Line Balancing Advice Sought

Discussion in 'Broadband' started by Java Jive, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. Java Jive

    Java Jive Guest

    For historical reasons, I've been asked to look at the WiFi coverage
    in a lodge in Scotland. Briefly, these reasons are: I was staying
    there two years ago, while in between houses, and, it being discovered
    that I was a retired IT professional, was asked to look into their
    system in return for some free B&L. Although the hardware they had
    already acquired was not what I would have recommended, they already
    had it, and it was working fairly well at the time, so I made the best
    of the job that I could using it, and before leaving checked that WiFi
    was accessible in every room. However, since then, breakdowns and
    changes made by well-meaning but sometimes unauthorised individuals
    have rendered the main building's coverage almost non-existent. So,
    remembering that I'd got it all going pretty well before, they're
    paying me to take another look at it.

    When the lodge is full in peak season, there are about 100 guests and
    staff. There is an old main building, having relatively WiFi opaque
    thick stone walls, with 10 guest rooms and a couple of outlying staff
    rooms off the back. There is also an annexe of about 20 rooms in a
    seperate modern extension. I presume that the router that I set up
    successfully two years ago in the main building must have failed after
    a while, because it has been replaced by a 2009 model Netgear DGN2000
    model, a puny 2.4GHz only, which gets sucked up by the stone walls.
    However, perhaps surprisingly, the latter building actually remains
    fairly well-covered by the same 2.4GHz Belkin SOHo router that
    previously I configured as an access point.

    The main problems that I have identified with the system are:
    Almost no coverage in the main building where ...
    The weak signal is vulnerable to interference from ...
    Neighbouring systems on the same channel and ...
    Guests using WiFi tethering and ...
    A cordless phone system.
    Total bandwidth of the ADSL connection is just 5Mbps.

    My inclination is to go for 5GHz 802.11n/ac APs. For the main
    building, possibly one on each floor, though I'll try a single one on
    the middle floor first, and, even though it's currently the best
    served part of the lodge, I think an upgrade to 5GHz desirable in the
    Annexe as well.

    But, actually, although ALL advice is welcome, I'm fairly confident
    that if need be I can make my own way to sorting out the coverage, and
    it's not really that per se that I'm seeking advice about here.

    The wider situation I've found is this ...

    Although it has very recently been announced that FTTC should not be
    more than about six months away, the proprietor already has had three
    additional ADSL lines installed, intending to have load-balancing
    equipment installed from SharedBand, so that the three lines can
    function as one almost three times the capacity of each. SharedBand
    have quoted them a fairly hefty sum up front, for hardware configured
    by themselves with their own proprietory load-balancing software, with
    ongoing rental charges for use of the same.

    However, a seemingly knowledgeable person staying there volunteers
    that this is unnecessary. He says that all is that is needed is three
    off-the-shelf ADSL modems, he suggests Draytek Vigor 120s ...
    http://www.draytek.co.uk/products/business/vigor-120
    .... and a load-balancing router, say a Draytek Vigor 3900 ...
    http://www.draytek.co.uk/products/business/vigor-3900

    (Another third alternative has been quoted for satellite links, but,
    due to expense and latency, that's rather on the back burner now.)

    Although I believe I understand the principles of what is being
    suggested in each case, this is not what I was called in to check out
    and is not really my area of expertise. Unless independently someone
    here can make a good case for the more expensive SharedBand option
    with ongoing costs, my own inclination is to advise the cheaper option
    suggested by our volunteering guest, as he seems sound, knowledgeable,
    experienced, and trustworthy. But what do others more experienced
    with these particular setups think?

    Also, wrt to the coverage, this same guy suggests Cisco Meraki APs,
    though I wonder if perhaps they are overkill for the situation,
    particularly as they are quite expensive up front and there are also
    ongoing costs to use a Cisco management service. Again, advice
    welcomed from any experienced individuals.
    https://meraki.cisco.com/products/wireless

    TIA
    --
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    Please always reply to ng as the email in this post's
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    Java Jive, Nov 16, 2015
    #1
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  2. "Java Jive" said
    successfully two years ago in the main building must have failed after
    a while, because it has been replaced by a 2009 model Netgear DGN2000
    model, a puny 2.4GHz only, which gets sucked up by the stone walls.
    However, perhaps surprisingly, the latter building actually remains
    fairly well-covered by the same 2.4GHz Belkin SOHo router that
    previously I configured as an access point.

