At IPTel, we have developed a lot of techniques over the years to best fault find wireless issues.
All too common is an installation which doesn't perform, causes dropouts, is slow and leaves the end customer with an unhappy result.
We have the answer - it's called a Wi-Fi Assurance Review and is a service we have developed in house at IPTel.
The Wi-Fi Assurance Review Challenge
The first challenge for a Wi-Fi Assurance Review is what does it actually do? What exact issue is it designed to resolve.
The answer to that question falls into a couple of camps:
Wi-Fi Remediation: You have a poor performing network and want to find out why
Wi-Fi Installation Signoff: You have a newly installed network and want an independent review
While the aims above are fundamentally different, the tools and techniques we apply are roughly the same - test out the network and check its working to spec and if not, report back on the issues.
The review results can be tailored the specific scenario, so they are best targeted at the problems at hand.
There's a lot of common issues with Wi-Fi - the Top 8 Secrets to Great Wi-Fi provides some useful insight.
Why Undertake a Wi-Fi Assurance Review?
For many customers that we have undertaken the review, the answer is simple: no one else has been able to fix the network and provide a reliable service.
The review needs to take a complete look at what's happening.
As a quick starting point, its worth understanding that Wi-Fi is built from the following three components:
- Radio Design: Good radio design is paramount in delivering a good Wi-Fi outcome
- Controller Configuration: How the network is configured and the features it supports
- End Clients: You can't easily control these, but you can keep firmware up to date
So - the question is how do we fix up a poor performing network?
Anyone that's dealt with Wi-Fi issues will attest to just how difficult the technology can be to fix. answer is by being highly methodical, using best practice and experience and using industry standard tools. Sounds easy hey!
Manufacturers Supported: Cisco, Aruba and Meraki
We have conducted most of the reviews on Cisco networks - they are the most prevalent and used in a lot of critical infrastructure installations - we have become very good at fixing poor installations.
The key take away for most customers (no matter the brand of Wi-Fi): If it's not performing well, its probably the design and implementation, not the equipment itself.
The show run-config we can pull from a Cisco WLC gives us a vast amount of useful data. This allows us to not only review the configuration (and report back on best practice), but also to map and graph the state of the RF environment - and this is immensely useful, especially when we can show averages across a wide array of sites.
Essentially the same techniques are also true for the reviews we do with Aruba and Meraki: the output is to get a good all round idea of the network - and report on issues found.
Wi-Fi Assurance Review: Phases of Operation
The review is conducted in a number of phases, and these are designed to provide us with an increasing level of visibility into the issues.
Noted above that W
i-Fi is built from three main components - well, it makes sense that this should be our starting point - so we work on each of these in turn.
There's a bit too much detail to run into in this one blog, but here's an overview:
- RF Design Assurance Review: Deep dive onsite survey of the RF - with a multitude of RF characteristics analysed, and a detailed technical analysis of the results. We determine if there are radio issues at this stage - and what they are likely to be
- Controller Configuration Review: The review checks some key items: misconfiguration, features and RF tuning
- End Client Debug: Onsite debug with a client - walk around, grab the debug and then decode this to see if there are any inherent issues
If all this sounds a bit complicated, don't be concerned - the point of the Assurance Review is for us to undertake the complex fault find and translate the outputs into plain English - along with insightful analysis, so changes can be made to fix the issues.
What are the Next Stages?
The review is done, we present the results and outcomes to you. You're in control - you can implement the changes in house, or we can help. It can work either way. If we undertake the changes, we tend to write a change control, which is customer approved and operated inside a change window.
The key thing is since the report is written in plain English, is designed to deliver two key outcomes:
- Knowledge Transfer: Provide education on the features in use, the state of the network and advise on changes required
- Change Determination: Provide the background analysis for customers to decide which changes they want to make - and when
Hopefully my run through has been helpful. We have helped a lot of customers with Wi-Fi issues that seemed intractable - if you're at the point that you have no where else to turn - or you just want to enlist expert help - we're here to help.