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Wireless G - practical number of clients?

Posted on 2004-09-21
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What is the practical number of clients that can be connected to a wireless G network and still have acceptable speeds, in anyone's experience?

I am running 11 machines on a wireless G network.  The signal strength is excellent in all parts of the office.  However, instead of connecting at 54Mbps, they all connect at 1Mbps, or at least that is what the properties window says.  Saving a simple Word document to the server takes 5 minutes,  printing to a network printer tends to freeze whatever program you're trying to print to, etc.

Is 11 too many to have on this network?  If not, what can the problem be?  Are there any setting, adjustments, configurations I can check or try?
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Question by:David Williamson
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by:lrmoore
ID: 12116945
You can look at the bandwidth settings on the Access point. Mine (Linksys WRV54G) gives me the option of setting basic data rates, 1-2Mb, default 1-11, or All 1-24 Mb. I typically connect betwen 40 and 52 Mb depending on which room I'm in.

Coverage area and interference can cause low data rate connections. What is the distance from the clients to the access point? What kind of antenna do you have on it? Do all the machines need the wireless, or can some be wired?  

 If there is even a single 802.11b card in the network througput of the network is significantly restricted because of RTS/CTS protocol which has to switch to 802.11b slow signaling rate.
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12117083
I will take a look at the access point and check for those data rate settings.

The further client from the AP is maybe 35 feet.  I have the high gain antennas installed on it, so the signal strength is excellent through the whole office.  All the wireless devices are 11g AFAIK.  I will double-check that.

Any thing else come to mind?
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LimeSMJ earned 600 total points
ID: 12118282
Hard to say how many users an 802.11g networks can support... it depends on what the users do.  Unlike a wired 100Base-T network where all users have separate 100MBps channels, a wireless network (regardless of speeds - a, b, g) share the total bandwidth - so all 11 users in your network share the total 54MBps.  For example, if one user were to constantly download huge files, all the other users may have slower transfer speeds.  This may explain those slow file saves.
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12120188
is anyone aware of any tools available to monitor such things, software or otherwise?
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by:lrmoore
lrmoore earned 600 total points
ID: 12136385
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by:lrmoore
ID: 12136395
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12136465
It appears that the AirDefense product requires a netgear wireless card.  Is this true?  If so, it is very limiting.
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by:lrmoore
ID: 12136507
Only the Netgear card is fully supported, but it will work with just about any card.
Quote from one of their support engineers:
"Officially we support the Netgear WAG511 A/B/G card, and unofficially any atheros based card (Cisco A/B/G,Linksys A/B/G,Proxim A/B/G). Please note that we don't provide support for non-Netgear cards."
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12136648
I have a linksys a/b/g, so that's good.  Does it have to be a/b/g specifically?
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by:lrmoore
ID: 12136736
No, a or b or g...
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by:cagri
cagri earned 400 total points
ID: 12159204
First of all, 11 is not "too much for your network". With a rough calculation, bandwidth available for each user will be around 54/11=~5Mbps, or will give an actual throughput of around 2Mbps. This will result in an acceptable performance for most applications.

On the other hand, it is really strange to have your clients being connected at 1Mbps only.

Does ALL of the 11 clients being connected at that speed ? If so I would suspect the bandwidth setting on the access point as lrmoore suggested.

However, it the low bandwidth observed on some of the clients and/or this appears from time to time, I would check other factors and interference would be the #1. Are there many other access points around ?

Is there a possibility of making an observation with a single client connected ? Late in the evening or early in the morning ? This will most probably give us valuable information for tracking the problem.

Regards,
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by:cagri
ID: 12159218
Ops, forgot to post;
http://www.extremetech.com/article2/0,1558,1153579,00.asp
Graphic on this page (please click on it) shows actual b/w vs. distance. Not directly related to your question but it might give an idea.
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12160575
I haven't been able to get back to the office to check the AP.  IMHO, 2 Mbps is too painful for printing, opening, and saving over the network.  These are the main activites that everyone engages in, besides Internet browsing.

Some of the workstations report being connected at 54, but as soon as you try to open a document off the server, the reported connection speed drops down to 1.
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by:sweetdeez
sweetdeez earned 400 total points
ID: 12162768
I'd be curious what brand of access point you are running.  I am in a similar scenario and just setup 7 machines on a wireless-G network here.  We are all in one giant house--machines everywhere from basement to 3rd floor.  

