It always depends on installation typ and customer.
AP on a Stick, Simulation, Post Survey?
We do AP on a Stick surveys for warehouse customers. They would have this. For VoIP installations or buildings under construction we to simulations and try to do survey a sample area.
For all installations we do a post survey. This is very important for all:
- We as a VAR can check how well we create AP on a Stick or simulations, with out the knowledge how good or bad we work, we can't extend our service.
- The customer, do our VAR a good job? Fit the final environment our requirements? Even if we have no problems, it's possible that the site doesn't fit our requirements.
But it's not just, how does we do our job? We also need to check the cabling guy, are all APs working? What is with the installer, does they mount the APs or antennas the right way? Is it aligned as we request?
Even this depends on the installation. We have some environments, that changes every week and other that doesn't changes for years. There are also environments, where you need to have 100% coverage in emergence cases. Depending on the environment and the customer requirements, we do yearly surveys or just on request if changes occurs.
I'm personal recommend Ekahau. I do some surveys with AirMagent based on customer requirements, but it doesn't have this powerful and easy to use UI. For us as a VAR also the reporting is very important and this is like a dream with Ekahau! If you have questions or feature request, just check out Twitter, works very great. Also the team around Jussi and Mikko is fantastic.
Customer or partner?
I'm thinking, that the most customers that working together with a partner/VAR don't have the knowledge to analyze the network quality. You need a lot of knowledge and understand the physic to plan and design WiFi networks. This knowledge most people can't get, if they working as a network administrator for one company, supporting LAN/WAN/WLAN.
But some customers with bigger WiFi installation train there employee and do it on there own. For this customer and new VAR employees I can recommend the Ekahau training. It's not just about the product, it's also a small part of CWNA. Not a enough for a VAR, but to plan and design WiFi networks.
We utilize Extreme Networks for our predictive surveys. We work with our SE and send them the floor plans and complete a questionnaire they give us. The questionnaire is for them to gather information regarding building material type, min. signal strength you looking for, any large auditorium spaces, etc. They'll lay out the building and map out the APs as part of a first pass. Usually we get on GoTo meeting and make some changes based on best cabling path, AP mounting locations, etc. Once we are satisfied with the AP locations, they'll generate a report which shows the AP locations, channel settings, power settings, etc. It makes things easier for us when we start to deploy them. Once they are all installed and configured, we'll spot check locations to determine if we have adequate coverage.
Here is a thread from a while back about an Extreme Wireless Planner. Not sure if that ever will come to life for the customers, but it would be nice to have a wireless planner that would integrate to OneView Maps.
Motorola used to have a program called LAN Planner. It was by far one of the best utilities out there for doing site surveys and predictives. Wish Extreme would bring it back to life. 3D and all. You can add a great amount of detail. Racks, counters, better walls, shelving... IT was there and very useful and accurate.