“What just changed?” is the question Network IT Managers ask every day, and the question they have to answer for others in the organization. Everything seemed fine yesterday, or last week, or last month, but today, something has impacted Wi-Fi performance. When it comes to Wi-Fi, all types of factors come into play, and having a Wi-Fi Performance Management system that can measure, trend, analyze and verify performance provides the way to find the answer. Below are 6 before / after use cases that are common:
1. Access Point Change or Upgrade – Wi-Fi networks are not static. As demands on the network grow, new AP models are introduced, new vendors are tried out and new capabilities are deployed. How do you know if the change is positive or negative, and to what degree? A system of continuous performance measurement, monitoring throughput, delay, jitter, packet loss and voice quality provides the answer. A very relevant case today is the migration from 802.11n to 802.11ac. Does .11ac provide the capabilities the AP vendor promised? Will the Wi-Fi network be able to support the anticipated growth of devices and applications? Without before / after data, you’re only guessing.
2. Software Updates – Life in the IT world is constantly disrupted by issues caused by software updates to network elements, controllers, devices and applications. These updates may be required to solve an issue but then they introduce others. And of course, when something goes wrong, what gets blamed? The network, of course, and usually the part of the network that is closest to the end-user – the Wi-Fi! Without visibility and without good before / after results, you have no defense. In fact, IT Managers using Wi-Fi Performance Management repeatedly point out that one of the key benefits is being able to determine whether the issue lies with the application, the user, the type of device, or the network.
3. New Devices – Everything works fine until the new iPhone or tablet comes out. Then airtime utilization increases, retransmissions hit the roof and everyone else’s WLAN performance degrades. But of course you can see the impact of the new devices and isolate issues since your Wi-Fi Performance System can look back over time and see what changed.
4. New Applications – The introduction of new applications for the mobile workforce can range from benign to disastrous. Benchmarking your network before and after provides critical data for ensuring a successful roll out. You may find that issues are not systemic and isolated to only a few areas or set of devices. You may also find that certain Wi-Fi performance metrics such as latency suddenly become more important than before, and you need to make changes in the network to accommodate.
5. Network Settings – There are a lot of knobs to configure in a Wi-Fi network such as power settings, data rates, channel assignments and layer 2 protocol parameters. Even systems with automated Wi-Fi algorithms have settings that might need to be tuned to overcome issues and provide acceptable performance. A Wi-Fi Performance System takes the guesswork out of WLAN optimization and provides a great way to measure cause and effect when parameters are changed.
6. Service Provider Change – If you are operating a network with connections to many different facilities, the wide area network is likely to change over time – either by introducing a new service provider or a new set of network services to all or part of the network. As part of this process, it is good to measure network performance before and after from the perspective of all the end users accessing the network via Wi-Fi. End-to-end measurements to the data center or to websites provide critical information on what may have improved or degraded. Comparing test results run over the air versus over the wire from the same network sensor point provides critical information on where the network changes have an effect.
These 6 before and after use cases highlight one of the great values of measuring Wi-Fi performance continuously and being able to quickly compare and correlate the results. Which use case is most relevant to your operation?