You Can’t Always Follow WLAN Best Practices

I remember back in the day, going to Cisco wireless school and then doing CWNA and CWSP, memorizing every best practice I could find. I was determined that, by golly, my wireless networks were going to be excellent because I would not compromise and do things less than perfect. When I trained staff on doing wireless in the early days, that same message of rigid compliance with best practices was a central theme.

And then somewhere along the line, reality set in.

I soon learned that interior designers that have been “highly empowered” may not give a rip about proper AP placement, and when they say “I don’t want to see ugly antennas” they mean it. And despite being pretty outspoken myself, you learn which arguments you can’t win in these situations.

Then there’s the specific client device that comes along and needs a legacy data rate re-enabled because of who it belongs to and the politics behind it.  Yes indeed- technical wisdom may well be sacrificed for politics in certain scenarios. Put another way: even when your personal standards of craftsmanship are high, sometimes you still find yourself “livin’ in the world”, and the examples in my mind are many after years and years of doing wireless.

I’m thrilled to be part of today’s vibrant, dynamic WLAN Designers/Admin community. From email lists to vendor support communities to social media, there are many ways for those of us who choose to engage to connect and share knowledge with our peers. Nobody knows it all, but collectively there is a staggering amount of experienced wisdom to tap into. Much of that wisdom gets dispensed in narrative that references wireless best practices, and Wi-Fi is sufficiently complex that the drum can’t be beat too often or too loud when it comes to “doing it right”.

But what happens when you can’t follow best practices?

Just as important to knowing and heeding design and installation best practices is developing the talent to know how to make the best of sub-optimal situations when they present themselves. There is a lot of talent afoot out there in this regard, too, but it can be harder to find publicly discussed.  This is no doubt in part because each deviation from a best practice likely has it’s own local circumstance behind it, but also probably has an element of hesitation on the part of wireless perfectionists to concede that occasionally they have to do something they’d rather not to make a given job successful. When you have an opportunity to swap stories on less-than-perfect wireless situations, there tends to be tremendous value in finding out how others overcame challenges that required best practices to be sacrificed.

In no way do I advocate that cutting corners is OK, or that crappy wireless work is acceptable. But as much as I relish the excellent banter that tends to flow among wireless professionals, I do get a bit weary of hearing things like “you should have done this” and “never do that” fired off a little too quickly by others that have never quite lived in the reality where the variance from the norm was required. But, such is the nature of communications between people who are passionate about what they do, and I don’t know of a more passionate group than those in the Wi-Fi world I am privileged to interact with.

I’m as firm in my commitment to doing it “by the book” as anyone, but also sympathize with those who sometimes have to sacrifice the higher end of the Wi-Fi performance curve to accommodate some organizational, technical, regulatory, or political whimsy.  Our reality is that the client device space is so fragmented that we are in the hole to begin with at times, and though everybody wants Wi-Fi they don’t always understand the realities of installing it and might inadvertantly derail a good install simply because they have the authority to do so. With this in mind, I recorded a quick podcast on the topic.


What do you think? Have you ever had to drift out of the Best Practice lane when designing or installing wireless?


4 thoughts on “You Can’t Always Follow WLAN Best Practices

  1. Nolan H.

    Every-time I read any of your posts, i feel like I was the one that wrote it. Keep up the good work !

  2. Jason Grant

    Nice blog Nolan! As a wireless guy on the sales side I’ve found a number of my customers depend on defaults and then complain about dropped connections and lousy roaming. I think there’s a happy medium between best-practices and solid RF design.
    Want a story? I’ve had more than a few customers say that after just a year of deployment they want to kick out our stuff in favor of some competing solution. My response: How about we check out your config and make a few changes (normally from defaults) that follow best-practices. Makes a HUGE difference.

  3. askbow

    Oh, I know the pain of dealing with Interior Designers. They often come to the project from the client’s side, have almost twice the influence in the project as everybody else combined and more often that not, have little to no clue in any technology which has to be implemented. It’s like the famous anecdote of seven red lines, two of which should be green…


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