Updated: Apr 29
Supply chain issues might stop you dead in your tracks, whether you're looking to upgrade your wireless infrastructure, build or expand a WLAN, or dust off the corporate Wi-Fi network as employees return to the office.
The networking industry currently suffers from massive supply disruptions, so it is hard to get your hands on hardware, and you might have to pay more when you do. It should be noted each vendor is impacted differently, and some have more resiliency in supply than others. Some of our vendors can fulfill orders in a reasonable amount of time, while some have lead times greater than nine months.
Irrespective of complex supply chain issues, these delays may impact your customer's experience. Meanwhile, an aging or outdated network may be placing additional risks on your bottom line. Application performance and productivity are 100% associated with the quality of connectivity.
Not to pour salt in your wounds, but these supply issues will have lasting impacts for the foreseeable short term – which, by the way, is defined as the next six to twenty-four months!
The day-to-day challenges are complex enough. You shouldn't have to deal with the uncertainty of the supply chain, so before you say "screw this!" and run out the door to join the Great Resignation, we have a few ideas that might alleviate some stress and mitigate the WLAN from disrupting business operations.
Squeeze more life out of your WLAN with a site survey & remediation plan
A site survey will provide valuable information to improve the performance of the Wi-Fi network. But don't stop there, do the necessary work to remediate the network. If your staff is wasting precious time troubleshooting dead spots, roaming, and connectivity issues, your network needs to be remediated.
It's essential to use enterprise-class measurement tools and software specifically for WLAN design. Accuracy matters, and if you "cheap out," you will be left with a false sense of security, and the network won't perform its best. Consider bringing in a professional who can quickly synthesize the information and get your network working better than ever.
Cost: low to moderate – variable factors at play. The value and business impact a reliable, high-performing network bring to the enterprise far outweighs the cost of hiring a wireless expert to survey and provide a remediation plan. Expect additional cost for cabling if relocating access points is necessary.
Perform regular tune-ups for preventative care and performance
Enterprise WLANs are not plug-and-play, set-and-forget infrastructure. Your business is dynamic, and so is the network. Be sure to survey and optimize at least quarterly, if not monthly, to account for changes over time.
Adding new employees or devices and onboarding bandwidth-hungry applications can make your network behave differently over time. Changes to physical environments like new floor plans, shifting inventory levels, or equipment moves on a manufacturing floor can create interference and alter signal attenuation, impacting how devices connect.
It's estimated that 75% of enterprise networks need troubleshooting, so it's best to do regular tune-ups regardless of supply issues. Three primary areas of concern are:
AP placement - Location, orientation, antenna patterns
Channelization - channel, transmit power, and width
Interference - both internal and non-Wi-Fi
Cost: Low to moderate. As mentioned above, accuracy and proper tools matter. Consider purchasing enterprise quality measurement tools such as Ekahau Connect with a Sidekick and training staff on how to use them, or outsource to a WLAN expert to provide onsite services.
If you are really in a bind and money is not an option
Consider purchasing new but "older" access points. The adoption of next-generation Wi-Fi 6 access points is well underway. However, many vendors don't have an inventory of Wi-Fi 6 APs in stock.
That may sound extreme, but we have recently provided the following solution to a company. The company took over a building expecting to reutilize the existing wireless network equipment, only to find the network was in complete disarray. They wanted to stay with the incumbent equipment provider, but hardware delivery dates were more than nine months, which forced their hand to purchase down-level access points.
Fortunately for them, the new remote workforce model allowed fewer network clients and reduced traffic load. They were able to make do with a down rev solution for now.
Cost: High. Without having the option to wait for supply to stabilize vs. bringing a business to its knees, this is an extreme option. We hope you do not have to deploy. If you do, as with any network deployment, do an onsite survey and RF analysis to ensure the design provides the most efficient and reliable network possible.
Performing a tune-up on your existing wireless network in the current hardware restrained environment might make sense. Who knows, you may be able to squeeze more out of what you already have.
These options can help you survive the next 6-24 months of volatility while raw materials, staffing, logistics, and freight get under control and supply stabilizes. If you have questions about how to implement or would like some help with this process, call us at 925-831-4740 or drop a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.