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Wireless Networking/Internet Systems Installations

How does Wireless Networking work?  While too technical to go into great detail, here is a non-technical summary.  Using 2.4 or 5GHz radio frequencies, two devices communicate.  One is the access point and the other is your wireless network adapter (in your computer.)  This radio signal transmits data back and forth between the two devices.  If the access point is connected to an Internet gateway, then your computer will have access to the Internet via this wireless connection.  As long as the signal strength at your computer is above 50%, it is typically reliable.  The stronger the signal, the more reliable and the faster the transmission rate (up to the wireless adapters limits.)  Typical equipment is either B or G yielding limits of 11Mbps or 54Mbps without software enhancements.  These devices are "Line-of-Sight" meaning the signal travels in a straight line from your computer to the access point.  Any and ALL things between the access point and your computer obstruct and degrade the signal strength including walls, windows, trees, people, etc.  In fact, things near the line-of-sight can cause interference.  Microwave ovens and 2.4GHz cordless phones also cause interference with these B and G devices.  Huh, with all these limitations, it is a wonder how this technology even works!!!

Who would want a Wireless Network? This service is great for businesses as well as vacation and/or rental environments, where multiple access accounts or running cables would be costly.  It allows the owner to share their internet access with any guest or visitor that has a wireless laptop and in some cases a wired-Ethernet port.  Imagitec offers this service in order to aid customers in maximizing their Internet access dollar.  We assist our customers in combining a Wireless Networking scheme with a local High Speed Internet service.  Using this combination, the customer is able to broadcast their internet connectivity over a short distance and without having to run extensive networking cables.  To further this discussion, the sections below pertain to Large-scale Wireless Networks, not home or individual services.

What COULD a Large-scale Wireless Network cost?  There is no way to ballpark a figure for a large-scale Wireless Network.  Every site is completely different and would require a Site Survey in order to plan out the potential for installation.  Of course, separate from this wireless network, you will need to have a high speed Internet access provider on your property (e.g.- Comcast Cable or CenturyLink DSL) and it needs to be an adequate bandwidth to support the number of users expected.  Typically a $100/month Comcast Business Grade Cable service is the most cost effective and reliable.  Finally, the actual wireless network projects can start from $5000 and proceed upwards from there.  With Imagitec, there are no recurring costs after installation.  You own your equipment.  There would only be additional costs if repairs are needed and Services Rates are quoted on the written proposal.  Neither the Site Survey, Design, Written Proposal nor Site Test obligates the potential customer to moving forward with that project, however, in some large-scale installations, these steps have a cost that is separate from the project cost.

What HAVE some Large-scale Wireless Networks cost?  Our least expensive completed project was $5000 (a single Access Point.)  To-date our most expensive (and obviously more complex) was $35,000 (a 6 acre, 7 Access Point project.) 

What is entailed in the Site Survey, Design and Proposal steps?  During the Site Survey, we will walk through the property, make notations about the physical layout, obstructions and power requirements as well as hypothesize the equipment needed.  Based on that information observed and collected, Imagitec can then begin the network design and engineering process.  When the design is complete and confirmed by the manufacturer's engineers, the proposal can be written.  This proposal will help you and your organization to determine the value of this service as well as the advantages to yourselves and/or to your guests. 

What is in the Written Proposal?  It will spell out: the approximate location of each network device/enclosure; the method of connecting each device to the Internet and/or to each other; quantity of equipment to be installed; quantity of cable/conduit to be run; benefits of the design; expected coverage areas; expected time to complete; separate electrical contractor requirements; equipment warranties; deposit amount; total cost including equipment and labor; service rates after installation.  It will even include an aerial/side layout of the expected design.  The typical $400 cost for large-scale prokjects is based on the work involved and the details provided.

What is the purpose of the Site Test and what is performed?   In order to guarantee that the proposal/project cost will be FIRM, Imagitec would perform a Site Test for $200-400.  This is a live test on the property of the intended equipment in the desired locations.  The actual cost of this test depends upon the complexity of the design and will be identified in the written proposal.  If the design is confirmed accurate, the written proposal will become FIRM as is.  If the testing identifies the need to make design changes, a new design and proposal will be created at no additional cost and it will be FIRM.

Is it worth it to install a Large-scale Wireless Network?  Please be aware that no two wireless projects are alike.  The physical layout, obstructions and coverage desires dictate the design and equipment needed.  Using a hybrid design of both wired and wireless is sometimes the best solution, but then it generally requires cables be run in conduit or underground.  In some cases, the cost to create a wireless network on your property may NOT be worth it.  Typically, a 10 unit or less property is generally NOT worth the cost to install unless a single Access Point will suffice.  Between 10 and 20 units is borderline.  Over 20 units usually becomes clearly worth it.  However, if your property is LARGE or if centrally located access points cannot be utilized forcing additional access points be used, the project can become exorbitant again.  In addition, if the "best" locations for equipment are NOT desirable and/or are NOT feasible, cost projections usually rise.

