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I manage the network for my parents small business (an after hours type thing just to keep them from having to pay someone), and I would like to setup a wireless network for them. They have two large warehouse type buildings with a small private "road" in between. I would like them to be able to have wireless access anywhere in or around these buildings... how is this accomplished? I know I'll need a few access points, but how do you bring it all together so that you have "one" large wireless network?

Also, if they add another location somewhere, is there anything that can be done to have a wireless network there that "matches" the one at the first location? Basically so Windows would recognize it all as the same network and know to connect when in range of either?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Cisco Wireless controller with a bunch of light-weight Cisco Access points (running LWAPP) will do that. The Controller is connected to the access points using cable primarily (but can also hop using the actual wireless if needed) and you set all the configuration in the controller - the access points just obey automatically and cooperate in making client roaming as seamless as possible without any special drivers needed on the clients.

This is of course expensive, but the concept is the same for all major brands and I bet some like HP or perhaps even Netgear has similar solutions in store.

Most likely there are some open source alternatives perhaps with custom firmware for some cheap consumer access point that can accomplish something similar with a central server - but I haven't researched that.

A central controller unit and a thinner kind of access point with not much logic except for the actual radio in them - connected to the controller by whatever means available - which will coordinate access, configuration, roaming and so forth. You can connect one of these light-weight access points anywhere in the world as long as it can talk to a linked controller - it will (if you want) appear as the same network.

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I've stumbled upon Ubiquity and their Unifi access point technology that so far seems like an actual alternative to the Cisco stuff, at last: - their controller is just a server app instead of an expensive appliance and their access points are much cheaper and initial testing shows great promises on stability and range. – Oskar Duveborn Feb 19 '13 at 10:42

There's a nice solution hostapd which implements Inter Access Point Protocol (IAPP). That will allow you to roam from one access point to another seamlessly. If you can arrange overlapping coverage of APs it'll appear to be one big hotspot. There's a nice introductory article covering it.

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nice, but that seems to require support for roaming also on client side, and i'm not sure if windows has it yet. – pQd May 22 '09 at 15:26
pQd: I do not believe that to be true. Can you link to something? – dwc May 22 '09 at 16:18
i learn something new every day. based on… you are right, but there is still case of speeding up client handover that for now is not standarized. [ they mention cisco wds solution which might be interesting for author of the question ]. – pQd May 22 '09 at 16:27
Also keep in mind that hostapd does not restrict itself to IAPP. Because OpenBSD/hostapd is free and most Wifi cards can act as an AP, you can try it in a "lab" setting with almost any two computers acting as APs and judge client handover yourself. – dwc May 22 '09 at 16:46

typically it will be enough if your access points have the same ssid and the same type / password for authentication and different wireless channels.

wireless client will roam from one AP to the other when it looses the connectivity, but don't expect ultra smooth handover.

it'd be much better if you have wired backbone linking all access points together, but if you cannot have it - most APs support wireless distribution system.

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What setup will give smooth transitions? What's the right way to do it? – Max Schmeling May 22 '09 at 15:11
up to my knowledge 'proper' for 802.11 [ i assume we narrow down search to this, since wimax or gsm are probably out of question ] solution is being drafted and there is no hardware support for it, but it'll be interesting to see answers from other users. – pQd May 22 '09 at 15:22
Should I use a WiFi extender instead of trying to use multiple APs? – Max Schmeling May 22 '09 at 15:28
that depends how large are 'large warehouse buildings' and what bandwidth your clients would need/generate, how many clients you would have. i'd prefer to avoid repeaters [ or wds ] and went for setup described earlier. – pQd May 22 '09 at 16:17
I'm not sure on the exact sizes, but both buildings are more than 10,000 sq ft. They really wouldn't need high bandwidth for the most part (although in the office area it would be nice for them to have) – Max Schmeling May 22 '09 at 17:14

If you want to connect the wireless between the two buildings, you need an access point in each building running in bridge mode and two outdoor antennas. You can mount them on the roofs, window to window, or the flat patch antennas as long as they are facing each other. You just want to make sure there is a clear line of site between the antennas, and make sure they're high enough to avoid interruption from trucks driving through.

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