Wi-Fi experts from Cisco, Aruba, Ekahau, Extreme Networks and Mist Systems talked with Craig Mathias, principal with advisory firm Farpoint Group, about Wi-Fi performance optimization. Based on those interviews, a few best practices for establishing and maintaining optimal WLAN performance clearly jump out.
Perform WiFi needs analysis
Start with an initial needs analysis, with a careful enumeration of requirements relating to throughput, applications and coverage. Experiment with potential equipment in the production freespace environment to establish a baseline for initial performance expectations and evaluation. Add in the impact of any planned or even anticipated infrastructure additions, new applications and growth in numbers of users and devices.
Set reasonable Wi-Fi performance expectations
Assume the availability of no more than 50% of peak specified product throughput given the baseline technology (such as 802.11ac Wave 2), channel bandwidth and assumed client density in any given location.
Be judicious about Wi-Fi site surveys
Avoid detailed site surveys except in settings where RF-related challenges are suspected – hospitals, power plants and facilities with unusual building construction, for example. A sweep with a spectrum analyzer to understand interference and RF propagation behavior is always useful, and occasional exploration with an independent assurance tool is also often valuable as well.
Explore enterprise Wi-Fi product features
A massive range of useful functionality is integrated into the management console of enterprise-class Wi-Fi system. Plowing through hundreds of settings and features can take a while, but the time spent learning and using these features offers excellent ROI. Ditto for analytics capabilities as well.
Monitor Wi-Fi trends over time
While it’s important to work with users directly as even suspect problems appear, it’s equally vital to monitor trends over time. Don’t expect perfection on Day 1. Refinement over time is a much more reasonable expectation and strategy.
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