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Small wireless network

I work for a very small IT Company, in fact there is just myself and the boss! We are new to wireless networking and tried setting up a small network between two small LANS. One LAN consists of around 30-40 users and the other around 10 users. The two locations are situated approximately 200-300ft apart, separated by a main street. There is a building on this particular street which just obscures the view between locations. Nevertheless, we set up 2 wireless access points from 'Buffalo' and installed antennas on the roof of each location.

However, I hasten to add that the set-up is by no means complete. We can only acquire intermittent signals between antennas and only for a very short time. We are using different channels on the access points but have tried variations of channels and never had a consistent signal. We have tried moving one antenna and can even see both antennas from each location but with no luck. We are wondering if the equipment from 'Buffalo' is not up to scratch.

One of the LANs is on a network and incorporates Small Business Server 2003. The other is on a workgroup and cannot connect to the other if we install a server, as Small Business Server 2003 does not allow such connections to another server. We didn't really want to install another independent server at the second location.

We would dearly appreciate your advice as this has been ongoing for sometime now. Many thanks.

I have not used the Buffalo brand of wireless equipment so I cannot talk about its suitability for your application. Most SMB's I have dealt with have chosen Cisco, Linksys, or DLink.

Your project should be separated into three separate phases:
  1. The planning phase
  2. The implementation phase
  3. The site survey phase

During the planning phase you should determine what equipment is needed. Sounds like you will need a couple of wireless bridges. A wireless bridge can be used as a kind of "cable-less cable" for connecting remote areas together. You will also need a couple of bridge mounting kits and something to protect the electronics from the elements. Next, you will need to determine the proper type of antenna. Two possible choices include dipole and Yagi. A dipole antenna is directionless while a Yagi is direction orientated. You will also want to consider the purchase of lightning arrestors; otherwise one big storm might knock out the organizations infrastructure.

Once the preceding items have been taken care of you will be ready to begin building the wireless network. From what you have described attenuation is going to be a problem. Attenuation is the decrease in strength of the wireless signal; the strength decreases as the distance from the antenna increases. It can be caused by the natural conductivity or resistance of all sorts of physical matter such as the blockage of another building. This may require you test out several different antenna designs to determine the one that produces the strongest signal strength at the second location. I would start with a Yagi design. A large selection of antennas can be found at www.fab-corp.com.

Your final task will be to perform a site survey. The site survey either can be performed in-house using tools and equipment provided by wireless vendors, or it can be outsourced to an expert in site surveys.You will want to examine the range and coverage, the data rate and capacity, interference immunity, and the security of the communication. Consider WPA the minimum security standard.

I hope this advice helps you build an effective wireless network!

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