Most businesses and organizations are asking more of their WiFi networks than ever before: more users, ever-changing devices, bandwidth-heavy applications, and security threats are putting greater demands on WiFi. But are the wireless networks getting the TLC they deserve?
With greater dependence on and demand for WiFi comes the need to measure performance, from both the network perspective as well as that of the end user. Measuring performance ensures that businesses are consistently providing their users with the WiFi experience they need to be productive, and in turn, happy.
Real-time visibility means having the necessary hardware and network monitoring software to visualize how your wireless system and the end users it's supporting are performing, all in–you guessed it!–real time. As in, right now, at your fingertips.
Without these ongoing performance checks, the only way to know if there’s a problem with your network is to wait until there’s a problem with your network. If you’ve ever opened a help ticket from a frustrated end user having a poor WiFi experience, you know how much fun that can be.
(Actual footage of frustrated WiFi user.)
Measuring network performance means being proactive (“knowledge is power”), rather than reactive (“ignorance is bliss”–until there’s a problem), with the health and functionality of your network.
We’ve talked before on this blog about thinking of your wireless network as a living thing. Once you've designed and deployed your network, it’s not static. Things are constantly changing: the number and type of devices, the applications, client usage, the RF environment. It's a never-ending process of monitoring and making adjustments.
If you care about your physical health, you probably see your doctor for routine checkups. Your doctor will look at the data: your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. If adjustments to your diet or exercise routine need to be made, you can come up with a plan for doing so, before a problem occurs later on down the road.
Just like it’s unwise to refuse to monitor your physical health, neglecting to monitor the health of your WiFi network is a recipe for the wireless equivalent of a heart attack: your network goes down, and your business comes to a screeching halt.
This is where having the right network monitoring software enters the mix. It’s an essential part of properly measuring performance and your overall wireless network.
What You’ll Need: The Components
Real-time visibility is brought to you by a combination of the following components:
- Access Points (APs) – Your APs will send data about client usage and location to your wireless network and the network management system (see below).
- WiFi Controller – This can be either a physical piece of hardware or a virtual form of the appliance. The controller will connect all the data from the APs and present status. The controller will also send this information and more to the network management system, which can also total all of this info over a period of time to provide historical reporting. Note* – Historical reporting can be just as valuable in certain cases as real-time data.
- WiFi Switches – When integrated with your wireless management system, wifi switches can help provide valuable information about the health of your wired infrastructure.
- A network monitoring system (NMS) is the data collector and storage facility for all WiFi analytics data. The NMS has the ability not just to capture the gold mine of data flowing through your network, but also to present it in various formats that you can actually understand and use, such as RF heat maps, client locations, movement tracking, and detailed reporting. Using an NMS has a two-pronged benefit: 1) it gives you insight into exactly what’s happening with your network from end to end, so you can prevent many problems before they pop up, and 2) when there are problems, you have the information necessary to troubleshoot them in a fraction of the time.
If you’re thinking that this all sounds really complicated, well, you’re right. And not to be Debbie Downer, but it’s also time-consuming and costly to install and manage all the moving pieces required for achieving real-time visibility.
But here’s the good news: when you partner with a managed WiFi provider like SecurEdge, all of these hardware and software components and monitoring can be bundled together as part of a monthly WiFi as a Service subscription.
With WiFi as a Service, not only do we design and install all of the on-site hardware and software needed to support a high-performing wireless network, but we also manage it on an ongoing basis. Partnering with us can free your IT department up to do what it does best, rather than constantly putting out WiFi-related fires.