The range of wireless adapters is limited. And even if you are in range of your access point, the speed of your connection might drop a lot. The location of your wireless access point plays a big part in the connection quality. If you want to optimize the wireless coverage in your office, you need to find the best location. Finding the best place for the wireless access point is a hard job, though, because the only way to discover it is by trial and error.
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EkahauHeatMapper is a tool which supports you in finding the best place for your access point. It creates a wireless coverage maps for every wireless network available at your office. With this wireless coverage maps, it is easy to figure out where to place the access point for optimal coverage.
To create wireless coverage maps, you have to download the software and install it on a laptop with a wireless card. After starting the application, you are asked if you have an image of the floor plan of your office. This is recommended because without one you need a very good sense of orientation – I’ll explain later why. If you have chosen one of the options, you will see a list of available access points on the left side, the floor plan in the middle, and on the right side you can find a help text.
Now the fun part begins: Locate yourself on the floor plan, and left click on the location in the virtual floor plan. Now start walking through the office, and after one or two steps mark your current location again. With every click, the program measures the signal strength of the wireless networks. After you have covered all of your office space, just right click and the application displays the wireless coverage maps over the floor plan. Now it is easy to figure out where in the building the best location for your access point is. Here is an image of what the heat maps looks like:
If you don’t have a floor plan it gets a little tricky. You have to do the same as before: Walk around your office and take some measure points. But without the floor plan it is pretty hard to click on the right location, and as a result the wireless coverage map will be inaccurate. Here is an image of how it looks without a floor plan:
Besides the heat mapping function, the tool also offers a few more features, like detecting open wireless networks. But the wireless coverage mapping feature is really the one that makes the application worth installing.
All in all, the EkahauHeatMapper is a great tool if you want to increase the wireless coverage in your office. For optimal results, you need a laptop and a floor plan of your office, and a few minutes to walk around and measure the signal strength. But even without the floor plan, you get a nice overview of the general wireless coverage in your office, and thus an idea where the best place for your access point would be.