you share the planning document with executives and potential users to get their opinion on your wireless LAN deployment plans.

An Example of Wireless LAN Planning: Bonafide Corporation

To understand the planning process better, let's walk through an example of wireless LAN planning at a hypothetical company called Bonafide Corporation. Following are some of our assumptions about the Bonafide Corporation:

  • Bonafide has an office in San Francisco and another office in New York City.
  • Bonafide has 35 employees in the New York office and 25 employees in the San Francisco office.
  • Bonafide has never had a LAN before. This is the first time they are deploying any computer network.
  • Ms. Leah is the IT manager at Bonafide. Ms. Shelly, the CEO of the company, asked her to build a LAN that interconnects the two offices and provides seamless and secure wireless LAN connectivity to the users at both sites.
  • Leah is a computer enthusiast and an early adopter. She was using a wireless LAN at home that she built and is extremely excited to have an opportunity to build a secure wireless LAN at work.
  • We further assume that Leah is a very disciplined individual and she follows the steps defined in here to deploy a wireless LAN. She starts the process by first understanding the technologies involved, then undertaking the planning process.

Step 1: Bonafide Wireless LAN Needs

Leah estimates that the users at the two LANs, San Francisco and New York City, need at least one file server at each site; SF needs one printer, whereas NYC needs two printers; and both sites need Internet access.

She further realizes that she has to provide remote workers the ability to securely connect with the corporate LANs. She decides to use virtual private network (VPN) gateways at each site to provide such connectivity over the Internet. She summarizes the wireless LAN.

Leah figures that she needs to plan for two separate wireless LANs, one for each office, with wired LAN extensions. She plans to attach all stationary devices and computers to the wired LAN, whereas she plans to connect mobile devices with the wireless LANs.

She draws a diagram of the desired LAN as shown in Figure 1.

Overall wireless LAN at Bonafide Corporation.

Step 2: Planning the Rollout

Since there were no networks in existence at either office, Leah decides that the two networks will be rolled out in one stage, but she plans to conduct a pilot to demonstrate the system to her boss and get her approval on the deployment plans.

Step 3: Site Survey

Leah performs a site survey by visiting each office. She carries an AP with her and uses her laptop computer, equipped with a wireless LAN adapter and monitoring software, to figure out the dead spots and the best locations for the APs.

She realizes that the site in New York is organized in work cubicles, whereas the San Francisco site has individual offices. She estimates that she would need fewer APs in the New York office than in the San Francisco office.

She draws a site map and specifically marks the locations where she wants to install the APs and asks the facilities' coordinators to get approval from their building management.

She notices that the New York office is situated in a high−rise building and needs a high level of security, whereas the office in San Francisco is situated in a Victorian house that would require less security. She is happy to use WEP encryption.

Step 4: Setting Up Requirements and Expectations

Leah had a small budget to establish the corporate LAN. She decides to establish minimum requirements and expectations for her LAN and communicates these with her boss to ensure that there are not many negative surprises when actual deployment takes place.

The following were her minimum requirements and expectations:

  • The proposed LAN will not be a complete wireless solution. It will be a hybrid LAN consisting of both wired and wireless LAN−based technologies.
  • Only those users who have mobile needs and require relatively lower network bandwidth will be provided with wireless LAN technology. Users with fixed workstations or devices would be supplied with wired LAN connectivity solutions.
  • Minimum desired speed for wireless LANs is 11 Mbps.
  • There might be areas in both LANs where wireless LAN signals will be weak and the network will not perform at its best.
  • Wireless LAN technologies are still evolving, and the initially deployed LANs might need to be upgraded in coming years to provide higher bandwidth and speed.

Step 5: Estimating the Required LAN Hardware and Software

After the site survey and setting up minimum requirements, Leah estimates the equipment she will need to construct the corporate LAN. She estimates the required LAN hardware and software using the knowledge she gained about the two sites during the site survey and user−profiling.

Step 6: Evaluating the Feasibility of Wireless LANs and Estimating Return on Investment (ROI)

Leah knows that although she thinks that wireless LANs are the ideal solution for her organization, she still needs to convince the decision−makers with a solid understanding of the feasibility of using wireless LANs and related return on investment.

Leah assesses that the following demonstrates the feasibility of using wireless LANs at Bonafide Corporation:

  • Enhanced mobility.

Most of the LAN users are mobile professionals and commute between offices and client sites. Those who do not commute between various Bonafide facilities and client sites often need to take their mobile computing units (laptops and PDAs) to meeting rooms where they require LAN connectivity.

With wired LANs, providing access to mobile professionals could be quite difficult, especially in conference rooms where wired connections might not be aesthetically appealing.

  • Ease of deployment and management.

Wireless LANs are far easier to deploy and manage. Leah thinks that the entire deployment process will take less than one−fourth of the time that it will take to deploy a wired LAN.

To upgrade the LAN, Leah's assessment is that only a change of APs and network cards will be required. No more pulling all the network cable and reinstalling it again.

Leah is comfortable with the ROI that using wireless LAN will provide. Here are some of the ROI elements she considered. (We avoid considering monetary values as they depend on labor cost and current prices of networking equipment.)

  • Fewer cables involved.

Networking cables are often one of the costliest items in building a wired LAN. Since her plan includes limited wired LANs, Leah does not have to account for the cost of wires and labor for running the wire throughout the Bonafide offices. Leah considers this a big win for her ROI assessment.

  • Enhanced productivity.

Leah is confident that ease of wireless LAN usage and increased mobility of staff will greatly enhance productivity.

Staff would be able to share their ideas, salespeople would be able to perform live demonstrations of products, and engineers would be able to brainstorm in larger groups in offices and in conference rooms.

Leah thinks that this enhanced productivity will indirectly affect the revenue generation process at Bonafide Corporation.

Step 7: Communicating the Wireless LAN Deployment Plan with Executives

Upon completion of the planning stages, Leah writes a comprehensive document detailing the outcomes of her research, the requirements she sees, and the estimated equipment that she will need to build a secure wireless LAN for Bonafide Corporation.

Because such documents differ in each deployment scenario and organization, we leave this exercise up to you. However, we do encourage you to include all the information you gathered during planning.