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Wireless LAN solution - Tablets and Multiple Access Points

Posted on 2010-01-06
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We have a project that we need to implement and are planning for.

I am not a big fan of any type of wireless LAN, we always hardwire our sites with CAT5 or 6.  However we have the need for a stable wireless solution,  hence this post.

The job calls for 8 wireless Tablets for Drs to be to address images and xrays from anywhere in the office and to be mobile of course.  Drs will carry the tablets from room to room to see patients.
Note:  There are 2 main applications that the tablets will use.  One is an SQL patient management app the talks to the main server...the other is an MDB based app that pulls images from a separate MDB database residing on server2.

Networking and configuring is not a problem and is straight forward.  These are the concerns I am seeking advice on.

1. Coverage -  do we triangulate a few access points WIFI N to ensure strong signal in all areas of the office?
2.  Database session stability.  I am well aware that dropping sessions if even for a moment to a database is not good practice and can result in DB corruptions.  Is there a way to avoid or minimize this problem?  Plugging into jacks is not an option.
3.  Access point to point jumping.  Is there a way or solution,  that will allow a tablet to jump to a stronger access point without dropping packets? to avoid severing the connections?  IE like your cell phone and can hit tower after tower without dropping your call.

Appreciate the help in advance
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Question by:j-teksolutions
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by:btassure
ID: 26192891
1. Yes, ensure good coverage but with only 8 tablets using 802.11n will get pretty good coverage over something the size of a doctor's surgery should be fine with just 1 or 2 but you would need to test. Make sure that the tablets support 802.11n!

2. I hope someone else will pick up and correct me on this one anyway but from what you are saying the actual database resides on the server. What application are you going to be using to connect to it? Everything we do here uses a web connection to an application server that then talks back to the database so if the connection to the app drops you don't get this kind of corruption.

3. APs are pretty much designed to do this. Do you have a vendor in mind? The wireless client on the tablet is what will make the biggest difference here. You can either use whatever the driver software uses (often Intel Pro Set or something) or use Windows Zero Config. WZC is easier to manage (usually) but it will not pick up a stronger AP unless the current signal is quite weak.


Additional thoughts - you will need to make this a VERY secure network if you are sharing patient data. Even if it means getting more, lower power APs so there is less signal bleed out of the building (again, quite easy to test with a tablet and a copy of netstumbler).
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MicahJP earned 2000 total points
ID: 26192941
I'm not sure what size deployment you're talking about, but I'll recommend a good vendor if you don't already have one--Meru Networks
We just recently deployed a Wireless LAN in on our campus (large multi-level megachurch and seminary), and we went with a solution from Meru. I highly recommend their products. They've been on the front end in innovating WirelessN. Their solution is configured in such a way that all access points are on the same channel. This is very helpful for no. 1 and 3 in your question (and ultimately no. 2 depends on 1 and 3). Having all APs on one channel means your client devices essentially see the network as one big access point. Also, in a typical deployment your access points are usually not sending out a 'full-power' signal to avoid overlapping with other APs of the same channel. The single-channel model allows for full-power equaling greater coverage with less APs. All that sounded great when we were researching Meru, but we didn't know how well it would actually perform...We've now been running the WLAN for 6 months and it's been impeccable. For example--a few members of our IT dept. (including myself) carry wireless VOIP phones that use our WLAN to connect to our Cisco VOIP system. I can walk through the building (from ap to ap) without dropping a calls or experiencing loss in call quality.
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by:j-teksolutions
ID: 26193007
Thanks btassure and MicahJP for your prompt responses.

The tablets will definatley support the N protocol.

The Meru solution sounds ideal ,  of course I will need to investigate the budget,  but the solution is excellent.  MicahJP in terms of the security issues raised by btassure....Meru is also impeccable?

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by:j-teksolutions
ID: 26193023
btassure - of note the application is not web based....I wish it was.  You are right the entire solution would be much simpler if this were the case.
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by:j-teksolutions
ID: 26193169
MicahJP - I am looking around the MERU site..... what is the single channel product you are using called?
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by:MicahJP
ID: 26193185
As far as budget is concerned--we're a non-profit so we did get a little better pricing, but at the same time we have a very small IT budget to begin with.

As for security, we're not dealing with HIPAA as I'm sure you are, but we're still concerned about security of our financial and personal data, etc. In the 6 months since we've had the solution in place we haven't had an issue, so in that way I'd say yes, it's been impeccable. That's really a short sample of time to base the security on our experience though, but knowing what's built-in to the solution we bought (and the fact that we monitor it)--I have complete peace of mind. Here's the link to Meru's webpage that explains what they do about security: http://www.merunetworks.com/ps/security/index.php
Their RFBarrier addresses the issue brought up in btassure's last paragraph...
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by:MicahJP
ID: 26193230
The technology is called Virtual Cell, and I believe any of their controllers will run it. I think it's just part of any Meru solution, not a specific set of products. Here's their page on it: http://www.merunetworks.com/technology/wlan/virtualcell.php
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by:j-teksolutions
ID: 31673612
This solution is exactly what are client is looking for.  We are calling Meru for a solution for this deployment.  Thanks for your help!
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by:MicahJP
ID: 26193259
p.s.- I'm not a Meru evangelist, just a satisfied customer. haha
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