Bring your own device (BYOD), digital transformation and other trends have raised the bar on Wi-Fi. A decade or so ago, Wi-Fi was a “nice to have” for most organizations, and users understood the tradeoff: high-quality, consistent access through the wired connection or freedom of movement coupled with spotty quality with wireless access.
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Today, that’s not the case. Wi-Fi is the primary network and a mission-critical resource for most companies, as many devices today do not even have a wired option. Users need high-quality, consistent and secure wireless connectivity to do their jobs. When Wi-Fi isn’t working, it isn’t just internal employees who are affected. Student’s can’t do research, shoppers can’t purchase goods, clinicians can treat patients and IoT devices can’t connect. Poor Wi-Fi is no longer simply an inconvenience; it means lost customers, degraded teaching experiences, lost revenue and brand damage.
Wi-Fi troubleshooting still very flawed
However, the process of Wi-Fi troubleshooting is still highly flawed. ZK Research recently conducted a nationwide survey, sponsored by Mojo Networks, of 102 respondents to investigate the perceptions and realities of Wi-Fi issues. The survey was split almost evenly across general enterprise, higher education and K-12.
The education markets were of particular interest, given the high rate of technically advanced users, the reliance on Wi-Fi and the importance to those verticals, as I pointed out in a post earlier this month.
Some interesting findings from the survey:
- When users report a network issue, 64 percent of respondents cited Wi-Fi as the issue. However, when verified by IT, Wi-Fi was the problem only 40 percent of the time. That means there is a significant gap between Wi-Fi reliability perception and reality. In actuality, we have all become accustomed to poorly deployed Wi-Fi in airports, hotels and other areas, and this has created a perception that Wi-Fi is unreliable. So, it makes sense that most users would assume it was the problem.
- In a typical week, 47 percent of respondents said Wi-Fi issues impacted at least 10 percent of workers. This number was highest in K-12 where Wi-Fi issues affected 10 percent or more users 54 percent of the time. Given the maturity of Wi-Fi, this is a staggeringly high number.
- When users report wireless issues, 40 percent cite Wi-Fi association as the main problem. Another 23 percent claim issues with performance. In actuality, when IT verifies the issue, 54 percent of time problems are from Wi-Fi association, roaming and related issues. The second highest verified problem was DNS at 18 percent.
- Regarding troubleshooting and fixing Wi-Fi problems, 47 percent of respondents claim it takes at least 30 minutes to diagnose the issue. Once the problem is found, 41 percent of the time it takes at least 30 minutes to resolve the issue. Given the high number of users who experience problems weekly, a significant amount of time is taken fixing Wi-Fi issues.
- The survey somewhat quantified the labor impact of troubleshooting. Thirteen percent of respondents stated they spend more than half of their time troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues. Another 45 percent claimed 25-50 percent of their time was spent on that task. That’s almost 58 percent of respondents who spend at least 25 percent of their time problem-solving Wi-Fi.
- When a Wi-Fi issue arises, a network administrator notices and detects it before the user 43 percent of the time, so users are reporting problems more often than network operations is seeing them.
What does all of this data tell us? Wi-Fi should be a mature technology with well-defined deployment best practices and mature troubleshooting tools. However, this is clearly not the case. The fact there is such a large disconnect between what users think and what network managers find is a strong proof point of my statement.
Wireless networks are now the primary network for most users, and its incumbent on the Wi-Fi vendors to provide better management and automation tools to cut down on the number of issues and then help engineers diagnose and fix the problems faster.