Dig Into the Data & Improve Your Network Health

Data contained in wireless LAN reports can help network administrators spot trouble and better understand what is happening on their networks. Reviewing traffic patterns, for example, will help in capacity planning, as well as sometimes surface the unanticipated -- with the end result being a healthier network.

Regular No Jitter readers will recall my recent post about a problematic campus deployment, with troubles originating from poor installation practices by prior vendors and having a weak and volatile infrastructure that sported a misdirected Wi-Fi solution (see "Campus Install Shows Benefits of Hosted Wi-Fi"). In analyzing two years' worth of data from the wireless LAN infrastructure, I found that the average monthly consumption increased by 56% in 2016, as shown below.

Faced with failing cabling infrastructure, the campus had decided to use wireless networking as an alternative. In doing so, it reused existing wireless access points until it could deploy new wireless LAN infrastructure at the end of the 2016. As part of the wireless moves, it conducted iPad tests in January, April, and October, as reflected in traffic spikes seen in the graphic. With the new deployment, the campus was able to stabilize the network and provide reliable access. As teachers gained confidence in incorporating iPad use in the classroom, the traffic then increased.

Another report, below, shows daily usage patterns, with traffic during a testing session spiking from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. -- the period of classroom online assessments. The spikes in peak usage indicate consumption and number of clients attached to the wireless LAN.

Yet another report shows that software updates account for 28% of traffic (see below graphic). This is particularly notable for any school expecting to implement a one-to-one initiative for providing devices in every classroom for every student. Using a cache server may be a good way to help control capacity requirements related to software updates, but will increase costs and add to the IT management burden. The report also indicates other facts about the type of OS, clients, and applications used on the campus wireless LAN.

Wireless LAN reports can be generated on demand and delivered in real time or an a scheduled basis. These reports are valuable, and provide insight into the wireless LAN that will help in troubleshooting -- discovering why, as shown above, Windows machine "018-TOSHLA-CL6" isn't connected to the wired LAN or why more than one device is named "SPARTANS" and "St-Lukes-iPad."

I've shown only a few samples of wireless LAN reporting and metrics. You'll also find value in other data sets, such as usage by client, device, OS, or WAP, as well as several other variables depending upon the manufacturer. Again, analyzing these metrics will help you identify capacity issues or under-utilization.

Here are some questions report data should help answer:

Network administrators need this data to gain an understanding of what's on their networks. Who knows what they might learn and what improvements might result from analyzing the data!

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