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How do you mitigate wireless interference sources in an enterprise network?

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Q:

How do you mitigate wireless interference sources in an enterprise network?

A:

It's a common problem – networks get a lot of pressure from the flood of wireless data that's floating around in any given local area. From cellular towers to local area networks, Bluetooth connections and other Wi-Fi systems, interference can lead to latency, slow exchange rates, dropped connections and more.

One way that companies try to mitigate wireless interference involves access points. Companies may change or remove access points, or add spectrum analysis tools into them, to try to figure out whether excessive signal noise is becoming a problem. The access points themselves may be fitted with different types of antennas, which may make some difference in signal noise.

Companies can also lower the physical data rate of an access point, although that can leave packets floating around longer, and may not improve performance. They can also reduce transmit power for an access point.

Another type of mitigation involves channel changing, where local access network operators move a particular Wi-Fi transfer to a channel with less evident traffic. However, experts explain that a limited number of non-interfering channels weakens the efficacy of this strategy in preserving good network performance. Channel changing can also cause a bigger maintenance and administrative burden on the network itself.

Some companies try to opt for stronger signals to avoid degrading Wi-Fi networks through signal interference. Other companies may move to a wired backhaul infrastructure – by building in a wired network, they can take some of the most vulnerable workloads out of wireless channels that are not allowing the most efficient and effective transfer. Some companies also make use of technologies like EMI-RFI shielding that make internal parts of the system more opaque to the outside signal traffic.

Any of these methods may work for some individual cases of signal interruption, but companies continue to struggle for some more definitive fix. The proliferation of wireless devices will further exacerbate the problem of trying to maintain a given set of data transfers without suffering from intrusive signal noise in a given network setup.

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Written by Justin Stoltzfus
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Justin Stoltzfus is a freelance writer for various Web and print publications. His work has appeared in online magazines including Preservation Online, a project of the National Historic Trust, and many other venues.
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