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3 Wi-Fi Pain Points and How to Avoid Them

The rapid ascendancy of Wi-Fi presents numerous technical challenges.

The enterprise is going wireless. People have become so dependent on their mobile devices when they’re out of the office that they’re using them all day in the office as well. That’s why employees need great Wi-Fi service at their desks, in conference rooms, cafeterias, and on the lawn outside.

It’s also why network managers have to be more diligent than ever about how they plan, deploy, and validate Wi-Fi connectivity across their entire site.

In fact, demand for Wi-Fi in the workplace has become so pervasive that industry analysts such as IDC and Gartner are predicting — and even advocating — the use of a wireless network for traditionally wired devices such as desktop PCs and printers.

And it’s not just employees who demand quality Wi-Fi. Your business has a constant stream of customers, suppliers, partners, and contractors visiting your facility every day. Nearly all of them are looking for a signal and a password.

Wi-Fi demand is also being driven by warehouse operations, retail point-of-sale systems, and a growing range of Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

If you don’t quickly become more efficient at maintaining Wi-Fi service levels, you’ll soon need even more hours in the day than you do now.

The rapid ascendancy of Wi-Fi presents numerous technical challenges to anyone whose primary expertise is in wired Ethernet infrastructure. Those challenges include:

  • Fundamentally different network characteristics. With Ethernet, every cable runs between two known endpoints connecting two known devices. With Wi-Fi, access points serve an ever-changing set of devices that move in and out of their coverage fields. This profound dissimilarity requires you to completely rethink network design, performance management, capacity planning, and security.
  • Wireless interference. Wi-Fi networks are subject to interference from neighboring wireless networks and electronic devices such as microwave ovens and wireless security cameras. Your own wireless access points (WAPs) can also interfere with each other if they’re placed too close together and on overlapping channels. Diligent attention to interference is therefore crucial if you’re going to provide good, reliable service to users everywhere they require it.
  • Simply put, Wi-Fi is a new and rapidly escalating responsibility for every network manager.

Three Pain Points Driving Wi-Fi Investment

Intensifying use of Wi-Fi across the enterprise isn’t just a new technical challenge for network managers. It’s a major issue for the business. Three pain points in particular typically motivate businesses to invest in smarter Wi-Fi management:

1: The Negative Business Impact of Poor Service and Coverage

Wi-Fi is used intensively by high-productivity executives and knowledge workers. The economic impact to the business when these users can’t access a business intelligence app or download a badly needed email file attachment isn’t just lost productivity, it’s lost revenue. According to CSImarket.com, average revenue per employee per hour at S&P 500 companies for 2Q16 was just over $320. But the financial consequences can be a lot greater than that if someone can’t close a big deal or solve a customer’s time-sensitive problem because he or she can’t get a good Wi-Fi signal where and when it’s needed.

2: Inefficient Infrastructure Spending

Companies seeking to beef up their campus Wi-Fi to satisfy escalating business needs can waste a lot of money fast. In fact, if you don’t have clear visibility into Wi-Fi service levels across your entire location, you can wind up putting access points where they’re not needed — while not putting them where they are needed. You can also get talked into an unnecessary forklift overhaul or mistake an easily remedied channel assignment issue for a more-expensive-to-fix capacity or coverage issue.

3: The New Wi-Fi “Time Sink”

As Wi-Fi becomes more important to your business, you have to be more proactive about ensuring Wi-Fi performance. You also run the risk of being inundated with more trouble tickets if and when performance doesn’t meet users’ relentlessly rising expectations. So if you don’t quickly become more efficient at maintaining Wi-Fi service levels, you’ll soon need even more hours in the day than you do now.

These pain points and others make it imperative for you to aggressively evolve your Wi-Fi monitoring and assessment capabilities.

AIRMAGNET SURVEY

Accurate Wi-Fi Site Mapping for Optimized Wireless Network Design

NETSCOUT AirMagnet Survey is the industry’s most accurate site survey software solution for mapping, planning, and designing 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless LANs for optimal performance and security. It empowers you to determine the ideal quantity, placement, and configuration of access points for a successful wireless LAN deployment by precisely plotting connection speed, throughput, and packet statistics across your site.

Key AirMagnet Survey features include:

  • Accurate end-user experience data capture
  • Practical wireless interference “heat maps”
  • “What-if” scenario simulation
  • Voice-over-WLAN readiness assessment
  • Pass-fail certification reporting

Learn more about how NETSCOUT AirMagnet Survey can help you better plan and manage Wi-Fi service levels across your entire site.

The only way to be sure that your deployment delivers what your plan promised is to measure coverage across the site.

Walking the Walk

To avoid these emerging Wi-Fi pain points, you need the right methodology and the right technology — whether you’re a network manager or a wireless network solutions provider.

As noted above, the right methodology requires careful planning, deployment, and validation. Careful planning is important because access points have to be laid out based on an accurate assessment of a site’s physical environment and wireless interference across the entire site. Careful deployment is also clearly important, since coverage and throughput can be adversely affected by everything from metal structures to a wireless access point’s power settings — or even the orientation of its internal or external antennas.

Careful validation, however, is where many Wi-Fi managers fall short. The only way to be sure that your deployment delivers what your plan promised is to validate that deployment by measuring coverage across the site. Unfortunately, network managers and their solution providers often perform only the most rudimentary postdeployment Wi-Fi assessment.

This is a mistake. Immediate and repeated Wi-Fi validation offers multiple advantages, including:

  • Correction of Wi-Fi “cold spots” before deployment teams have moved on to other tasks
  • Proactive discovery of coverage issues to preempt trouble-tickets and user dissatisfaction
  • Better problem diagnostics that help IT avoid unnecessary upgrade costs
  • Credible documentation of deployment to spec (especially important for solution providers)
Wi-Fi Heat Map

By capturing Wi-Fi conditions across the site, network managers can safeguard service levels without wastefully overprovisioning WAPs.

The key enabling technology for this essential wireless network validation is a site survey solution that turns your laptop into a mobile Wi-Fi sensor — and then translates the resulting metrics into a Wi-Fi “heat map” that you can use to perform true fact-based network optimization (see graphic).

Without such technology, you can only guess at how well you’re actually delivering Wi-Fi service to the business. Worse yet, you’ll have to depend on unhappy users to let you know where your network is failing to deliver.

That’s why every network manager and wireless solution provider needs an effective Wi-Fi survey tool — and should diligently use that tool on an ongoing basis as part of a “plan, deploy, validate” methodology.

AIRMAGNET WI-FI ANALYZER PRO

Anytime, Anywhere, Wi-Fi Monitoring and Troubleshooting

NETSCOUT AirMagnet Wi-Fi Analyzer PRO is the industry’s leading portable wireless network troubleshooting solution. Wi-Fi Analyzer PRO empowers you to easily and accurately analyze your 802.11a/b/g/n/ac environments — without missing any traffic or getting bogged down in time-consuming packet analysis.

Key Wi-Fi Analyzer PRO features include:

  • Built-in Wi-Fi expertise
  • WLAN security and performance alerts
  • Client roaming analysis
  • Comprehensive Wi-Fi interference detection
  • Integrated reporting

Learn more about how NETSCOUT AirMagnet Analyzer PRO can improve your Wi-Fi service levels while lowering your total cost of Wi-Fi network ownership.