5 Things To Consider Before Buying Ekahau
This isn't a guide on why you should buy Ekahau, what we have tried to do is answer some of the most common questions we are asked by our clients when it comes to considering purchasing Ekahau.
The questions we'll answer...
1. What is Ekahau?
2. Do you really need Ekahau?
3. Do you really need a Sidekick?
4. Why are tools like Ekahau used?
5. Prerequisites required for using Ekahau
1. What is Ekahau?
A quick Google search will give you an idea of what Ekahau is, in general... What may not be as straightforward to find out is the different aspects of Ekahau, if each product is actually needed and how they link together as a package.
First, let's discuss what Ekahau Pro is..
Ekahau Pro is a Windows and Mac OS based software tool used for designing, analysing, optimising, and troubleshooting Wi-Fi networks.
It's a tool that has grown to be the most popular choice for Wi-Fi engineers and IT staff who need to efficiently and accurately design, deploy and manage Wi-Fi networks.
Ekahau Pro is the key component and product in the Ekahau suite of tools, Pro can be purchased as a standalone software or as part of the Ekahau Connect suite of tools (more on Ekahau Connect shortly...). As a standalone tool, Ekahau Pro is really only good for 3 things:
Creating predictive designs
Reviewing (not collecting) survey data
But what about onsite surveys I hear you ask?
If purchasing Ekahau Pro as a standalone tool, you will need to also purchase a minimum of a 1 year Connect license but even with a Connect license you won't be able to use the majority of the Connect features as you'll need the Sidekick for that. If purchasing Ekahau Pro as a standalone product you won't be provided a wireless NIC, as according to Ekahau, the Ekahau Sidekick is the only recommended device for doing site surveys with Ekahau software products, which leads us onto the next question..
What is the Ekahau Sidekick?
The Ekahau Sidekick is a dedicated hardware device that is used as a measurement device that connects to either your Windows, Mac OS, iOS or Android device via a USB cable, it captures RF data via it's 2 Wi-FI radios and dedicated spectrum analyser and then sends the data to Ekahau Pro which allows you to then visualise the data collected.
The onboard CPU and battery offloads much of the heavy lifting from the survey device, saving precious battery life and improving efficiency - meaning you can easily survey all day without having battery life anxiety.
Ekahau no longer provides support for 3rd party wireless dongles, which means your only reliable choice for conducting Ekahau site surveys is to buy the Ekahau Sidekick.
Why is the Ekahau Sidekick the reliable choice I hear you ask?
Before Ekahau Sidekick, Wi-Fi measurements have been a mixed bag of measurements using various dongles and other Wi-Fi devices. Ekahau Sidekick delivers high accuracy and reliability using seven factory tested, internal antennas placed in optimum orientation, that deliver precise and consistent measurement accuracy along with also supporting the latest Wi-Fi standards, including 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6).
What is Ekahau Connect?
Ekahau Connect is 2 things (Confusing I know)
Firstly, it's a suite of Wi-Fi tools: Hardware, software which includes Ekahau Pro, Ekahau Sidekick and Ekahau Connect licensing.
Secondly, it's the name of the licensing that is needed when a new Ekahau Pro standalone license is purchased
The Connect licensing gives access to:
- Ekahau Survey for iPhone & iPad
- Ekahau Analyzer for Android & iOS
- Ekahau Capture
- Ekahau Cloud
- Ekahau Insights
(We won't go into detail on each of the above features as this can easily be viewed on the Ekahau Connect datasheet here)
If purchasing Ekahau Pro (standalone) and a 1 year Ekahau Connect License, the majority of the above features are useless without buying the full Ekahau Connect suite of tools, which includes the Ekahau Sidekick, to use the Ekahau Survey for iPhone & iPad, Ekahau Analyzer and Ekahau Capture you need to have the Ekahau Sidekick.
2. Do you really need Ekahau?
It depends on a few factors really...
There aren't many other options in the marketplace that offer a well presented, modern, stable and user friendly solution, because of this there is a premium to pay for the Rolls Royce product in the marketplace.
- What is it you are trying to achieve as part of your Wi-Fi project?
- Do you need Ekahau Pro only, or do you need the full Connect suite?
- Can you justify the expense?
- Do you have the Wi-Fi knowledge to be able to use Ekahau? If not, do you have the time to learn RF fundamentals and learn how to use the tool?
- Would it be easier and more cost effective to outsource the work to a Wi-Fi specialist?
These are all typical questions that should be considered before investing in Ekahau - we can't answer these questions for you, only you can, but hopefully this will at least spark some questions in your mind before making the investment.
2. Do you really need a Ekahau Sidekick?
The short answer is, if you are thinking of buying Ekahau Pro and you're serious about carrying out efficient and accurate RF surveys, then YES
If you only care about analysing someone else's survey data (maybe a colleague who is out in the field, or maybe a 3rd party surveyor) or producing remote predictive designs and for some reason you're not going onsite to validate the predictive designs yourself, then there is no need for the Sidekick, Ekahau Pro will meet your requirements for remote based designs, analysis and reporting.
Long answer is: When wireless first came to market, consumers used Wi-Fi adapters to enable wireless on our devices. Wi-Fi professionals re-purposed them (with tape, velcro, or other holster of some kind) as diagnostics tools to be more mobile when designing, managing, and troubleshooting networks.
