It’s a familiar story. Your customers want to upgrade X, and you’re in charge of making sure it all goes to plan – at least from the network infrastructure side. Where do you spend? Where do you save? What gets left on the cutting room floor?
In this case, X = a secure communication platform. Your customers want a wireless voice solution they can rely on anywhere in the hospital. They want secure, HIPAA-compliant text messaging in a familiar device ecosystem. And they want alarm integration that minimizes alarm fatigue and personalizes clinician-to-patient interaction.
If you consider your infrastructure, what’s the most important piece of the topology in this equation?
The 802.11 wireless network, or Wi-Fi.
Regardless of which communication platform you choose, the Wi-Fi network is the umbilical cord of that technology. It’s also one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated pieces of the network. Everyone takes Wi-Fi for granted, and you’ll seldom hear it being complimented. It’s always “too slow,” and it “never works,” even if it’s wholly up to the task and sized appropriately. So where do we start when planning a communication upgrade? At the edge.
A former colleague, and one of my most favorite people in the world, Jim Holt, used to lead many of his meetings by talking about things in the big picture. He called it “Big Animal Math.” How many whales? How many elephants? How many rhinos? At the first stage of a project, we’re not concerned with earthworms.
We can predict the relative success of a Voalte Platform implementation by solving for the following equation: How many wireless access points (APs) are in the enterprise? How many square feet, under roof, does the enterprise comprise? If you have, say, 1 million square feet and 400 APs, each AP will have a cell size of approximately 2,500 square feet. There are always caveats, and factors such as building construction age and type could require twice as many APs. But remember: Big Animal Math.
As we move inward from the edge, we have to make sure the infrastructure has room to grow if any augmentation is needed at Layer 1.
- Do we have switchport space?
- Is there enough power to the racks and to support 802.3at-capable switches and devices?
- Are the wireless controllers still supported, and can they support the next wave of APs and the level of code those APs will require?
It’s tricky, but it’s what we do, and the Voalte Professional Services team is here to help. One of our key competitive advantages at Voalte is that we understand better than anyone the interoperability between the wireless clients in use in hospitals today, and the myriad 802.11 wireless vendors. We have unique relationships with all the major handset manufacturers, and our Research and Development team helps them refine and improve device performance, regardless of whose software they’re running.
Scott Adams has a knack for putting into a few tiles the struggles many of us deal with on a daily basis:
As early as possible, we want to look at the running configuration of the wireless controller. And I often have to put network managers and engineers at ease by assuring them we’re not here to tell you that you’re doing it wrong; we’re here to help leverage the best of what you have, for the benefit of all your customers. All boats in the harbor are buoyed with the rising tide.
We’re keenly focused on helping you build and preserve the positive user experience your customers demand. You have only one shot at it, because it’s extremely difficult to earn back user adoption if they don’t trust the solution out of the gate.
Start with the basics; start with Big Animal Math. We’ll you help sort through the details once it’s time to start the project, and together we will make your Wi-Fi great, even if nobody ever thanks you for it.
Ross Weitzner is Senior 802.11 Wireless Network Engineer at Voalte.