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Did You Miss the Discussion on WPM? (Wi-Fi Performance Management)

WPM isn’t a new abbreviation coined by the IEEE 802.11 group or the Wi-Fi Alliance but something that I came up with in the two and a half years that I’ve been living and breathing WPM at 7SIGNAL. WPM stands for Wi-Fi Performance Management and read on to find out why it's so important.

Although I love driving, I do not know a lot about cars. However, ever since I bought my very first car close to 2 and a half years ago, I am interested to know everything about my car and am still learning. First, I start with the basics, such as how well does my heating and air conditioning work in different environments. I also want to know what kind of gas mileage I'm getting.  As time goes on, I want to learn about diagnostics, like understanding when my car needs an oil change or when I need to check the tire pressure.  Eventually, I want to learn about more advanced topics, such as engine configuration and components.

Educating yourself about Wi-Fi is no different.  You start with the basics, such as understanding if an access point is beaconing, or broadcasting itself to client devices so they can connect. And if devices are able to connect to the network, then how do they perform when under load? Conversely, you may want to know how many clients an access point can handle before its performance starts to suffer.

Next, you move on to learning about Wi-Fi diagnostics, like how to modify the access point's channel/power level to improve performance. Or perhaps you want to measure performance over time so you can understand if and when a WLAN upgrade is really necessary. Finally, you graduate to learning about more advanced areas of Wi-Fi, such as retransmission rates, airtime utilization, MCS data rates, and spectrum interference.

By now you are probably asking, "Can't I learn about this stuff by looking at my access point vendor's dashboard?" In short, the answer is, "No".

Only Sapphire Eyes (patented Wi-Fi sensors) and Mobile Eye apps and agents for laptops and tablets can give you insight into actual Wi-Fi experiences.  For instance, there are many cases where an access point appears to be online from the controller or cloud portal point of view. However, clients cannot connect to it.  Only a system like 7SIGNAL will detect this.  There are other situations where Wi-Fi connectivity issues are caused by DHCP server failures or Radius issues, all of which can be tricky to troubleshoot, especially if the end user’s complaint simple states,  "I can’t connect to the Wi-Fi!"

There are other times when people will ask you, "Why is the Wi-Fi is slow!?” When they ask, you have more questions than answers.  For example,

  1. Is this experienced by everyone in that location, or just one person?
  2. Is the issue focused around one wireless access point, or a group of them?
  3. Are there any correlations to be drawn between this issue and any recent wireless upgrades?
  4. Is this the result of automatic channel/power level changes?
  5. Is this caused by external interference?

All of these questions, along with the ability to view historical data, can be answered by 7SIGNAL's WPM system and is the reason why 7SIGNAL is the leader in the WPM space.

Please let me know your thoughts, methodologies, and pain points with respect to your current Wi-Fi deployment. I want to help. And remember, WPM is not the panacea, but crucial in obtaining the visibility you require to achieve peak Wi-Fi performance. For you cannot fix what you cannot see!