Five Ways to Optimize Enterprise Wi-Fi

    Companies rely on Wi-Fi now more than ever to drive operations and ultimately business growth. Whether it is collaborating with colleagues or clients, managing customer success, or accessing any number of business applications and services on the market, companies recognize that when the Internet lags, the business lags.

    Therefore, reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi is of utmost importance to companies, as it enables employee productivity. But not all companies understand the ins and outs necessary to make this a reality. Today, enterprises must consider a number of new factors if they hope to deploy reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi networks that meet spikes in traffic and mobile usage. In this slideshow, Dirk Gates, founder of Xirrus, provides five tips to optimize your enterprise Wi-Fi network.

    Five Ways to Optimize Enterprise Wi-Fi - slide 1

    Optimizing Your Wi-Fi Network

    Click through for five tips organizations can use to optimize their enterprise Wi-Fi network, as identified by Dirk Gates, founder of Xirrus.

    Five Ways to Optimize Enterprise Wi-Fi - slide 2

    More Radios in the Infrastructure

    In the past, Wi-Fi was all about range and minimizing access point (AP) count. However, with the explosion in mobile devices today, enterprises began adding more and more APs to their Wi-Fi infrastructure. That can be time-consuming and, more importantly, costly to upgrade. The real key is increasing the number of radios per AP, while keeping AP count at bay. Channel planning, power management, data rate optimization and the elimination of legacy clients will all be necessary to get the most out of your network, but adding radios is ultimately the only way to handle the ever increasing traffic demands in Wi-Fi today.

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    Design for Device Count, Not Square Footage

    Calculating AP count by area no longer works. Today, it’s best to project device count – currently estimated at three per user and growing to more than five in the near future – then calculate the number of APs required from there. Likewise, the days of trying to handle many 10’s of devices per AP radio are over. To be able to adequately support voice and video applications, a properly designed network will on average see less than 10 devices per AP radio. Additionally, for even better performance in your Wi-Fi network, limit the number of associated devices per radio to guarantee performance.

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    Use Software-Programmable, Dual-Band Radios

    Getting to 5GHz is becoming a necessity for many companies, as more and more new devices support 802.11ac. But in the long run, it does little good to have all your 5GHz-enabled devices using 802.11ac when only half the radios in your infrastructure are capable of doing so. Today, most APs ship with one legacy 2.4GHz radio and one 5GHz radio.

    To combat “stale radio syndrome” in your infrastructure, you should look for APs with radios that can operate in either band and can be software programmed to do so. This allows you to deploy APs today with one radio operating at 5GHz and the other at 2.4GHz to support legacy devices. In the not too distant future, you’ll be able to begin moving those 2.4GHz AP radios to 5GHz as more 802.11ac devices show up. Then ultimately, you’ll be able to operate a 5GHz-only network.

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    Use Mode Steering in Addition to Band Steering

    Band steering is a good start, but you will also want to enable mode steering, or the grouping of like capable devices together on one AP radio. Grouping legacy 802.11a/g devices together on one AP radio, 802.11n devices on another, and 802.11ac on yet another radio guarantees that all stations get optimal performance. Having more radios in your network allows for better segregation of devices by capability, resulting in better performance.

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    Make Sure Your Network Is Application Aware

    Even with all the aforementioned optimizations, Wi-Fi networks can still get congested. Mobile devices are voracious consumers and producers of network traffic these days. Therefore, a major way to ensure things run smoothly on your network is to single out the mission-critical applications, giving them priority, while throttling or blocking non-mission-critical applications that just eat bandwidth.

    A great example of this comes in the form of file sync applications like DropBox, Box, iCloud and others. These applications are constantly uploading and downloading data, taking as much of the pipe as they can get. At the opening and closing ceremonies of the Sochi Olympics, the top four bandwidth hogs were file sync apps, unbeknownst to the users creating the traffic. Without the ability to recognize this traffic and throttle it, the network would have failed during the event.

    Ultimately, this all comes down to good Wi-Fi network design, which is much different in the 802.11ac, 5GHz, multi-mobile-device-per-user world we live in now than it was just a few short years ago. Designing for flexibility in radio count and band usage, making sure each device gets the best possible experience, and ensuring actual performance through the use of an application-aware policy engine, is critical for the success of Wi-Fi networks today.

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