At 7signal we’ve discovered about 50% of the problems affecting the mobile experience that enterprises find with our EyeQ Performance Management software has little to do with Wi-Fi. You can spend a lot of time looking at spectrum analysis, channel utilization and other RF metrics without understanding why users are having a bad mobile experience on their devices. There are additional elements in the network that are just as important to test and measure. Here are five:
In addition to the basic handshake between the client and AP that verifies the encryption method being used, many enterprises deploy Radius servers as part of the authentication process. It’s important to measure each of the 5 phases of the EAP authentication process – both the success rate and the time it takes. Often captive portals are used too, so you want to measure the success rate and time it takes to log in to the system.
It’s critical to measure the network’s ability to provide the client with an IP address via a DHCP server. DHCP is a multi-stage process, so it is important to capture what is happening at each step along the way. Often times, the DHCP server ends up being the bottleneck in high turnover environments like large conference rooms, shared workspaces, retail operations, and other high density locations.
Resolving domain names should also be measured. Is the DNS host reachable? Is the DNS service accessible? What is the response time? Enterprises should strive for a service level where name resolution does not frustrate end users.
Quite often a bottleneck in the mobile experience may appear in the network behind the Wi-Fi access points. We’ve had customers where network file backups at night choked the connection from the hospital to the data center, causing VoWLAN calls to drop. We had another customer where the ISP inadvertently misconfigured rate-limiting on the WAN connection to 50 Mb/s, but of course everyone complained, “The Wi-Fi is broken.” One benefit of using LAN connected sensors as a means to measure Wi-Fi performance is that the throughput, latency and jitter tests can be pointed toward the LAN. With well-placed test targets, issues can be isolated to the exact segment causing the performance degradation.
Every enterprise has key web sites and SaaS systems they want their associates and guests to reach quickly and successfully. Web page success rates and download times from important Internet endpoints are good metrics to monitor over time. This is becoming particularly important in enterprise operations, where a quality mobile experience is necessary to communicate, collaborate and perform mission critical work.
So before you exclaim, “It’s the Wi-Fi!” take a closer look at the above items. It’s quite possible that the mobile experience for enterprise clients is impeded by something in the wire and not in the air.