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Uncovering the Root Cause of Wi-Fi Issues & Avoiding Blame-Shift

Is the issue with the device or network? Here are some essentials on finding the root cause and avoiding the blame game.

Key takeaways:

  • Blame-shift occurs in Wi-Fi when users, IT staff, or ISPs point fingers at different elements when an issue arises
  • 5 steps to avoid blame-shifting:
    1. Analyze the symptoms and source
    2. Leverage end-user insights
    3. Dig into each layer of the network
    4. Recreate the problem
    5. Get better network visibility with 7SIGNAL

Finding the root cause behind a Wi-Fi issue is the only way to truly solve the problem. But it can be too easy for everyone from IT staff members to end-users to internet service providers to point fingers in the wrong places. This habit is known as blame-shifting, and it’s become commonplace as organizations depend on consistent wireless networking as the complexity of networks grows.

Let’s dive into the concept before covering how to truly determine the root cause of an issue with the right approach—and adequate wireless network monitoring solutions.

How does blame get misplaced?

Blame-shift is just what it sounds like: someone wrongfully blaming someone or something else for a problem instead of identifying the true culprit. Unfortunately, in the world of Wi-Fi, blame-shifting is far too common. Those involved in Wi-Fi delivery may have poor visibility into what’s causing a problem and don’t want to take responsibility for it, assuming some other cause that’s out of their immediate control.

Here is a typical scenario: A perceived issue pops up with the Wi-Fi, causing a drop or slowdown in service. The end-user thinks it's the network, so they call the help desk, who then claims it’s the user’s device. This cycle of blame makes it hard to resolve the issue.

Fortunately, network engineers and IT staff have access to monitoring solutions that can uncover the true cause of a Wi-Fi or endpoint problem. Wireless network monitoring solutions remove doubt about the source and prevent blame-shift.

5 steps to dig out the root cause of a network problem

Enterprise Wi-Fi users see the WLAN as a fairly straightforward system involving a service provider, access point, and a client trying to connect. But network engineers know just how complicated the world of Wi-Fi really is, with considerations ranging from frequency bands and coverage to device adaptors and drivers and bandwidth capabilities. 

Network managers must have a solid plan that will identify the source of a problem so it can be resolved quickly. Here are some of the key steps to uncovering root causes:

1. Analyze the symptoms and source

First, carefully consider the signs at hand and the source of the complaint. If someone is using a new device, for instance, it could be that the user has a setting turned on or off that is getting in the way of a connection. 

It’s also crucial to establish the scale of the problem. Is it just one user, or are multiple people reporting the same issue? IT staff and users alike may make assumptions too quickly that it’s a network problem when there’s really only one person experiencing difficulty. If the problem is multi-user, it’s time to look to the network or a common application to identify the culprit and a resolution.

2. Leverage end-user insights

Outline other conditions of the reporting end-users, like where they’re located in a building and network area. What happens when they move around? Does the issue improve? Is the problem with a joint application or type of application? Also, assess factors like the time of day the problem occurred. This requires a solid timestamping system that’s useful in real-time and provides valuable insights into later issues.

These details can tell you information like whether an access point is the source of the issue and if specific environmental triggers cause repeated problems throughout the day. Additionally, record what the situation looked like. For example, could a device connect but simply not perform well, or was the network invisible to their computer?

3. Dig into each layer of the network

Many points within a WLAN infrastructure could be the source of a problem. Check for apparent alerts that something has gone wrong, like an ISP outage in the area that impacts connections or too-high CPU utilization, which indicates that the computer has reached its processing resource limit.

If managers or users haven’t received obvious alerts, here are some network factors to check:

  • Access point power and function
  • Cable and port connections
  • Current network capacity and high client counts
  • Power outages
  • Controller problems
  • Interference from many other wireless signals

The great thing about effective wireless network monitoring platforms is that they provide easy visibility into these issues and many more.

4. Recreate the problem

You believe you’ve located the issue—actually found where the problem originated instead of just shifting blame to the next player in the Wi-Fi infrastructure. And then you fixed the problem, and the end-user is happy once again. 

Once everything is resolved, recreate the problem to be sure. This means reversing whatever solution you just implemented, like fixing a cable or moving an access point. If the issue happens again, you know you’ve indeed found the root cause.

5. Get better network visibility with 7SIGNAL

Sometimes, identifying the root cause of a Wi-Fi or endpoint problem simply requires a clear view of the network—from the outside - in. You need to know the conditions of both the infrastructure and the device at a given moment to understand why a user is experiencing a drop or slowdown in service. The right monitoring solution can do this, preventing inaccurate and wasteful troubleshooting.

7SIGNAL gives you that crucial visibility, helping ensure a constant connection for network users. Our digital experience monitoring platform makes it much easier to diagnose issues, empowering network managers to deliver consistent wireless connections.

7SIGNAL® is the leader in wireless experience monitoring, providing insight into wireless networks and control over Wi-Fi performance so businesses and organizations can thrive. Our cloud-based wireless network monitoring platform continually tests and measures Wi-Fi performance at the edges of the network, enabling fast solutions to digital experience issues and stronger connections for mission-critical users, devices, and applications. Learn more at www.7signal.com.