Wi-Fi network management: Best practices to enable seamless networking

Be it an airport, bank, hospital, IT organization, or MSP, Wi-Fi networks are being deployed and used everywhere today. Thanks to their cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and simplified scalability, wireless networks have now been incorporated into many networks as part of their IT infrastructures. However, the task of setting up and managing Wi-Fi networks is not as easy as accessing them as an end user. When it comes to deploying Wi-Fi in networks comprised of business-critical components, network administrators around the world still have concerns about its security, quality, and performance.

With the right set of Wi-Fi management practices in place, a Wi-Fi network can be an effective asset to ensure a seamless networking experience for end users. On this page, we discuss five Wi-Fi management best practices for organizations' networks:

1. Build and scale Wi-Fi networks right: Components, a floor plan, and frequency channels

The initial setup of your Wi-Fi network plays an important role in determining the performance and effectiveness of your wireless networks in the long run. Without the right implementation strategy, Wi-Fi networks do more bad than good to your overall network's reliability and efficiency. Improper implementation can lead to increased costs, reduced signal strength, and poor network quality for your end users. To avoid these, here are some best practices to follow while building or scaling your network.

  • Chose Wi-Fi components that suit your network requirements: With several options available on the market, including wireless controllers and fully managed wireless solutions, it is important to carefully evaluate and choose the right hardware component with the right configuration for your network. This avoids the overhead of intense configurations and makeshift fixes involved in using inappropriate hardware.
  • Create a strategic floor plan: While setting up your Wi-Fi network, you need to carefully consider where to place your access points. The more access points there are, the more it costs to procure and manage them. Use network visualization tools to strategically place access points for ubiquitous network coverage.
  • Analyze usage and configure the right band and channels: Wi-Fi signals often face interference by other signals from wireless components, such as wireless printers, that use the same frequency band. For instance, the 2.4GHz frequency band is often crowded with wireless devices that are configured by default to operate in this band. This makes it important to choose the right frequency band (preferably the 5.0GHz band) for critical devices and to allocate the right channel for high density deployments.

2. Continually track your Wi-Fi metrics and environment

Wi-Fi networks require proactive, continuous monitoring to avert network issues, service quality degradation, and security vulnerabilities. Enabling constant monitoring along with the following best practices helps network administrators ensure uninterrupted network availability and reliability.

  • Analyze signal coverage with heat maps: Signal coverage and strength can be easily evaluated using tools such as heat map generators, which help in visualizing coverage and signal levels as well as fixing coverage issues. They also enhance capacity planning by offering a clearer picture of the network requirements.
  • Measure the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR): As mentioned earlier, signal interference can be a significant inhibitor of signal strength in Wi-Fi networks. To understand and track the level of noise from external sources, network administrators require a Wi-Fi monitoring solution like OpManager. OpManager helps by periodically monitoring and displaying the SNR in the network. It also offers insights into the signal strength and quality experienced by client devices and access points in your Wi-Fi environment.
  • Monitor the load on your Wi-Fi components: Overloading your Wi-Fi components, such as access points, can deteriorate the signal strength and cause network unavailability for some end users. Network administrators can analyze the load using WiFi analyzer that offers insights into metrics, such as the number of clients connected, number of clients active, 2.4GHz user count, and 5.0GHz user count. This helps you understand the network load and take appropriate action in the event of overloading.

3. Monitor your hardware components' performance and availability

The underlying hardware components in Wi-Fi networks need to be monitored to ensure good connectivity and speed. However, this can be a difficult task in organizations deploying hundreds of access points, wireless LAN controllers, and client devices. Even if only one access point is mismanaged or down, it may disrupt the desired network availability in a particular area.

Network administrators can enable complete visibility into and control over their hardware components with the help of a network monitoring solution. OpManager offers comprehensive insights into different critical metrics, such as hardware health, response time, availability, and packet loss. With automated device discovery, inventory classification, and monitor association, OpManager removes the hassles of network hardware monitoring and management.

4. Manage wireless bandwidth and track resource usage

When it comes to understanding bandwidth utilization in Wi-Fi networks, network administrators are often stuck in the dark without the right bandwidth monitoring tools. Since issues such as bandwidth overutilization can have disruptive effects on network-dependent business functions, tracking how the Wi-Fi network's bandwidth is utilized and by whom becomes critical.

By deploying a bandwidth monitoring tool, network administrators can gain deeper insights into utilization trends, identify and rectify bottlenecks, and track the network entities that are utilizing most of the bandwidth. Also, in large organizations that support networking concepts such as BYOD policies, bandwidth monitoring tools enable cost-effectiveness by restricting undesirable usage. This helps in prioritizing and allocating bandwidth for business-critical processes.

5. Enable Wi-Fi network security from setup to deployment

A critical step in building, running, and managing a Wi-Fi network is ensuring network security. Without the right security measures in place, Wi-Fi networks are often exposed to several threats. Because rogue devices are a major security threat, manual rogue device detection and tacking in large networks with thousands of network devices is impractical. Network administrators need to deploy a reliable, automated rogue device detection and management solution to easily identify malicious devices and block them from entering the network.

Network administrators should also be cautious about the networks allocated to business-critical devices and guest devices. Always provision separate networks for private devices and guest devices. Network administrators can also choose to enable wireless isolation techniques to reinforce the isolation of the private network and the guest network. This enhances network security, ensures critical data is not accessible to guest devices, and secludes critical devices from the threats of malicious agents.

Enable seamless Wi-Fi networking with OpManager ManageEngine

OpManager is a reliable network monitor that comes loaded with advanced network management capabilities. With support to monitor complex IT infrastructures spanning across wired, wireless, and virtual networks, OpManager offers comprehensive insights into various critical performance metrics. Its centralized console enables you to monitor your entire network right from your workplace.

With adaptive threshold-based alerts keeping you notified of emerging network issues, drill down to the root cause of issues and resolve them with ease using in-depth insights into your network. Enable hassle-free data collection, tracking, and enhanced capacity planning with diverse granular reports. Automate monotonous wireless network management tasks with various automation capabilities, such as workflows and scan schedulers.

New to OpManager? Schedule a live demo with our product experts and explore the various advanced features it offers. You can also download a free, 30-day trial to explore hands-on how OpManager seamlessly integrates with your existing IT infrastructure and simplifies network monitoring.

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