Trying to scavenge off of the neighbors' linksys router before our cable was installed I seemed to get the 1mbps rating which you refered to. As you have found 1mbps is totally useless.  We bought the Linksys super-G router/accesspoint combo and some machines were good but my machine up i nthe farther reaches of the house would often drop to 1mbps as well.  My buddies machine in the basenment would connect at 11mbps but then regular disconnect at 8-10 minute intervals.  

Basically we were in wireless hell.

Now the solution.

First--what OS are you running?  Most people are XP now, and all of my problem machines were XP machines so I'll jsut speak from that point of view.

I found instaling SP2 from Microsoft resolved many of my issues. The unable to connect the intermittent disconnects and the little wizards it has for wireless stuff are pretty nice.  So consider upgrading the machine to SP2.  Not at 1mbps!  Its a bout a 100MB download--but it solved many of my wireless woes.  Backup your system to any extent you feel you need to.  Open Internet Explorer, under the tools menu go to windows update, choose custom so you can choose what it will install.  It  will probably want to install like 500 things.  Remove the ones that seem uneccessary.  There is a GDI+ detection somethign or other that is helpful for resuming your 100mb download if you get cut off--it needs that installed before you can get SP2.  download and install. restart if it asks you to.  run windows update again and it should offer to install sp2 now.  download, install, restart.  This may solve all of your problems--it has for many people.

I wasn't one of those people.  SP2 stabilized a couple machines for me but some in the further reaches still weren't doing too well.  I searched online and found several reports of people having problems with the range on their Linksys routers.  I use to do corporate sales of this kind of stuff and always liked the linksys networking roducts.  Simple , easy to install, that kind of thing.  However, I will no longer reccomend Linksys wireless stuff--at least not the access points.  

If you have a Linksys access point--high gain antennas or not--consider swapping it for a netgear super-g one.  Right one the box it says "4x the range of 802.11b."  Standard figures for 802.11b are 50m or so.  I was maybe 75 feet and one floor away from the router on my worst problem machine and got nothing wit hthe Linksys.  I swapped it out and know the whole house is rocking.  All 7 machines!  I found many comments in forums online from happy netgear folks that had low signal strength before and are now in the land of the 5 bars celebration!  I had 0-1 bars on my worst machine before but after the switch am a pretty steady 2-3 bars with a solid 5 on almost every other machine.

So moral of the story, get SP2, if you have a Linksys access point get rid of it for a Netgear.

I noticed all these adds recently for Linksys range extender and high gain antennas.  Its not a bad way to go business wise for them--they can sell you multiple $80 products instead of one and everyone likes to feel like their house or office has some "special problem" they needed to resolve by buying more things.  Anyways, my rant is now over, try it out and see what you think.

Let me know how it goes with this advice.
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by:sweetdeez
ID: 12162792
and to answer your first question...no, 11 machines is fine.  normal DSL only muns about .5mbps so even if you have some faster business class internet and all 11 machines were fully utilizing it we are talking about more like 11mbps--still nowhere close to 54.  yes i know there is some overhead--but still no problem.
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12162827
The signal strength isn't and never was an issue.  The furthest machine has 'excellent' signal strength, but reports that the connected speed is 1 Mbps.  We are using a Linksys AP, but I see no need to replace it based on signal strength.  All of the machines on the network are XP, but none of them have XP SP2.  I could upgrade them all (I have it on CD) and see if that has any effect.
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12162838
The internet speed is just fine and never was the issue.  Its the LAN activity that is slow, opening/saving files and printing are the main headaches.
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by:LimeSMJ
ID: 12164787
Going out on a limb here...  Got any 2.4GHz cordless phones in the office?  Try turning those off (if you can) just in case that is a source of interference.
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Expert Comment

by:sweetdeez
ID: 12180427
Yeah 2.4 Ghz phone are a possibility..as are older microwave ovens.

Have you tried changing the channel that the access point is using?
That'd be my next guess for a solution.

I think it will be set to 6 by default on a Linksys--just change it to 11 or something else and see if that has any affect--machines will need to be reconfigured--minor issue.  Some rooms or certain scenarios just hve interference at certain levels and playing with the channel # can sometimes help.

Even though you have "excellent" strength I still think SP2 and possibly switching your AP could be solutions for you too.  SP2 just does the wireless setup in a really nice way.  I had 2-3 bars of strength on my neighbors network and a 1.0mbps speed before.  Now I have decent speed--on his network as well--though I am using my own now.
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by:David Williamson
ID: 12203029
I have tried to change the channel, that didn't seem to have any effect.  The whole thing is about to become moot because this office is temporary.  In about a week they'll be moving into a permanent space where there will be cabling.

Thanks all for the good info!
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