Stressing Your WiFi Network: What, Why, and How
Stressing, or stress testing, a network is a method used by IT teams to diagnose any weak performance areas and ensure that the wireless network can handle anything thrown at it.
This is not taking it easy on a network. This is pushing the network to its limits, perhaps creating scenarios that aren’t likely to ever happen in real life – but still could – and seeing how a network responds. Stress testing is meant to allow IT teams to discover networks’ breaking points and observe how a network performs as it approaches those breaking points.
Networks are resilient systems. They will keep working well, even when there are issues, as long as there are only a few users. Problems arise when a significant number of devices connect at the same time and create a high-demand environment. This is when issues will reveal themselves and end-user performance can suffer.
Stressing the network helps uncover some of those problem areas before end-users are affected. The testing will reveal any weak points, allowing IT to proactively strengthen them, and give valuable knowledge into how the network reacts when stressed. Once IT has identified these warning signs, teams can be on the lookout and ready to act preemptively at the first hint of trouble.
Network administrators may decide to stress test:
- To ensure that the network gives an organization a competitive advantage
- To test that new infrastructure delivers the advertised support and reliability
- To prove that a network can handle extreme circumstances – such as a sudden influx of traffic due to a flash sale or some other prize
The point is to absolutely hammer the network. There are a few different ways to do that.
- Connect an increasing number of devices to a single Access Point (AP) and measure the same data points every time that new devices are added
- Connect a high number of devices all at once and run analytics to test network performance
These scenarios work well if you have a lot of end-users around to help test. For example, this Massachusetts school worked with 400 students to stress the network.
Using Automated Tools
There are a number of automated stress testing tools on the market. These tools work by generating high volumes of data packets and sending them through the network. Look for a tool that:
- Will emulate typical traffic patterns
- Will allow IT to designate specific devices and ports
- Will test remote sites and cloud services
Finally, always remember to only stress-test an isolated network.
Understanding the Results
Stress testing provides a complete picture of network performance. It’s important to understand exactly what the testing reveals in order to strengthen the network and prepare it to handle unfavorable situations. Using an analytics and assurance solution in conjunction with stressing will provide IT with clear and actionable data, removing any mystery from the network and making optimization easy.
Wyebot’s IoT sensor connects to the network as a client device so that its diagnostics and analytics accurately reflect an end-user’s experience. Wyebot’s Wireless Intelligence Platform (WIP) provides complete visibility into the entire WiFi ecosystem and automatically identifies all connected devices and reports any problems. In addition, WIP’s network test suite can run diagnostics during the stress-test to screen for any performance issues. The suite includes tests for:
- Wireless connectivity and internet connectivity
- Network Services
If any test fails or falls outside designated parameters, WIP will automatically alert IT and provide actionable intelligence.
IT can use the analytics gathered during the stress-test to determine any changes that need to be made to the network for optimized performance in the present. For example:
- Do load balancers need to be added?
- Does capacity need to be expanded?
- Did the network struggle to provide reliable bandwidth and uptime?
Teams can also save the data and compare it to later stress tests to see how the network has changed over time. This can support future upgrades and capacity planning.
Stress testing a network reveals valuable information about the performance and efficiency of the wireless ecosystem. Use this method to ensure that your network can handle anything – including hundreds of employees suddenly connecting remotely. If you have any questions about optimizing a network, contact us today.