These cheap consumer devices make for unsurprisingly poor measurement tools with a wide variance that can put survey results at risk of being inaccurate.
When designing, managing or troubleshooting a wireless network, it is critical to use the right tools to ensure accurate data. We depend on good data — it is the baseline we need to have confidence that our networks meet requirements and will support the least capable, most important devices from the start. Good data also allows better diagnosis of network problems to resolve issues quickly.
The higher the quality of data, the more confidence you can have in your work. When you use a USB adapter, it can show large variances in Received Signal Strength Indicator (RSSI). This can lead to the identification of false gaps in network coverage and the installation of too many or not enough access points (APs), all of which cause problems with interference and network performance. What you need is the right number of APs in the right locations with the right configuration to meet your requirements.
It’s also worth pointing out the onboard battery, which means gone of the days where your laptop battery is being sapped of all its energy after surveying for only a few hours, the internal battery allows you to survey all day which in turn means you can be more productive by walking further... which reminds me, investing in a comfortable pair of surveying shoes is also recommended if owning a Sidekick!
4. Why are tools like Ekahau used?
Wi-Fi is RF (Radio Frequencies) which is invisible to the human eye, which means we need tools like Ekahau to be able to visualise how the RF performs. RF performs differently in different types of environments which means the correct use of tools like Ekahau is critical in being able to design and plan for new Wi-Fi deployments along with being able to assess, validate and troubleshoot existing Wi-Fi deployments.
Tools like Ekahau are needed in the following scenarios:
During a remodel or redesign of an existing network
When opening a completely new site
Planning for an upgrade
Determining optimal AP placements
Operating with external antenna selections
Assessing, Validating and Troubleshooting:
Troubleshooting a network issue
Validating the network is performing as expected, if not - why not
General health checks for visibility into ongoing network performance
Using a design tool like Ekahau will help you predict the number of access points (APs) to help you simulate a design based on your requirements and floor plans.
The AP and antenna database included with Ekahau Pro will help you design with known hardware and test out a variety of different configurations to see what will give you the best coverage, capacity and channel utilisation for your unique environment. Once you’ve got your predictive design from Ekahau Pro, you’re ready to validate, implement any necessary changes, finalise, and deploy.
On site design
You may skip the predictive step and physically go straight on site. This is when the magic happens — where you’ll bring your predictive design to life or create a design from scratch. The data collected during testing allows you to either sign off on the project as designed or make alterations before racking up unnecessary rework costs.
When you are deploying a network, you count on the antenna patterns and signal coverage performing as predicted, using a tool like Ekahau to perform an AP on a stick survey validates your design by answering the following questions:
Does the RF propagate as anticipated?
Does the antenna pattern match what you have in your design?
Do you have the signal coverage you anticipated?
Ekahau will allow you to not only collect the valuable RF data but you can also document photographs of the environment, make notes on AP locations, heights and mounting considerations to input into your design documentation.
Assessing, Validating and Troubleshooting
To understand the as-is state of an existing Wi-Fi network a passive survey can be conducted to assess the current state of the Wi-Fi performance and security.
After you validate your design, fire up Ekahau Pro and download the project file from Ekahau Cloud to analyse your results. The odds are you will have to make some adjustments, that’s perfectly normal. The kinds of adjustments will depend on what you measured in the environment. Did you see a coverage issue? Capacity? Was there an issue with HVAC you weren’t aware of requiring you to move the “dodgy AP” to a different location? If coverage is lacking in an area, you may need to add an additional AP.
The amount of troubleshooting scenarios Ekahau can be used for is almost endless. Some of the most common Wi-Fi problem scenarios include:
- Basic Wireless Issues - Low Coverage, High Interference
- Misconfigured SSIDs
- Defective Access Points
- Rogue Access Points
- Connectivity and Latency Issues
- Insufficient Capacity
5. Prerequisites required for using Ekahau
Conducting a site survey is easy if you know what you're doing, however a common misconception is that once you purchase Ekahau you can then go off to perform a survey, troubleshoot and even design a high performing Wi-Fi network without first being able to understand RF fundamentals, not to mention being able to understand the different types of surveys, approaches and being able to qualify and interpret both technical and business requirements
The great news is there are many great online resources where you can learn the fundamental basics of RF, there's even tutorials on how to use Ekahau, but being a competent and rounded Wi-Fi engineer can take a long time to be able to put this into practice confidently in the real world.
Ekahau run a 3 part course which is named: Ekahau Certified Survey Engineer, or ECSE for short.
For those who already have a basic understanding of RF fundamentals we highly recommend getting yourself on the ECSE Design course. This is a 4 day crash course on everything you need to know on how to put your basic RF knowledge into practice to create basic designs using Ekahau.
Once you've completed the ECSE Design course your next route would be ECSE Troubleshooting, followed by ECSE Advanced.
Let us know if you want more information
We can't cover everything here as naturally we could go into much greater detail and you'll probably have further questions, we'd be glad to send you a copy of this guide in PDF format with no obligation, just email us if you'd like a copy
The WiFi Connection are the leading Ekahau reseller in the UK & Ireland
The WiFi Connection value
With all Ekahau purchases we provide:
Free of charge Ekahau user training
1st line technical support
Free Ekahau baseball cap (for orders placed before 31st December)