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Lightning struck our WLAN at the antenna (bridge). Now it doesn't work the same. Can you help?

About two months ago we suffered a lightning strike to our WLAN at the antenna (bridge). The wireless link to our warehouse was working to perfection. Not so after the lightning strike.

At the time of the lightning strike we were running 802.11b throughout the entire system. Including, two 802.11b (D-link) devices configured as a wireless bridge shooting about 300 meters. After the lighting strike we have had a terrible time getting our wireless link working as it was prior.

First we replaced both sides of the bridge with (D-link) 802.11g devices. The link would go up and down. Thinking maybe it was now a power issue we ran both bridge devices through UPS units with AVR. This seemed to help the situation some but didn't bring back total connectivity. We then replaced switches and some cabling. Still no luck.

We then tried to go backwards by finding two bridge units identical (802.11b) to what we had before the lightning strike. Unfortunately one of the two units we purchased (refurb) rattled straight out of the box. Anyway, we had no luck going backwards.

After many conversations with D-link, who I must say has always provided fantastic support; we bridged the 802.11g units in "super G mode." The bridge is working but is still problematic when it comes to running Intuit Master Builder.

Our main software running accounting and estimating is Intuit Master Builder. For some reason the program will not work well over this WLAN. All programs, other than Master Builder work great. The Intuit program was running fine prior to the lightning strike. We just can't get back to where we were.

Any suggestions?

The damaged component could be the antenna, cabling or connectors between the antenna and your 802.11 bridge, the bridge's power supply, or the bridge itself. You told me that you have already tried replacing both your bridges and cabling, and that you've verified clean power supply by using a UPS with AVR. That would appear to leave the outdoor antenna. Have you tried replacing or realigning that antenna? Have you also confirmed that your wired-side LAN is clean? A power surge can ripple through inter-connected electronic components.

You also told me that most of your applications are working fine, but one key application that worked well before no longer works after the strike and your efforts to debug this problem. I would use a WLAN analyzer like WildPackets AiroPeek, Network Instruments Network Observer, or Ethereal to capture traffic when running other applications. I'd try to compare those traffic statistics to a capture taken when running only the application that doesn't work. There's obviously something slightly different about that application's behavior that pushes the envelope for your WLAN -- maybe the frames tend to be bigger, maybe the transmission rate tends to be higher, maybe the packet error rate is higher, etc. Careful analysis of traffic statistics may help you spot where communication is breaking down lead you to possible remedies.

This was last published in September 2004

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