Are You Getting the Wi-Fi Performance You Were Promised?

Are You Getting the Wi-Fi Performance You Were Promised?


WLAN infrastructure costs millions of dollars to install and support. The reason for the investment is obvious as more wireless devices are hitting the workplace every year. The proliferation of BYOD and the Internet of Things is growing exponentially, so a coherent strategy as well as careful planning are absolutely required.  Here are few stats to support this…

  • The GSM Association predicts 20 billion wireless devices by 2020.
  • Gartner states that by 2017, half of employers will require their employees to supply their own device for work purposes with the drivers being increasing employee satisfaction and reducing cost.
  • CED Magazine reports over the course of last year, the WLAN equipment market grew 11% to $4.47 billion worldwide.

As organizations upgrade from g to n to 802.11ac, they do so with certain expectations in accordance with their strategy and planning. Here are a few of the latest promises and benefit statements that I collected from a few of the WLAN vendor’s websites. These should all sound pretty familiar…

  • Operate at gigabit speeds and connect more devices and apps in the most crowded places.
  • Deploy 50-75% less equipment to reduce the total cost of ownership of the network.
  • Get high performance at low cost.
  • Deliver superior user experience with optimized RF.
  • Get more Wi-Fi capacity to devices that are far away.
  • Unmatched simplicity, ridiculous reliability, and killer coverage.
  • Delivering unprecedented performance and reliability.

Sounds amazing and you may even recognize the statements and are able to match them with the vendors. But is it true? Maybe it is, but how would you know?  Often times, you really don’t know if your network is truly meeting Wi-Fi performance expectations from a user experience standpoint, or if you are actually realizing the benefits and return on investment promised.

Many IT organizations today have service level agreements with different groups within the business. This might be expressed as a requirement such as, five 9 server reliability or 5 Mb/s of WLAN throughput 99% of the time for clients depending on a robust Wi-Fi network to access customer systems effectively and efficiently.  Or perhaps you are expecting to get a certain level of Wi-Fi performance at a certain distance from an access point. This all begs WLAN professionals to ask and answer even more questions:

  • Does your WLAN reality meet those expectations?
  • If so, then how often?
  • How do you measure?
  • How do you report your adherence to the business?
  • Are you proactive or reactive in your compliance to the business?

It’s an old adage and perhaps it is in danger of becoming a cliché. But it is true nevertheless:

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” —Peter Drucker

The great Dr. Deming, the grandfather of total quality management, expressed the concept a bit more dramatically when he stated…

“In God we trust, all others must bring data.” –W. Edwards Deming

It’s perfectly acceptable to believe in vendors and consultants who we have learned to trust over time.  However, in this global economy, the stakes are higher than ever before and the speed, security and performance promised with new Wi-Fi networks can provide real competitive advantages for many organizations. Therefore, a system of Wi-Fi performance management that provides continuous proactive measurement and accountability is also perfectly acceptable.

“Trust but verify.” –Ronald Reagan

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