This guest blog post is by Panos Vouzis (@pvouzis), cofounder of NetBeez (@NetBeez). We thank NetBeez for being a sponsor.
Every WiFi vendor provides indispensable performance and connectivity information about access points, but it’s also important to pay attention to the end user experience, particularly as BYOD adds a lot of devices to the wireless network and introduces a slew of new challenges for the network engineer.
End user WiFi monitoring complements standard network monitoring and can speed up problem detection and troubleshooting. This additional layer of monitoring can spell the difference between happy and frustrated users.
NetBeez offers network monitoring tools for wired and wireless networks that monitors from the end user perspective via small hardware agents.
Agents perform a number of network tests and report to a central dashboard.
Four WiFi Use Cases
In the year since releasing our WiFi agents, I have spoken to dozens of engineers and have compiled the top four use cases in wireless monitoring from the user perspective.
1. Streamlining Wireless Troubleshooting
There are plenty of cases in which your access point could tell you that all is well while you still get barraged by user complaints and help desk tickets.
Monitoring your wireless network from an end-user perspective goes a long way in helping you proactively pinpoint and diagnose issues – a wireless agent interacting with the network in the same way an end user would and reporting (and recording) its experience adds a new and helpful layer of network visibility.
With a NetBeez agent, you can see if users connected in the same network and/or on the same access point have problems accessing resources such as the Internet, a cloud-based CRM tool, or a private datacenter.
In the following screenshot we see everything running smoothly on the cloud-based and wired agent, while the wireless agent reports performance issues.
2. Performance Trend Analysis
It’s important to know how your wireless network performs over time. Analysis of historical wireless data reveals issues such as locations with chronic sub-par performance, or usage patterns that might impact connectivity or strain performance. Identifying these issues lets you make the appropriate infrastructure upgrades to fix them.
The NetBeez historical data and reports, via wireless agents, provides this information. In this screenshot you see average latency, packet loss, and alert number on ten agents pinging google.com.
3. Wireless Signal Metrics
The quality of the wireless connection is affected by many things, including the distance from the access point, channel interference, band, protocol, and channel width. Again, the access point statistics give only part of the picture. They don’t how the channel is performing from the other side of the keynote floor or the hallway.
The historical information below shows that the agent disconnected and reconnected with an access point several times and experienced poor signal strength and performance quality until it switched channels and access points.
4. DHCP, Authentication/Deauthentication
One of the most common complaints from end users is that they cannot connect to the wireless network. The first two things to investigate are whether their device can get an IP address and whether it can authenticate.
In this case, the wireless agent wouldn’t capture the exact user experience since it’s not running on the user’s device. Rather, it can rule out issues with the DHCP and authentication server. In other words, if the agent can get an IP and authenticate, you can skip investigating these issues during troubleshooting.
To quote one of my favorite Dilbert cartoons, “It’s wireless. How hard could it be to not install wires?” Although wireless networks have several decades of history, they are still a good deal more difficult to build, monitor, and maintain than wired networks.
NetBeez enables network engineers to capture the wireless end user experience and be proactive about tackling issues before they affect users. NetBeez is built to scale to hundreds of monitoring agents and is intuitive and easy to use.
If this resonates with you, please sign up here for a one-on-one demo to see firsthand what NetBeez is all about.
For more information, check out our previous Packet Pushers post: How Distributed Network Monitoring Boosts Visibility, Speeds Troubleshooting.