Guest Blog: Advantages of Cloud Managed WiFi Performance Testing

Guest Blog: Advantages of Cloud Managed WiFi Performance Testing

By CWNP On 09/12/2014

Advantages of Cloud Managed WiFi Performance Testing By: Zaib Kaleem

WiFi access has become a must have service at hotels, sports venues, warehouses, healthcare facilities and business offices. As a network engineer and network operator, I'm constantly searching for tools and techniques for measuring the performance of networks during the design, deployment, and operations phases of projects. In addition to tools for my own use, I like to recommend and leave behind tools for clients and end users to use to validate that the network is working as designed and implemented correctly.

The tools I have found for measuring the performance of wireless networks fall under the more general category of wireless network monitoring and is usually addressed by deploying an ad-hoc or continuous monitoring solution using a combination of commercial hardware and software tools. Both methods work really well but tend to become costly to deploy or operate when scaling to large environments above 100,000 square meters / 1,000,000 square feet. For example, using a laptop with monitoring software in a large area requires multiple engineers for measurement and analysis or many days to cover the entire area by a single engineer. Once the desired area is fully covered the same engineer/team has to repeat the process again for new applications or metrics that need to be collected. Using a centrally managed monitoring solution with dedicated hardware sensors and management software requires initial equipment, deployment, and operation costs that can sometimes be as high as the cost of the wireless network that is being monitored. In both cases these tools are too complex for a non-technical person to operate or understand the data that is reported resulting in speed tests being used as the default metric to confirm if the network is performing correctly.
WiFi network upload and download speed is an important metric it doesn't provide any insight into the problem if the network is not performing as desired. Also the most commonly used speed-testing tools and websites are limited by the Internet link speed and not a true measurement of the WiFi network speed.

Multiple mobile and portable devices per person along with data intensive applications have placed additional pressure on these increasingly complex WiFi networks. What is needed is a solution that can be operated by a non-technical user and isn't a large investment for medium to large organizations. The tool should go beyond just confirming that the network is performing poorly and provide additional feedback on the problem or collect enough data to allow an engineer to diagnose the issue and take corrective action.

Another challenge is that the 802.11 capabilities, radio power, antenna configuration of laptops and smartphones are different than hardware based WiFi sensors or the USB adapters required for laptop based tools. Using the actual devices as the collectors is preferred because it provides the most accurate assessment of how the device interacts with the wireless network. In addition to wireless information the devices can be used for real user monitoring of application behavior when using network resources.

"The Advantages of Cloud Managed WiFi Performance Testing" session will cover an approach to reduce the cost and complexity of existing solutions by using end user devices (laptops, mobile phones, tablets) for monitoring, testing, and measuring the performance of WiFi networks. Manual and automated methods will be reviewed along with best practices for various WiFi deployment scenarios.

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