    {...}
    building, possibly one on each floor, though I'll try a single one on
    the middle floor first, and, even though it's currently the best
    served part of the lodge, I think an upgrade to 5GHz desirable in the
    Annexe as well.

    What about guests who don't have the latest and greatest and so can't access
    5GHz at all?
     
    Michael R N Dolbear, Nov 16, 2015
    #2
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  3. Java Jive

    Java Jive Guest

    Sorry, didn't make that clear. We'd probably leave the existing
    routers in place to cater for legacy kit, and broadcast additional
    SSIDs ending in 5s for the new APs. We'd pin up notices in strategic
    places advising guests and staff that, if they can see a SSID ending
    in a 5, to choose that preferentially. Another options might be to
    configure APs to try and set up 5GHz preferentially, and only fall
    back to 2.4GHz on failure, but I'd have to look into the feasibility.
    AIR, it's the client that initiates contact, so that may not be
    possible.
    --
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    Please always reply to ng as the email in this post's
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    Java Jive, Nov 16, 2015
    #3
  4. Java Jive

    Graham J Guest

    Java Jive wrote:

    [snip]

    Your first objective is to set up remote access so you can monitor what
    is going on. So you need at least one ADSL (in due course VDSL) service
    with a static IP address, a static IP address at your home location, and
    a router at each end that will implement a LAN-to-LAN VPN.

    A Draytek router (at each end) as the knowledgeable person suggests will
    suffice.

    Load balancing will probably be OK. The expensive option from
    SharedBand will probably implement the multiple connections with bonding
    so the site has a single IP address. This might be useful if the
    business needed to download large single files, but for hotel guests
    this would be overkill. Some websites (banks, insurance companies,
    https://store.exertis.co.uk/ ) don't like traffic in a single session to
    come from different IP address so the load balancing might require
    careful tailoring. May only be relevant to the hotel's "office" computers.

    It may well be that the limiting factor experienced by guests is poor
    WiFi rather than the 5Mbits/sec ADSL.

    Your real problem is the WiFi. Provided that each access point is
    cabled back to the router then you stand a chance of making it work.
    But if each AP connects by wireless to another and the traffic passes
    through several before reaching the router, then at each AP your
    throughput halves.

    So Cat5 cable to each strategic location is therefore essential. While
    you are installing the cable you might as well connect up every guest
    room and all the public rooms. At least install all the cabling in
    ducts or ceiling voids, and leave tails to run into guest rooms as and
    when they are redecorated.

    As you have found, WiFi signals often don't pass through walls. So
    don't bother with a wireless router - use one that provides the best
    connection to ADSL (and can be reconfigured for VDSL) and place it close
    to the incoming phone line. Use Cat5 cable to connect it to a suitable
    switch then to all the APs. Use Cat5 cable from this switch to the
    "office" machines so they are reliable and independent of WiFi.

    Several makes of AP allow central management - this will be essential -
    again so you can see what is going on. Also the network switch should
    be managed, implement VLANs (so as to isolate guest traffic from the
    hotel's office traffic), provide PoE, and both it and the router should
    be run from a UPS. Use something like INSSIDer to measure WiFi signals
    so you have an objective assessment - and be prepared to put an AP in
    every room if necessary. I repeat, WiFi signals often don't pass
    through walls; it's a hopelessly oversold technology.

    You should then be able to see what is going on, identify when somebody
    unplugs something that they should not have, and potentially block a
    rogue machine from sending spam.

    I reckon all that I've suggested can be done for much less than the
    SharedBand quote.

    Do let us know how you get on ...
     
    Graham J, Nov 16, 2015
    #4
  5. Java Jive

    Rodney Pont Guest

    The 5GHz stuff will not travel as far as 2.4GHz stuff through the walls
    and floors so you might be shooting yourself in the foot so to speak.

    The Draytek Vigor 3900 sounds ideal but I'd stick with the already
    installed modems unless there is a real advantage to changing them.
    I've no experience with any of these though.
     
    Rodney Pont, Nov 16, 2015
    #5
  6. That was my understanding. The great thing about 5GHz is that the
    spectrum isn't as crowded as the 2.4GHz - which may not be a problem up
    there.

    Andy
     
    Vir Campestris, Nov 17, 2015
    #6
  7. Java Jive

    Rodney Pont Guest

    I don't think the spectrum being crowded is going to be a problem, what
    was it - 3 5meg links and 20 guests, that's going to seem crowded to
    all of them :)
     
    Rodney Pont, Nov 17, 2015
    #7
  8. Java Jive

    Java Jive Guest

    Apologies for not replying before, had my laptop to bits to fix it ...

    I don't think so. This is a one-off job (or at least it is supposed
    to be, but perhaps only until something breaks and/or someone meddles
    again)!
    People are downloading more and more video these days, so may not be
    as overkill as all that.
    I think they would probably want to keep the original single line open
    for the office, so that would solve that problem.

    But thanks for the pointer to the single IP though, knowledgeable
    guest didn't mention that particular weakness in his suggestion! I'll
    explain the possible consequences of the cheaper option, and let them
    choose.
    Certainly it is in the main-building. The changes that were made
    between my original testing two or three years ago and now have
    effectively broken the service over most of the building. Most of the
    weekend I stayed there, I couldn't get a service on the top floor, and
    when briefly I did, it failed the moment another guest set up WiFi
    tethering.
    Yes, I was aware of that, which is another reason I queried the Cisco
    model suggested, because knowledgeable guest seemed to be suggesting
    relaying them. I suppose there'd never need be more than one or two
    hops, but my approach is that if you are going to put, say, an AP on
    every floor, then you do the job properly and cable them.
    I can suggest that, but I'm pretty sure that they would want neither
    the disruption nor the expense.
    Yes, absolutely.
    Yes, though I haven't actually been asked to look at the office
    machines.
    Again, I suspect office traffic will be on another line anyway.
    Again, I can suggest a UPS, but these can only do so much, and
    extended power cuts are common in the area, so I'm not sure they'll
    think there's much to be gained!
    Thus far I've been using a Samsung app "WiFi Analyzer" to give an
    objective assessment. I don't know what its claims to absolute
    accuracy are, but the relative results room to room agree completely
    with user experience. Also, I was able to take snapshots of its
    results to put in a presentation I gave to them at the end of the
    weekend.
    Again, I'm not expecting to manage this from afar.
    Thanks for all your very helpful suggestions.

    One last thing, do you or anyone have suggestions for make/model of
    AP?
    --
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    Please always reply to ng as the email in this post's
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    Java Jive, Nov 18, 2015
    #8
  9. Java Jive

    Java Jive Guest

    I thought that I'd read that 5GHz was slightly better in that respect,
    but anyway, that's not so important. The really important factors
    are:
    2.4GHz band is very crowded in the neighbourhood.
    Currently, 5GHz is not permanently used at all.
    5GHz is more resilient to interference from, say, tethering.
    --
    ========================================================
    Please always reply to ng as the email in this post's
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    http://www.macfh.co.uk/JavaJive/JavaJive.html
    http://www.macfh.co.uk/Macfarlane/Macfarlane.html
     
    Java Jive, Nov 18, 2015
    #9
  10. Java Jive

    Graham J Guest

    Then don't get involved.

    Help the client find somebody local who understands all these issues,
    and can provide proper support. They need somebody who can resolve
    guest problems while the guest is resident, so remote management and
    evenings/weekend support is well worthwhile.

    A knowlegeable and trained member of the hotel staff would also be an
    advantage, so the support company gets reliable information about problems.
    You may be right ...
    If so, then have it totally separate, not shared with any bonding
    arrangements.

    However, it is guests that will also want to use banking sites - so some
    careful preparation will be worthwhile.

    [snip]
    Point out to the client that if they want it to work reliably then they
    should do it properly. Do they have a closure period (out of season?)
    when such work could be done?

    As I suggested, WiFi is a hopelessly oversold technology, but it
    ***can*** be made to work fairly well with the right infrastructure.
    The mistake most clients make is to fail to understand what the
    technology can (and can't) do for them. Your responsibility as an
    advisor is to ensure that they are made aware of all the issues. So
    suggest you do look at the office machines also.
    You might mention security. IP cameras, temperature sensors, and the
    like can all be connected to the LAN. Power cuts can often break bits
    of the network because things come up in an unstructured sequence. The
    office computers should have UPS support - even more so because of what
    you say about extended power cuts. Have you discussed backup?
    Relative accuracy is fine ...
    I would suggest the AP900-K from Draytek, partly for the simultaneous
    dual-band. I think they can be managed from some of their more modern
    routers.

    Well worth research into other centrally managed devices. Some have the
    ability to tailor signal strength and channel to avoid mutual
    interference while providing optimum power to the connected clients.
     
    Graham J, Nov 18, 2015
    #10
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