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Optimizing Wi-Fi at a Large Enterprise: The Florida Blue Case Study

Florida Blue uses 7SIGNAL’s network visibility platform to set a new standard for Wi-Fi performance

Establishing a secure and stable wireless network is a fundamental technology goal for most organizations. The complexity of this goal increases, of course, with the size of the organization. Expansive enterprises pose a unique challenge to network engineers who have to account for more users, locations, and potential security risks. Likewise, various industries have specific regulations on data transfer and storage to consider.

One such large enterprise is Florida Blue or (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida), the state's largest and oldest health insurance provider. They serve millions of policyholders in and around Florida with a variety of health plans and insurance policies.

The company’s seven-building headquarters campus is located in Jacksonville. There are also three regional offices and 28 neighborhood centers where employees can engage with policyholders face-to-face about insurance advice, wellness tips, and nutritional information. In total, Florida Blue has over 6,500 employees.

Needless to say, optimizing a wireless network of this magnitude—with the added security requirements of the healthcare industry—posed a challenge. But with 7SIGNAL’s help, Florida Blue was able to create and maintain an excellent Wi-Fi user experience across its various campuses. Here’s how they did it.

Problem: the needs of the organization outgrew the network

When Florida Blue first designed a Wi-Fi network, it was intended mainly for employee use and convenience. The network was not considered a strategic corporate resource until 2017, at least. At that time, the organization’s security-conscious IT team adopted corporate Wi-Fi.

Executives and other managers were also given corporate-issued laptops, iPads, and iPhones; however, these devices were limited to Guest SSIDs with no access to corporate data or services. In other words, these tools meant to increase productivity and efficiency were limited in performance with a very narrow lifeline to the internet.

The needs of the network only became more complicated as Florida Blue continued to grow. The company expanded with regional offices and neighborhood centers, each requiring wired and wireless network support. It was all simply becoming too much for the network that was in place.

Speaking of which, Florida Blue runs a high-security, high-availability, all-Cisco network. The Wi-Fi set-up includes multiple High Availability controllers and over 900 Cisco 3800 series indoor access points (APs). Six hundred of the APs are at the Deerwood HQ campus, where 30 outdoor APs also provide access for users traveling between campus buildings.

A campus of this size was outgrowing the network—and this increased demand was starting to affect end users. Complaints about network performance and coverage increased. For a network team that wanted end users to have the best possible experience, it was painful to watch.

“We simply didn’t have the time or the Wi-Fi skills to troubleshoot every Wi-Fi problem,” said Senior Network Engineer, Jean-Pierre Comeau. “It was time to bring in better tools and an experienced Wi-Fi engineer to take charge of the Wi-Fi.”

Solution: increase network visibility and improve troubleshooting

One of the biggest obstacles Florida Blue's IT team faced was a lack of visibility into their network from the end user's perspective. Enter 7SIGNAL's Sapphire Eye™. As an initial test, Sapphire Eye sensors were installed at a regional center that was experiencing end-user complaints about slow Wi-Fi. The sensors monitor both wired and wireless networks from every angle, which quickly told the team that the real issue was the broadband connection.

This visibility turned out to be exactly what Florida Blue needed. Now, there are nearly 100 Sapphire Eye sensors in place across the enterprise. The network team defines performance thresholds through 7SIGNAL’s dashboard as well as via alerts that trigger when any metrics deviate from those thresholds. This gives the team a true bird’s-eye view of the network, allowing them to identify and address issues as they arise and before they impact the end user.

For additional visibility, Florida Blue implemented 7SIGNAL’s Mobile Eye™ module to gather performance data on end users' mobile devices on campus. This SaaS application runs passive and active Wi-Fi tests from the user's perspective, helping engineers find and fix issues to optimize device performance.

Mobile Eye also gives the service desk valuable information. Support staff can ask users to download it for assistance with Wi-Fi performance issues on the spot, which increases their response speed and the chances of success.

Results: proactive problem-solving with detailed network visibility

With the addition of 7SIGNAL to their toolkit, the Florida Blue network team can isolate and solve a variety of Wi-Fi issues, including dropped sessions and roaming between meeting rooms. They can now genuinely meet their goal of providing users with a great Wi-Fi experience. Plus, they have the option to scale quickly as the company grows and adds more locations.

At a new 85,000 square foot regional center, Sapphire Eye sensors were designed into the network from the very beginning. The network team optimized the install right away, which set a new standard for Wi-Fi quality at Florida Blue. The 500 new end users had a great experience from day one.

“7SIGNAL gets to the root cause of wired and wireless issues quickly, which allows me to stay on task with more strategic projects,” said Michael Workman, Florida Blue’s Wireless Network Engineer. “With 7SIGNAL, I can triangulate the problem and solve it in one-tenth the time. Sapphire Eye provides a better visualization of the user experience than any other tool.”

7SIGNAL® is a leader in enterprise Wireless Network Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wireless Network Monitoring (WNM) solution that continuously troubleshoots the wireless network for performance issues – maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed for the world’s most innovative organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies and is currently deployed at Booz Allen Hamilton, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, Walgreens, Microsoft, and many others. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 4 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.