Create wireless planning maps with NetSpot for OS X

A new app for OS X called NetSpot helps you survey and create a wireless planning map. Derek Schauland shows how it works.

Planning wireless networks is not always an easy task. Sure, you can stick access points all over the place and overdo the coverage in your environment, but that could be much more expensive than necessary if proper planning is done.

NetSpot has created an application for OS X that will help you plot the wireless access in your office or environment. This post will walk through the beta version of the NetSpot application and create a wireless access point map. You can download the beta for yourself here.

Import your floor plan

To get started you will need to import an image of your floor plan. This will serve as the diagram on which you will plot your access points.

Figure A

The basic floor plan (click images to enlarge)

Once the floor plan is loaded, NetSpot will ask that you plot at least two access points on the drawing. When doing this, you will need to enter the distance between them. Clicking the map will plot an access point.

Note: When adding access points, NetSpot will consider the scale of the drawing.

To get started, add at least two points to the plan. Dragging them on the document to their approximate location will help start a plan for your environment. Once the access points are plotted, click Next to proceed.

Figure B

Add at least two access points

On the next screen, you define the borders of your organization. Placing markers in the corners of the drawing will outline the perimeter of the area you want to survey. This will enclose the access points inside the environment and help to create an appropriate plan for going forward.

Figure C

Mark the borders of the environment to be scanned

Now that the environment has been defined, the fun starts. You will walk around the office or environment and mark your position. When you do, the application will scan for wireless access points and signal strength where you are. Repeat this at various points around the environment to create a coverage map of the location.

Figure D

Walking around the office

As you move around the space, NetSpot will scan for wireless networks in range each time you click the map relative to your location. This will determine the coverage at these spots.

When you have marked all the spots you need, click Stop; the diagram will change color based on the strength of coverage detected. The default view shows the signal to noise ratio found. You can change this to one of the following views:

  • Signal Level: shows the amount of wireless signal available
  • Noise Level: shows the amount of noise present
  • Qty of access points: shows the signal strength of the environment based on the quantity of access points

Once the scan is complete and the map created, you can export it to a PDF document in a single click to create a snapshot of wireless access in your environment.

Figure E

The completed report

Bottom line

NetSpot is a simple-to-use tool for creating wireless deployment planning maps. Organizations using this tool can benefit from being able to test many locations in their environment to place access points and get the best coverage from them.