How do I decide if it is worth it?  Do the math.  Typical cost for Comcast WIRED access cable modem is $35/month (bulk rate) PER UNIT or $46/month if any less than ALL units in the complex.  For a condo property with 40 units that would be $1400/month multiplied by 12 months totaling $16,800 PER YEAR.  This is only WIRED high speed and requires the user to connect a cable directly to the cable modem installed in each unit.  This is not WIRELESS!  Comcast cannot offer wireless modems for the same reason Imagitec cannot install a wireless device in every unit... the technology simply does not have enough channels to handle more than 3 devices in proximity of each other.  If the proposed wireless network will cost $12,000 to install and be a one time cost (not counting the Comcast $100/month)... then the installation of the wireless network equipment will pay for itself in savings within 1 year.  WITH the added benefit of actually being WIRELESS!!!

What if we don't want to cover the entire property initially?  We can build your wireless internet in Phases, meaning that we can:
   Install the minimal wireless configuration/equipment in order to introduce the wireless option and ascertain the effectiveness, range and demand.
   Then, measure and determine what additional equipment (if any) is needed to complete or expand the coverage area.
   Construct an Upgrade Proposal for the expansion.
   Then, allow You to determine if the additions are appropriate for your needs now or if they can wait.

If you expect some guests, visitors or staff to lack wireless networking capabilities, we are able to integrate WIRED access as well.  This allows those individuals with older or non-upgradeable computers to be included in the offering, instead of excluded.

How long does this process take?  A Site Survey can be scheduled within one week and takes one day.  The Design and Written Proposal can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks depending upon the complexity and size of the property.  Installation can usually begin within two weeks of contract and typically takes only a few days/weeks to complete.  However, the complexity and your site's physical installation challenges dictate the projected time frame and will be outlined in the proposal we create.  Note:  Installation is on a First Contract - First Installation basis and is scheduled upon authorized contract and paid deposit.

Imagitec can even diagnose and/or troubleshoot certain network problems remotely if a computer on the property's network can be configured for dedicated remote access OR if the Router can be setup for Remote Access.  Additional costs may be involved.

Imagitec will provide a laminated One-Page instruction sheet for your staff, owners, guests or visitors that identifies the main steps for connecting, the warnings about wireless security, the cautions regarding resource sharing, firewalls and antivirus protection.  And every One-Page sheet has our contact information and services rates.

Some Wireless Networking Tips:
   Current wireless devices are 2.4 and 5GHz Radio Frequency and are therefore "Line-of-Sight".  This means that the signal travels in straight lines from the Access Point or Antenna to your receiving Device. 
   Any and all obstacles between the two points will decrease the signal strength (e.g.- Walls, building materials, windows, trees, humans, etc.)  Each of these obstructions typically decreases the signal strength by HALF for each obstruction in or near the "Line-of-Sight".
   Palm Trees and leafy trees are especially intrusive to signal strength because of their high WATER content.
   The signal can sometimes be dragged or stretched from a good signal area to a poor signal area (but signal reliability is usually short-lived.)
   The signal can be good in one kitchen chair and poor in the chair to the right/left.  A typical suggestion regarding improving the signal strength is to move 2-3 feet to the left or right and retest the signal strength.  Of course, if you have obstructions, it is best to eliminate them.
   In situations where the signal strength is below 50%, it is generally more important to move CLOSER to the access point.  Reliability is primarily based on reasonable proximity to the access point (100 feet or less, although some can reach up to 300 feet without amplification.)
   High Gain Antennas and/or Amplifiers can be used to extend the signal, however obstructions still degrade the signal.  When both the transmitting and receiving devices have high gain antennas and amplifiers, the signal can travel for miles!!  This method just does not work for a condo property though because you generally cannot add an antenna to a guest's laptop and it would be too costly.
   Laptops with built-in wireless devices generally have a Y-shaped antenna within their LCD displays or lids.  Point the BACK of your laptop display toward the access point for the best signal strength.
   Every wireless adapter (the part IN your laptop) is different.  Some use the Windows (XP/Vista/7) Wireless Control Panel  and others use their OWN software for configuring and connecting their adapter.  It is best to use whatever the manufacturer of your laptop suggests.
   The bottom line is that wireless is not perfect unless the access point is really CLOSE.  Otherwise, it is more like the old rabbit ear antennas your father (or grandfather) made you hold until he could see the football game clearer.
   We don't recommend holding your laptop higher in the air or over your head because you could drop it, it makes it harder to see and/or it could make your arms really tired.  Good Luck with your Wireless!!!

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Always protect your computer by utilizing active, updated and current antivirus software.  This means that it must be: active- running at all times; updated- the latest signature/definition file must have been downloaded and installed; and current- you are using a version that offers appropriate protection for your operating system as well as for the applications you use.

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