How to Choose the Best APs Wireless Access Points for Your Business?
In the world of wireless networking, a wireless access point (WAP) is considered the “brain” of a network. Wireless access points come in all shapes and sizes. But they all serve one purpose: to provide a connection between a wireless router and the Internet or other Ethernet-ready device.
The decision to buy one is easy, but choosing which one to buy can be difficult. There are many factors to consider beyond just how much it costs to purchase a wireless access point:
Choose secure wireless access points
If security is vital in your business, choose a WAP with authentication and encryption features. These can include:
802.1x authentication. This standard lets the access point verify that users have the correct credentials before allowing them to connect.
WEP and WPA/WPA2 encryption. Both of these standards encrypt data sent over the network, so it’s protected from eavesdropping during transmission. However, WEP encryption has been found vulnerable to attacks and should no longer be considered secure. If possible, stick with WPA2 encryption, which uses TKIP instead of the older RC4 cipher and AES-CCMP for encrypting unicast packets between AP and clients.
Another factor to consider is whether or not you want your business to have access to high-speed Internet via Wi-Fi. If so, then you’ll need an access point with Multi-User Multiple In Multiple Out (MU-MIMO) technology. This technology can efficiently handle the large amounts of data transmitted by multiple users at once.
MU-MIMO technology is essential for businesses with multiple devices accessing the network simultaneously. This technology can help devices communicate with the wireless access point at full speed without waiting their turn. Likewise, devices that do not support MU-MIMO will still be served by the router because they fall back to standard 1×1 transmission.
Operating temperature requirements
If you are using your wireless access point in a high-temperature environment, make sure it’s rated for that temperature range. Otherwise, you might be left with a router that doesn’t work as expected or even fried hardware if it reaches its designated temperature range.
If you have indoor-only access points with an operating temperature range of 0 to 45 degrees Celsius, you’re going to have problems if you install them outdoors.
More antennas mean more speed but might also mean more interference
If you’re trying to get a strong signal throughout your building, experts recommend using multiple antennas. But the more antennas you use, the greater potential for interference from surrounding networks.
A single AP can provide coverage for up to several thousand square feet, depending on the layout of the space and any obstacles within it. To get the idea of how much coverage an AP will provide, calculate how many square feet are in your office or home and divide that figure by 1,000 to determine how many access points you’ll need.
For example, if your building measures 6,000 square feet, you’d want at least six access points (6,000 / 1,000 = 6). That’s a good number to start with; if you find that some areas don’t have enough coverage, you can add more APs until everything is covered.
The risk of interference from other Wi-Fi signals that share the spectrum is greater in densely populated areas. An access point that transmits at 2.4 GHz has a more extended range than one that uses 5 GHz because more devices can be connected to the 2.4 GHz frequency, but the 5 GHz frequency doesn’t experience as much interference from other devices sharing the band.
Maximum throughput or coverage area per access point
The maximum throughput is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) and is the speed at which data can be transferred over an 802.11n network connection between devices like smartphones, laptops, and printers. The maximum coverage area per access point is measured in square feet and determines how many devices can be connected at once.
For example, if you have a small business with only a few employees that require reliable Internet connections on the go, then a single 802.11n access point with a maximum throughput of 150 Mbps would likely suffice.
Evaluate Your Network Requirements
Evaluate the network needs of employees and other devices you wish to connect. Consider how many users will be on the network at one time and whether any applications will require high bandwidth or a reliable connection.
Suppose you’ll be streaming video, voice over IP (VoIP) phone calls, or hosting video conferences. In that case, your network needs are likely to be more demanding than those of a small home office that uses email and essential productivity software.
Understand your device limitations
To maximize the return on its investment, a business should select a wireless access point (AP) with features that meet its present needs and scale as its network evolves. Companies should also be aware of future limitations of their APs to prevent future issues with their networks.
The device limitations of your access point will dictate the type of equipment you can use with it. For example, if you use a 2.4 GHz access point, you can connect only 802.11b or 802.11g products to it, while a 5 GHz access point will support 802.11a and 802.11n devices as well as 802.11g devices.
Count the number of walls the signal must pass through in a worst-case scenario
Many access points have several radios; some can cover up to 2,000 feet indoors. Find out how many access points are needed to cover the required space and whether additional antennas should be purchased for each AP (or upgrade to models with external antennas).
The number of walls the signal must pass through in a worst-case scenario also must be considered; generally speaking, passing through four walls causes 10 percent signal loss, and passing through five walls causes 15 percent loss.
Antenna types determine how the signal is dispersed from the access point and are essential when selecting an AP with range extension in mind. Dipole antennas spread horizontally, while sector antennas spread horizontally and vertically.
Yagi antennas are directional antennas that focus their signals straight ahead at distances up to three times their height. Omni-directional antennas radiate signals in all directions equally well with no focusing capability.
Wi-Fi standards indicate which networking protocols the AP supports and what speeds are supported by those protocols; for example, 802.11a is faster than 802.11b but slower than 802.11g.
Type of information transmitted.
Wireless access points transmit information over short distances. These devices are used to connect computers and peripheral devices to the Internet. Examples of applications include distributing data to remote locations and providing Internet access at public sites such as hotels and restaurants. Some wireless access points are designed to accommodate heavy network traffic, while others are designed to secure confidential data transmission.
Price of the device
The device’s price can be a big factor in determining which device to purchase. If you are on a budget, you may want to find an affordable wireless access point with all the features and specifications you need. However, if you have no budget constraints, you might be able to spend more money on a wireless access point with additional features and capabilities.
Ability to upgrade
Many users buy a wireless access point because they need it to meet their current needs, but they will eventually need additional capabilities and features in the future as they expand their business or add new employees. If this is the case with your business, then it is essential to consider how easily you can upgrade your wireless access point when your needs change in the future.
While most access points can easily be installed by those with basic computer knowledge, some might require professional installation depending on the type of router you purchase. If you are unsure whether or not professional installation is necessary, you may want to contact the manufacturer before buying a router to determine if it is needed.
If a professional installation is required, make sure to factor in any associated costs into your budget before purchasing.
Takeaway: There are many factors to consider when buying a wireless access point.
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