Getting more Nines on Wi-Fi Availability
By PotstickerGuru on Aug 22, 2004
But I had a little related "thank you" email come across from a neighbour up in British Columbia where my vacation home is. It's half way up Hwy 99 toward Squamish/Whistler next to a fancy golf course and next to the water. Well, about 1/3rd of the neighbours are residents from the States. Last Christmas, Telus (a.k.a. BCTel) finally dropped some fibre down from Hwy 99 (which they laid 18 months ago!) into our complex. We all got broadband at a clean 1.5Mbps down/640kbps up. I planned a Christmas/New Year's trip up at the time just to get the network up and install some wireless. That way, I could kick back out on the water fishing and still be logged into work. It always seems like the fish bite better when I'm not paying attention to the rod, so surfing the net just invites more hits.
I keep the Wi-Fi network open to the neighbours and put up two access points on opposite sides of my house. The units also sport high gain attennaes that push the signal clearly out to Hwy 99 which is 1/2 km away. So folks on the Golf Course should be able to get clear signal as well. Also, I set one AP to channel 4 and the other to channel 10 to support more users with fewer collisions.
My US neighbours just love the WiFi. Most head up there to ski and golf several times a year. And they've gotten used to the very reliable and available wireless and it saves them the monthly fees and hassles paying for their own connection, and insuring that it's up and running and secure when they arrive up in B.C. every couple of months. I simply donate the bandwidth. It's a small cost compared to what I pay for down here in the Bay Area for my DSL and the signal is so much cleaner up there too - as if I was just next door to the C.O. Plus with the exchange rate for $CDN, the price is even better.
So one neighbour wrote me a pleasant thank you email that expressed some amazement. On a recent trip, they had a power outage in the complex for about 30 minutes (a frequent event that happens once a month or so). But amazingly, they had laptops up and running, and the network never waivered. He said that he almost came over and knocked on my door because he swore I must be up there in the house working and maintaining that Wi-Fi connection because it's ALWAYS up. Even during the power outage. Whatever I was doing, Kudos.
I smiled when I read that. I guess what he didn't see when I came up during Christmas were the dual 50lb UPS backup power units I had. Each was connected to the AP plus the DSL router and switch. I chose the components carefully. Not so much for performance as I did for reliability and power consumption. I also have learned that less moving parts means more reliability. So I didn't put a running server up as the firewall/router, but used a solid-state off-the-shelf one that only has a limited number of ports. This way, I have battery backed power always available for the network and it's enough to power the entire network for 7 or 8 hours. Which exceeds 95% of outages.
So why back up the network? Because the Network IS the Computer. That's another mantra our company has preached for like that last two decades. But more importantly, I've learned from my mistakes. It was pretty embarrassing a few years ago when I was helping a friend setup his server for a Linux startup. The whole rig was in his garage. We bought a boat load of big UPS's to back up the servers. But we completely forgot about the network and on our first power outage, the servers were fine, but the network was down. That was pretty stupid and I've gone on to refine how I get more reliability into my networks. Some tips I remind myself with: