Worldwide Wi-Fi traffic has surged to record levels as business, governments, schools and hundreds of millions of people have become reliant on their wireless networks. The increased traffic volume has also brought performance challenges, with increased reports of dropped connections, slow downloads, increased interference and broadband restrictions. According to one survey, nearly 60 percent of network administrators report that they spend roughly a quarter of their time troubleshooting Wi-Fi issues.
Organizations that depend heavily on their wireless networks to remain operational need to make sure their Wi-Fi networks are performing at peak efficiency. Here are a few suggestions for resolving common performance issues:
Change the channel. Wi-Fi routers operating in the 2.4GHz radio frequency band have 11 separate channels for transmitting and receiving data. Most users tend to leave their routers on the default channel, which can result in traffic jams and signal interference. You may be able to improve performance by changing to a channel with less traffic. If your router has an auto channel selection feature, you’ll need to disable it in order to make manual changes.
Monitor your traffic. An automated Wi-Fi network analyzer allows you to monitor network traffic and quickly identify the root cause of bandwidth issues. These tools collect performance data from access points (APs), wireless controllers and client devices, and provide hop-by-hop analysis of network paths, along with performance, availability and other critical metrics. Analyzer software can be loaded on a tablet or a smartphone, allowing you to move throughout a facility to find areas with weak Wi-Fi signals.
Refresh your APs. Aging or outdated APs can create significant Wi-Fi performance issues. For example, older APs can sometimes overheat and stop working when operating at extreme loads for extended periods, even if they’re only handling local traffic. Firmware updates can resolve some issues by adding new features and patching security vulnerabilities. Still, APs don’t have a long lifespan even under the best circumstances — they should be replaced more often than most other wireless network components. Vendors and industry analysts generally agree that APs should be replaced every three to four years.
Identify sources of interference. During the Wi-Fi planning process, most engineers conduct a radio frequency (RF) site survey to identify any sources of RF signals that could interfere with Wi-Fi transmissions. Microwave ovens, cordless phones and Bluetooth devices can cause interference — as can nearby Wi-Fi networks. Things change, however, and new sources of interference could come online at any time. That’s why it’s a good idea to conduct periodic follow-up surveys as part of an ongoing maintenance program. You should also conduct a new survey whenever you add new APs or extend coverage to new areas of your facility.
Re-evaluate your design. There is a temptation to add more APs to increase coverage and capacity. It isn’t that simple, however. Too many APs can actually degrade performance — wireless clients can become confused trying to access multiple APs with similar signal strength. Supporting increased Wi-Fi traffic may require an entirely new design to accommodate changes in traffic patterns, load balancing requirements, Quality of Service issues and other factors. This involves careful planning in order to integrate the right number of APs to handle the increased usage without introducing interference.
Increased usage and changing traffic patterns can make it difficult to achieve a reliable wireless experience. In next week’s post, we’ll take a closer look at how Verteks works in tandem with our key technology partners to resolve performance challenges and create a Wi-Fi environment that delivers the operational benefits you require.