6 Characteristics Of High Performing WLANs

WiFi networks were originally built simply with coverage in mind. Access points were installed in rooms where WiFi was “necessary” and other rooms were left untouched. But, as businesses began migrating from Ethernet to a complete WiFi-only infrastructure, this made WiFi a mission critical service to business objectives.

A West Coast Use Case

In this post, I’ll outline 6 characteristics of high performing WLANs which will do away with frustrated end users and get your business back on the track to productivity.

In the bustling tech hub of San Francisco, a tech-centric business relied on WiFi for all operations, including the need to access the cloud. The increased uploading and downloading traffic patterns began slowing down WiFi. To help increase productivity and take advantage of the investment made into the WLAN infrastructure, we helped plan and design a WLAN for this company. This WLAN would allow for a better user experience, as well as, an increase in performance and reliability.

WiFi Starts with Planning and Design

If you give your finger a quick lick and put it up in the air, then you turn to your installer and point to randomly selected areas of the ceiling and say, “Put a WAP here, one over there, and one right here and we should be good…” – this is a recipe for disaster.

To deploy a high performing WLAN, in which your workforce heavily relies on, requires more than guess work. It requires a proper design which begins with gathering requirements. When it comes to upgrading the core network, WiFi must be treated the same. Treat WiFi as an extension of your wired network.

Design is the result of thorough planning. It requires understanding how the WLAN will be used, what devices will be utilizing the WLAN, how many devices, and what applications. This is not an exhaustive list of questions but it’s a good starting point. The end result of planning and design will be a WLAN built for a productive end user experience.

Planning upfront will lay the foundations to a WLAN designed to fit the business needs. A WLAN must be designed for a mobile workforce. The technical professional must have in-depth WiFi knowledge and understand the knobs required to tune for the specific environment.

A high performing WLAN will be designed so that there are less trouble tickets. It will be designed on the capability of the devices utilizing the WLAN, the capacity needs of the environment, and for high density of devices.

How to Make WiFi Reliable

Accessing information quickly and easily on any wireless device is what drives the mobile workforce. WiFi is now the primary access; businesses have been migrating from Ethernet to an all-wireless infrastructure. That means the WLAN infrastructure must be reliable.

Redundancy builds a robust WLAN infrastructure to prevent major outages and prevents loss of productivity and loss of potential revenue. Ensure the WLAN is built with excellent backend infrastructure.

A reliable WLAN must be capable of adapting to the radio frequency environment. It must react to adverse effects from neighboring WLANs. Interference is another productivity killer which a WLAN needs to identify and mitigate.

With workforces placing an abundant reliance on cloud applications, maintaining a reliable WLAN is key to boosting business growth.

How to Secure the WiFi Network

Mobile data traffic grew 63% in 2016, according to Cisco. There’s no avoiding the penetration of IoT devices as they take the enterprise by storm. It leaves many wondering how to secure IoT devices and their WLANs.

IoT may help drive innovation but data must be kept secure and unauthorized access needs to be thwarted.

A high performing WLAN must allow trusted devices to authorized data. Properly segmenting these networks is just one of many steps.

A WLAN system must identify rogue access points and devices with a method of containing those threats quickly.

In 2007, TJ Maxx had a cyber security breach of their credit card data because of weak WiFi security. Don’t become the next headline.

Maintaining Good End User Experience

In today’s workplace, everyone is accessing the cloud at all times. WiFi is now the primary method of access to network resources. People are carrying up to 3 or 4 devices at a time and needing to get their work done from any of those devices.

To provide a boost in productivity and effectively collaborate with others, slow or unresponsive WiFi must be eliminated.

A well performing WLAN always goes back to reliability. An increase in reliability boosts end user productivity. Users can perform their work efficiently and from anywhere in the office. Voice calls are often done over WiFi due to a lack of LTE signal penetration into the building. Video conferencing and streaming is putting a strain on the WLAN as well. Plan for these workloads.

The quality of the users’ work while using WiFi can be directly matched to the reliability of the WiFi network.

Designing for Capacity

As people begin working in the office at early hours, the WiFi network will be humming. As more people begin to fill in their seats some start noticing a degradation of WiFi service.

The increase in number of devices creates a high density situation; with the average person carrying 3-4 devices, this can put a strain on the WLAN.

The types of applications used on each of these devices defines how well a WiFi network will perform. If it was designed according to requirements, it will perform as expected. Without planning for capacity equates to planning for failure.

Other factors must be taken into consideration. In addition to planning for capacity, APs must be mounted properly and antennas aligned in the right direction. It is all based on the usage and capacity requirements of the work patterns.

WiFi Insight

How do we know if a WLAN is performing? Is the IT support staff armed with the right tools to understand the state of the WiFi network. Analytics can provide valuable insight into how the WiFi network is being used and to what capacity. This information can lead to optimizations for increased end user experience.

Analytics can also empower the IT support staff to troubleshoot quickly when issues arise. The data lends itself to measuring end user experience across an entire network stack.

With such powerful information on-hand, we can improve root cause analysis, decrease the length of time spent during the investigation process, and improve time to resolution.

Conclusion

WiFi networks are more complex than ever. The 6 characteristics are: starting with a plan and design based on requirements of the business and end users, reliability to ensure devices can connect when they need to, security – which should be thought of starting from the beginning of the design, WiFi networks should provide a good end user experience and less frustrations, built for capacity as more devices are brought onto WiFi, and should be monitored to investigate any issues, find trends, or to be proactive.

WiFi Monitoring Client Perspective