#WirelessSucks: Where do we go from here?

Is Wi-Fi really the problem, or is it getting a bad rap? As wireless becomes more predominant and business critical, it's essential to get to the root of the issue.

#WirelessSucks: Where do we go from here?
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“The Wi-Fi doesn’t work.” After speaking to hundreds of customers of all sizes, this is consistently one of the top help desk complaints that I hear. Not surprisingly, this creates a common perception about wireless that is unflattering to say the least.

Some of the time, this is a fair complaint. Wireless is a pervasive technology, and it is difficult to deliver a consistent and reliable experience across the exploding stream of different devices and device types.

+ Also on Network World: Wi-Fi troubleshooting remains a challenge for most organizations +

Other times, however, the Wi-Fi network is just getting a bad rap. It is guilty by association—i.e an easy target for people to blame when other issues might be at play. In fact, all of the following issues could impact network connectivity, casting a pall over the wireless experience:

  • Devices: OS, device type, driver version, location of the device, roaming behavior, custom device configuration, etc. 
  • Wired: DHCP, DNS or authentication issues; WAN connectivity (e.g., limited bandwidth, high latency or packet loss); misconfigured LAN switches
  • Wireless: Limited throughput, noise or interference, heavy load, coverage holes 

When hundreds or thousands of devices are on a single network, it can be quite daunting to figure out which issue is causing a problem in your environment—especially when some of these problems are temporal in nature. By the time an engineer is on site, the problem may no longer exist (and it can be difficult or impossible to reproduce).

Assuming the problem can be easily identified, the next step is remediation. What is the best course of action to get users back on track—and prevent the problem from happening again in the future? What if it is happening across all devices of a certain type or with a certain OS?

A new approach needed to handle Wi-Fi problems

In today’s smart device era, where Wi-Fi is business critical and the number of wireless users is growing exponentially, a new paradigm is required to proactively identify problems and remediate them quickly and cost effectively. The old world of reacting to complaints and sifting through event logs and data dumps won’t cut it anymore.

Fortunately, this can be achieved today with the following components:

  • Monitoring networks at a service level and not with basic stats
  • Real-time visibility and deep visibility into the state machines of every wireless user
  • A cloud infrastructure to store and analyze real-time state information and aggregate it to the highest level of commonality
  • Machine learning to automate key operational tasks, such as event correlation and packet captures
  • Predictive recommendations for quick remediation of existing problems (and to avoid of future problems)

In future blog posts, I will drill down into each of the above areas.

Wi-Fi isn’t new. But how we use and deliver Wi-Fi is very different than a decade ago. The opportunity to leverage the new cloud infrastructures presents a real opportunity to dramatically simplify wireless operations. I hope to provide insight into how you can use the latest wireless, cloud and machine learning technologies to your advantage, ensuring amazing user experiences with a lot fewer IT headaches.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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