Wi-Fi, internet and CCTV have become increasingly critical to events due to the amount of systems relying on mission critical IT systems, so its worth getting an expert on your team to help work out what to do, keep your specification clear and your suppliers honest. This blog provides some top tips on what to consider when planning all things technical for your event.
Firstly, separate Wi-Fi from the actual internet connection. Imagine Wi-Fi is your home shower head and the internet is the mains water supply, both must be working well to get a good experience. The better the internet supply the better your experience will be. Even poor Wi-Fi equipment can do a reasonable job of providing access assuming it’s deployed sensibly, the best Wi-Fi equipment can’t do anything with a poor internet connection.
Event networks have become increasingly critical on event sites, connecting systems such as payment terminals, EPOS, ticketing, sound monitoring, CCTV, catering, sponsors, production and telephony across large areas. In many cases the networks being deployed are considerably more complex than a large office. Added to that complexity is the time pressure of deployment and many unknowns such as third parties plugging in equipment, or last-minute sponsors.
Understanding the Costs – Generally internet access is the single most expensive item on the quote, typically followed by resource and then everything else. The best method to reduce the internet connection charge is to ensure you have a handle on how much internet you need, and then get it installed permanently (usually over 3 years).
Get on board with the tech – Or, as mentioned, get someone on your team who does. Like power or security on site the more you understand it, the more you can identify what you want and what is important enough to pay for.
Should I worry about Wi-Fi interference? – The issues with interference (i.e. getting a connection from the Wi-Fi access point to your device) are common. Because all Wi-Fi is unlicensed, and in some cases shared with other technologies, interference is always there, it’s either low enough not to be a big issue, or enough to become a big issue. Of the two frequencies Wi-Fi operates at (2.4Ghz and 5Ghz) 5Ghz performs better and has more channels so even if other networks are operating around you, there is more chance of getting a good experience. However, because it’s a higher frequency 5Ghz can’t travel through as many obstructions (such as walls).
Get ready for power requirements – Networks tend to be deployed from central points outwards. They require power at most points (network cables can carry power up to around 90 metres) which should be 24/7, otherwise when everything gets turned on every morning issues are bound to happen.
Consider what support you need – Consider what type of support you would like for first day services, build, live, break and last day. Remote support is fine with an understanding about when an engineer could visit if required. It helps to have someone semi-technical on the crew who can be on the phone with an engineer since most things can be fixed remotely, issues arise when even the internet connection is down so the remote engineers have no visibility to what’s happening on site.
Consider your security – It is common to see network names and passwords up on the wall. This is fine, although not secure! But also tends to lead to high levels of people connecting, even those just walking through the production area. This can be difficult to control so many events now choose to use individual usernames and passwords (perhaps printed on the rear of their access credentials) which means internet limits can be applied per person not per network.
Have a backup plan (Risk Mitigation) – Always consider plan A and plan B. Any supplier should do that for you, but you don’t want critical systems such as ticketing or payment terminals to fall over mid show. Plan B may be totally manual and changing systems back to cash for example.
Data after the event – A major aspect that is often overlooked is understanding what the event used in terms of internet and phone systems. Do you need the same again next year? If a phone wasn’t used could it be dropped? If the internet is constantly under too much load (but budget isn’t available to increase it) can you control access better?