Reflections on Interop Las Vegas 2013: The WLAN Life Cycle, AP Problems and IT Best Practices
by M. Bhise

Last month, I attended Interop Las Vegas to speak about Wireless LAN Testing, Benchmarking and Verification with a panel of wireless industry experts, including analyst Craig Mathias. Our discussion was well attended by a variety of eager, lively network professionals with active, dynamic debate and discussions. It’s clear the WLAN discussion is shifting: Wi-Fi is an everyday norm, and user expectations are graduating from simply appreciating the convenience of wireless to expecting optimal performance.

The conversation revolved around a few high-level questions. What do enterprises need to ensure optimal WLAN deployment and performance? What are best practices for testing and verification of a WLAN? Can wireless professionals be proactive in order to avoid common user complaints?

Two of the most common end-user complaints discussed were difficulty connecting to APs and poor network and application performance. Both of these problems have a variety of underlying reasons that can cause complications. An AP connection issue could be caused by coverage holes, non-operational APs, or a Layer 1 attack wiping out all Wi-Fi signals. Inefficient network design and deployment, RF interference, or an overloaded network can cause poor network and application performance.

Deployment and implementation of a wireless local area network should take into account four major criteria: User experience, network applications and services, the wireless environment, and interaction with the wired infrastructure. Seeing four bar reception on a wireless device isn’t good enough. For real evaluation and assurance of end-user experience, IT must be able to test and verify the network in a variety of situations, from low-bandwidth web browsing to heavy video streaming. The same logic applies for supporting Voice over WLAN (VoWLAN): Wireless professionals must have full analysis of encrypted WLAN traffic and scoring of all calls’ quality.

To prevent all of the most common Wi-Fi issues, wireless needs to be thought about in terms as a holistic WLAN lifecycle, from planning to deployment and verification, to troubleshooting and interference, to 24x7 performance monitoring and security of a WLAN. Products like AirMagnet Survey PRO, AirMagnet Wi-Fi Analyzer, AirMagnet Spectrum XT, and AirMagnet Enterprise can be used together to plan, optimize, and secure a wireless network for today’s enterprise that will meet the end-user expectations.

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