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How Long Does a Wireless Survey Last?

Wi-Fi site surveys are crucial to understanding the WLAN environment, but the results can be misunderstood and typically have a short shelf-life. Continuous wireless network monitoring provides constant visibility.

Key takeaways:

  • Wireless site surveys show environmental conditions at one point in time.
  • They have a short shelf-life because things can change fast, and the assessment depends on the tools being used in the survey and the person doing it.
  • Up-to-date assessments require continuous digital experience monitoring, and 7SIGNAL provides a wireless network monitoring solution with detailed, 24/7 WLAN and device performance visibility.

A site survey is fundamental to understanding a WLAN environment. But while many people in the world of Wi-Fi appreciate their importance, some may not realize that these assessments aren't necessarily valid for very long.

The site survey still has plenty of value despite its short shelf-life. These overviews provide a baseline and essential insights during the design and implementation phase of a WLAN. For example, beyond assessing where APs are located, a survey delves into what kind of settings they have and whether they’re optimized, including power settings, channel settings, thresholds, and more. 

Here is an overview of why site surveys have a short shelf-life, what they provide and don’t, and how to get continuous, ongoing visibility that enables consistent WLAN performance.

What is a wireless site survey?

Unlike other types of surveys that are durable, a wireless site survey is a recording of specific conditions right then. A land survey, for example, doesn’t see a lot of changes over the years in borders and other markers that make up the results. 

Wireless site surveys are not predictive or design-oriented; rather, they’re assessments of real, live environments. They are required when you may be doing something like:

  • Supporting new environments
  • Pre-install AP-on-a-stick site surveys
  • Verifying the WLAN design after installations and upgrades
  • Troubleshooting while incorporating survey techniques
  • Conducting WLAN maintenance assessments
  • Baselining

A Wi-Fi heatmap, a visual representation of the network’s coverage, signal strength, channel plan, interference, and requirements compliance, is typically something a site survey produces.

Why do site surveys have a short shelf-life?

A survey may be valid for six months, a year, a week, or just a day. That’s because live environments are highly variable, and things can change quickly. For example, a site survey of a virtually empty stadium one day and one of a packed stadium the next will provide completely different heatmaps. 

Thus, users need to ask these questions:

  • What were the conditions when the survey was done? 
  • What are they now?
  • How has the building or environment changed?
  • How have client devices changed? 
  • How has the survey tool/operator changed?

What a wireless survey provides

A wireless survey reveals the following at a single point in time:

  • Validates that the design meets specific criteria
  • Provides a configuration summary
  • Includes a summary of signals present
  • Outlines caveats and historical notes
  • Delivers heatmaps and lists that summarize the results
  • Shows the infrastructure side of the RF environment 

For continuous visibility, organizations need wireless network monitoring (WNM) tools 

In the real world, environments change. Furnishings and walls are different. There are new client devices. New systems are installed, neighbors change up their WLANs, and new interference sources come into play. 

This is where wireless network monitoring becomes immensely valuable. Site surveys can provide a baseline during WLAN design and implementation, but maintaining performance requires continuous monitoring. Many organizations use 7SIGNAL’s platform for this ongoing visibility, enabling them to validate and troubleshoot WLAN performance until it needs a redesign (and a new site survey) again. And when that happens, our tools complement site surveys and other assessments to help ensure a successful project.

7SIGNAL specializes in monitoring Wi-Fi from the end-user’s perspective, an outside-in approach that continuously examines data produced by an individual user’s machine, not just the wireless infrastructure they’re accessing. 

Our Mobile Eye® is the first and only Wi-Fi performance agent installed on the mobile devices used by both remote and onsite workforces. Our Sapphire Eye® software and sensors measure a wide range of crucial metrics that identify configuration, coverage, and congestion problems and more. 7SIGNAL's platform also enables rapid troubleshooting during WLAN deployments and AP refreshes to validate the design, ensure a smooth project, and quantify the real ROI of the infrastructure investment. 

Contact us to learn more about our solutions.

7SIGNAL® is the leader in wireless experience monitoring, providing insight into wireless networks and control over Wi-Fi performance so businesses and organizations can thrive. Our cloud-based wireless network monitoring platform continually tests and measures Wi-Fi performance at the edges of the network, enabling fast solutions to digital experience issues and stronger connections for mission-critical users, devices, and applications. Learn more at www.7signal.com.