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How to take the mystery out of Wi-Fi using performance management tools

Eric Camulli, VP of Marketing for 7signal | May 20, 2014
Many IT departments still treat Wi-Fi like a second-class infrastructure asset despite the cultural shift toward mobility. Perhaps the reluctance to embrace Wi-Fi with open arms is due to a lack of visibility.

Passive tests monitor and measure all RF activity in the environment to tell us if clients can actually take advantage of the performance capabilities as measured by the active testing. Passive tests track channel usage, retransmission rates, data connection rates and environmental interference to gain a complete and accurate picture of how client devices and wireless access points all interact with each other and the environment in which they operate. The two sets of tests form the comprehensive data set that is required to fully understand the behavior of the network.  

The data is all brought to life through Wi-Fi analytics, which allow you to visualize your network in a way that provides actionable intelligence for finding and fixing the root cause of the Wi-Fi performance issues that are inhibiting worker productivity and operational efficiency. Because such systems track and trend performance over time and allow you to set service level targets for performance, you can now be proactive in identifying issues before they actually hamper the performance of clients on your network.  

No longer are you reacting to complaints, but rather you are truly managing the Wi-Fi network like the important and strategic asset it is. Trending charts allow you to isolate and correlate changes in the environment to changes in performance and reliability. Service level dashboards tell you when throughput or jitter begin to slip out of compliance. Performance SLAs may be set for particular buildings, areas or SSIDs and this allows you to centrally monitor, alert, investigate and resolve issues prior to complaints about lost productivity and without the need to dispatch resources.

The Wi-Fi Performance Cycle

As a result of putting in place a system of performance management, you have created a Wi-Fi performance cycle that assures ongoing reliability. The performance cycle begins with continuous measurements. The metrics generated are benchmarked and compared against service level targets for performance. An analysis of the data brings to light wireless weak spots that were never visible in the past. This allows you to intelligently optimize your network based on data, not anecdotes, complaints or theories.

Changes made to clients, access points or the environment can all be verified through the continuous measurements taken within the system. This ongoing verification provides network assurance, giving you confidence in the exact capabilities and limitations of your network and also offers insights into future demand planning.

A Wi-Fi performance management system takes the mystery out of managing Wi-Fi networks. With an overlay of Wi-Fi sensors in the ratio of one sensor to every six to eight access points, it affords you the proactive protection you need for mission critical SaaS applications that need access over Wi-Fi. It allows you to see how clients are actually experiencing the network by continually measuring throughput, latency and jitter, and it lets network engineers proactively detect and correct issues before anybody notices or complains. Finally, it ensures that wireless devices and the people who use them remain productive, saving your organization both time and money.


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