Saturday, August 20, 2011

AirMagnet Site Survey Pro Comparison to TamoGraph Site Survey

TamoGraph Site Survey

Back in June I received a license for the TamoGraph Site Survey application courtesy of Michael Berg from @TamoSoft. I told them I'd give the application a try and see how it compared to the features I was familiar with in AirMagnet Survey Pro.

I had done a previous compare/contrast with the Ekahau Survey application, but I did not have the TamoGraph software at the time to do a three way comparison.

Several months went by before I had a good indoor survey opportunity to use for the comparison of TamoGraph against AirMagnet. It has then taken me a couple of weeks to find the time to edit the Camtasia video and add a narration audio track to accompany the visual demonstration.

I used the TamoGraph Site Survey application to survey a smaller section of a much larger building  - just large enough to get some good survey data. Using the TamoGraph application was pretty straight forward. The first step was to load the correct driver for my Proxim 8494 USB card for the TamoGraph application. This was as easy as clicking Help > Driver Installation Guide, and then choosing which wireless card I wanted to use with the TamoGraph application.

I did have some problems when trying to use the Intel 6200 AGN card, so I opted to do the comparison by using the same Proxim USB wireless card for both site survey applications.

Starting a new survey is done by clicking 'New Project', defining where you want to store your files, (next), choosing the environment type, choosing measurements in feet or meters and choosing to extrapolate the data beyond the guess range of _X_ feet/meters. Then you choose the scan settings for the 2.4 & 5GHz frequencies (next), then load the floor plan image. The last thing you do before you begin surveying is to scale the drawing to a known distance. For this small demonstration I used a three foot doorway. It is advisable to use a longer known distance than a mere three feet. Using Google Earth can give you the outer dimensions of the building, or you can use a laser tool to measure an wall span within the building.
TamoGraph Site Survey Project Wizard - Environment Type
TamoGraph Site Survey Project Wizard - Scanner Settings

There are several requirements presets that you can choose from in order to determine if the current wireless deployment meets certain 'success metrics'. Each of these requirement presets can be edited and saved as custom presets.

The display options in TamoGraph site survey were very similar to those of AirMagnet. I am including screen captures for each of the applications' drop down menus below.
TamoGraph Visualizations
AirMagnet Menu
AirMagnet Menu (expanded)
AirMagnet Menu (expanded)
There is the ability to change the AP detection and placement on the map. By default TamoGraph will approximate the AP installation location based upon the RSSI detected by the application. This location information is not always accurate since RSSI can fluctuate a bit.

The version of TamoGraph I was using (ver 2.0 Build 44) has a known issue with displaying the manufacturer name of newer Cisco access points. The non-identification problem was caused by the fact that their MACs begin with 88:F0:77, an OUI assigned by IEEE to Cisco very recently. This OUI was missing from the list of OUIs that comes with TamoGraph. The new file will also be included in the next TamoGraph release. Also, the ability to list the AP name will be included in the next release of the TamoGraph Site Survey application.

In order to work around this - I placed the APs exactly where they were located by standing directly under an AP and watching the AP list to see which AP had the strongest signal strength. Then I could place the location of that AP exactly.

Pausing the survey is not possible, instead you simply stop collecting data by clicking the stop button, and then begin collecting data again when you're ready to do so. This is essentially the same as pausing the survey, but just going about it in a different manner.

The survey data looked different from AirMagnet (naturally), but the actual RSSI and SNR values that were detected by each application were the same. There were some things I would have to get used to that the TamoGraph survey accomplished differently. Such as pausing/stopping the survey, having to select the APs you want included in the reporting, and the inaccurate auto placement.  I think if I were to use TamoGraph as my main site survey tool it would suffice for collecting RSSI and SNR data, but I would most likely turn off the auto AP placement.

The display option of  'AP Coverage Areas' looked a little strange to me, and perhaps it would make more sense if the area I was surveying wasn't covered by so many different APs. It seems that the coverage cell for a given AP is indicated as a colored line on the map. I'm not sure if this display would be useful in a densely populated RF environment, but it was an interesting RF display map. It reminded me of some Visios I had to create for a customer once upon a time.

The new features that will be available in TamoGraph Site Survey 2.1 are listed here. According to this information the ability to do predictive planning will be available in a few months.

The YouTube video I uploaded showing the differences between AirMagnet and TamoGraph is here:

The TamoGraph Site Survey application without GPS support is priced at $749 and with GPS support is $999. By comparison, the AirMagnet Site Survey Pro application is priced at $3995 including the Planner module and $1990 without the Planner module.

All in all, I was impressed by the features present in the version of TamoGraph that I worked with. I think that the RSSI/SNR data that was recorded within TamoGraph was just as accurate as that within AirMagnet. For companies on a budget, the TamoGraph application would be a worthy investment.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Jennifer, thanks for great review! I noticed that Tamograph now has added option for active and active/passive surveys.