Businesses Need WiFi Infrastructure + WiFi Automation for True Optimization
WiFi networking is a strange, complex creature, a living ecosystem of digital information that flows in every possible direction, creating stress points and trouble areas, often in unpredictable ways. This is why, regardless of a network’s size, understanding and properly designing WiFi infrastructure is so important – and why, as systems become more iterative and complex, employing WiFi Automation is a critical component of any functioning network’s long-term success.
Typically, WiFi network administrators use software suites from companies like Cisco, Aruba, and Extreme. to ensure proper management of their wireless devices, networks, and data. These systems provide the means for assessing and addressing any infrastructure issues, and they do so very well. So why add in WiFi Automation? These platforms provide a separate piece of the optimization puzzle: integral end user quality metrics and network automation necessary for real-time and future WiFi Assurance.
Complementary value frees up IT resources
While APs and their respective management platforms are an important part of the WiFi network, they have a centralized focus on a business’s network infrastructure. They also require manual input to run end user tests, view client RF coverage, capture historical wireless traces, and perform other similar tasks. These tasks are critical to ensuring a constantly running system, one subject to drastic changes in traffic and connectivity at any point in time. WiFi Automation platforms streamline the process and add extra value by:
- Monitoring the entire RF environment: this includes all connected devices, WiFi and non-WiFi sources of interference, and the core WiFi network that the business is dependent on. All of these factors impact a WiFi network’s performance.
- Allowing a network to monitor itself by running automated tests and stress checks; and proactively collecting quantitative data to identify and resolve the issues that can spring up at any time.
- Providing remote monitoring and automated troubleshooting so that IT teams can resolve issues from any location, at any time while reducing MTTR.
With an ever-growing number of connected devices, networks can transmit tens of thousands of data packets a second. These packets, sent through the RF environment, are ultimately what must be monitored and analyzed for all issue resolution and overall network optimization. It isn’t possible for humans to monitor the information in real-time, but it is possible for automated platforms working with artificial intelligence (AI).
These platforms enhance the analytics of existing WiFi management platforms, serving a complementary role with 24/7 monitoring and automatic reports of any issues. Depending on the platform, these reports can include the root cause identification and actionable steps for resolution. Some platforms will even proactively report the issue, alerting IT before end users are impacted. This not only improves the end user experience, but also significantly reduces the Mean-Time-to-Resolution, freeing up IT teams to focus on other mission-critical responsibilities.
While real-time analytics are crucial for network optimization – issues need to be identified and resolved as quickly as possible – long-term network analytics are equally as important. WiFi Automation platforms will keep track of analytics such as airtime utilization, compatibility issues, and changes in network density over long periods of time. This helps administrators identify issues that evolve over months and years, providing critical insight into how a given network is working, and what needs to be done to optimize its functionality. This results in improved budget and capacity planning for a future-proofed network.
Additionally, these historical analytics provide a detailed look into the immediate past for IT teams. If an issue occurred overnight while teams weren’t on site, the platform will still identify the problem, record all relevant data, and have all the information needed for resolution waiting on the dashboard for IT in the morning.
One of the most valuable pieces of data IT can have is knowing exactly what the end user is experiencing. Some WiFi Automation platforms can connect to the network as if they are a client device and then run tests. All test results then reflect the end user experience, allowing IT to review the network from the client’s perspective.
Automated platforms exist to provide a necessary service, not to cause headaches for network administrators. For this reason, businesses should work with a platform that is vendor agnostic. The platform should complement all existing infrastructure, and not need to be replaced if a business decides to change their WiFi infrastructure vendor.
However, if a business does make a change, a vendor agnostic platform will provide continuity with its detailed historical analytics into network health and performance, rather than requiring IT to effectively start from scratch.
WiFi Automation in action
Now that we’ve shared the facts, let’s take a look at a real life example of a WiFi Automation platform working with existing infrastructure.
A university upgraded its student housing so that the dorms used WiFi-enabled thermostats and 802.11ax APs. While newer technology is usually seen as better, this time the two technologies didn’t always get along. Every so often, the thermostats would disconnect from the APs, and the heating/cooling environment could no longer be controlled.
The issue persisted for months. Because it was intermittent, IT didn’t know when to be onsite to capture data for problem resolution, and they weren’t able to stand around the dorms 24/7. Not only did they have other responsibilities, but travel and visitors were restricted due to COVID health guidelines. The IT director spoke with both the AP vendor and the thermostat vendor, but neither vendor was able to ID the problem.
Finally, the university turned to the Wyebot Wireless Intelligence Platform (WIP). a WiFi Automation platform. Once plugged in, WIP began monitoring the network immediately. When IT received an alert from the thermostat that it was offline, the team was able to go into WIP’s dashboard and pull an automatically stored wireless trace that detailed the flow of communication between the thermostat and the AP at the time of the drop. That trace provided the information needed to identify and resolve the issue.
This type of disturbance – a WiFi network issue arising from a combination of new IoT devices and the continuous evolution of technology – is experienced by companies and universities around the world. The intermittent and disruptive nature of the disturbance is also all too common. It took a WiFi Automation platform, WIP, to cut through the noise and confusion and finally provide the analytics needed to resolve the issue after months of disruption.
WiFi Automation + You
From access points to controllers, from RF environments to IoT devices, automated WiFi management platforms support the entire spectrum of tech and software in a given system, helping to ensure an always-healthy ecosystem in any imaginable professional setting.
Automated processes free up resources for more pressing matters, and platforms like the Wireless Intelligence Platform streamline monitoring and analyzing, to help both protect your current network design, and allow administrators to think proactively about how to adjust, change, or tweak their infrastructure as their needs change. Having these platforms are critical as networks grow more and more complex.