WiFi Monitoring & Assurance
Wireless networks get blamed a lot for today's network issues. Any sort of hiccup leads to users creating tickets describing slow or poor performing WiFi.
Enterprise organizations rely on WiFi. Central network operations centers must monitor multiple sites and quickly determine what issues may be potentially impacting business operations.
It's more important than ever to carefully monitor your WiFi networks to get ahead of any issues. One way to assure this is by leveraging sensors on the network close to the users.
Why Use Sensors?
When it comes to monitoring the network, we have the wired side of things capturing metrics, creating alerts, and knowing what the problem may be.
On the WiFi network it often seems unknown what the issue is. And today, any sort of issue appears to be a WiFi issue.
To get an idea of what is happening from a client's perspective, WiFi sensors can be deployed and configured to perform scheduled tests. A sensor can gather important WiFi metrics such as RSSI, BSSID, transmit and receive rates, and test metrics.
Rather than relying on users telling you incorrect data, a sensor can collect enough data for an IT member to take action on.
NetBeez calls these sensors Agents. Check out more resources at https://netbeez.net/resources/
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Three reasons why we like NetBeez
The sensors are placed near the users to provide you a client's perspective. A more realistic view of client health will help eliminate false issues. Other sensors are placed inside the access point.
Sensors do not live inside an access point. The sensors can be deployed anywhere & managed from the cloud. With this simple management platform, configuring sensors for multiple sites is easy.
Within the dashboard, various tests can be assigned and scheduled to all or specific sensors. Overtime, a baseline is developed & spotting deviations will be brought to light by configuring alerts to the team.
Panos Vouzis, from NetBeez, joins us in this episode to discuss how they help IT teams get ahead of WiFi issues by being proactive. Panos is the Co-founder and COO at NetBeez.
By utilizing WiFi network sensors, an IT team can schedule tests against the WiFi network and be notified immediately when there's an issue or a deviation from a baseline.
The distributed nature of the sensors gives an IT team a holistic health status of the WiFi network. Unlike other monitoring solutions from the big vendors, this view of WiFi health is seen from the client's perspective.
A NetBeez sensor can be deployed near the users and can perform tests to simulate client traffic.
Have you been able to successfully monitor the health of your WiFi network across multiple sites? Maybe the monitoring platform you're using doesn't provide you with enough data to really tell you what the users are experiencing?
Nowadays, we need more than just an up/down status of access points.
Some of the data I'd like to see is whether users are receiving enough throughput to do their work. Even with two or more agents installed at a remote site, visibility into the WiFi network can be insightful. You're given a look at the WiFi network closer to what a user may experience.
I'll be honest. When someone mentions WiFi assurance I would always have a hard time understanding what that means.
From my own perspective it's more than just monitoring. You can collect data and build metrics around signal strength and perform tests at regular intervals. But assurance is making sure your WiFi network meets certain expectations.
I guess you can call it service level agreements.
When I look at NetBeez and think of WiFi assurance, I'm thinking about setting a baseline for how a WiFi network is performing, and that could be different per site. This is why distributed sensors make sense. Different sites have will have different levels of expectations. The NetBeez WiFi assurance is delivered through the baseline metrics and deviations from those baselines are monitored and alerted on.
What We'd Like To See
Some organizations can be difficult when it comes to aesthetics. Having a smaller, sleeker, design to the sensor so it's easier to blend in with the environment is a big plus.
Currently, the agents do not collect retry rates. It would be insightful to gather retry rates from multiple agents and display an average on the dashboard.
There may be a use case for a consultant to deploy multiple agents at a client's site. It can be another tool in the consultant's bag to improve the troubleshooting step.
One scenario that came to my mind was being able to take many NetBeez agents and perform capacity tests against access points.
Imagine setting up agents in a classroom environment, laid out across the tables. Various tests can be created in the NetBeez dashboard, scheduled to be ran at predetermined intervals.
Each test can be assigned to different agents where we can replicate user behavior. All the metrics will be collected and displayed in the NetBeez dashboard, easily. The test can be expanded in different ways but this is just an idea that came to my mind when discussing agents with Panos during the recording.
Deployment of Agents
Agents can come in different forms. The most common is a small physical agent, or sensor. It's powered by Raspberry Pi and contains a NetBeez package. The physical agents should be deployed closer to the users.
The goal is to gather metrics from the client's perspective. Avoid deploying them in little nooks, under desks, hidden away in cabinets, or any other scenario where a client device would not be operating.
Reliable data begins with the correct deployment.
NetBeez also has a Docker instance which can be deployed on laptops. I personally see some potential in using this type of instance since it can be deployed on the actual client device being used. But it depends on what kind of data can be captured from the WiFi chipset. But getting data from the actual client device gives us accurate data into the dashboard. Running configured NetBeez tests will be very insightful.
It’s simple to configure iPerf2 or iPerf3 tests. We set ours to start the tests on an interval and have it displayed the results over time on a graph.
While our iPerf tests were tested locally to our site, the network speed tests can give a look at external Internet speed. We can test to Ookla and Fast.com.
These tests are very useful. How often is WiFi to be blamed for any issue and it ends up being something like DNS. When a DNS test is scheduled, you can be sure to know if there’s an issue resolving host names from your configured DNS servers.