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Using Spectrum Analysis in Network Troubleshooting

Identifying and eliminating sources of interference that can slow down and interrupt network performance

Maintaining a network on a daily basis is a complicated task. Making sure the organization stays operational and secure while meeting the needs of its users is no small feat.

Part of this regular maintenance is troubleshooting. Whether the network goes down entirely or performance is slow, getting everything back up and running is a top priority for the network engineer as well as the organization.

High-functioning Wi-Fi is essential to most operations these days. Network downtime, spotty connections, and lag time can cost millions of dollars, depending on the size of the company. Some organizations, such as hospitals, can lose precious time and even lives in the most extreme cases.

Needless to say, network troubleshooting needs to be done quickly and efficiently, using the best possible tools to find the source of the issue. Spectrum analysis is one such tool that’s used to identify sources of interference and eliminate them to optimize network performance.

What is spectrum analysis?

Spectrum analysis is a process that measures the strength of the network in certain locations. Often, it’s used as a troubleshooting tool when networks are experiencing interference. This analysis can help locate the source of the interference so engineers can figure out a solution.

Interference manifests itself in a few ways. Users may experience dropped network connections, slow performance, and low voice quality, among other things. These situations are frustrating for employees and other end-users, as well as potentially harmful to business operations.

Spectrum analysis is often thought of as a tool to use when things go badly. But the truth is, spectrum analysis should be utilized throughout every phase of network implementation and operation, from planning to deployment to maintenance.

In particular, engineers should conduct a spectrum analysis before deploying a network to identify potential sources of interference. If possible, they or the client can remove it. If not, engineers can design the network around the issue.

How can spectrum analysis help with troubleshooting?

Spectral analyzers are designed to measure the magnitude of signals across various frequencies from both Wi-Fi and non-Wi-Fi sources. A quality analyzer will be able to identify all 802.11 networks, which is important for organizations with devices running on multiple generations. It can also monitor signals on both 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies.

Many people don’t think about the variety of devices that can interrupt a network. This doesn’t just include other Wi-Fi devices like computers and cell phones. It can also include Bluetooth devices, surveillance cameras, and even microwaves. Without spectrum analysis, identifying these sources would be very difficult and time-consuming.

During the analysis, various signals will display on whichever application or tool the engineer is using. The results usually display in graph form, with the Y-axis representing the frequency and the X-axis representing the strength. The closer to the source of the signal, the denser it is. Signals also have distinct patterns and shapes, which makes them easier to categorize and identify.

Directional antennas are then used to more precisely locate the device that's causing the trouble. This is more difficult than it sounds, however— depending on the environment. Signals can bounce off of one another as well as other objects in the same area, so pinpointing the exact source can be time-consuming in a larger and more complex environment.

Ultimately, spectrum analysis can help you maintain and protect your network by locating and removing sources of interference that are causing trouble.

How to proactively monitor and protect your network

The goal, of course, is to minimize network troubleshooting as much as possible. One way to do it is to use a platform that continuously monitors your network for potential issues.

7SIGNAL’s Sapphire Eye™ includes hardware sensors installed on-site that measure network quality remotely using cloud-based software. Mobile Eye™ is a SaaS application that is installed on the end-users' devices. By monitoring network performance at the end-user level, 7SIGNAL’s platform can proactively notify managers of any potential problems—including interference that can be diagnosed and solved via spectrum analysis.

7SIGNAL helps engineers and network managers find and fix many major issues such as congestion, interference, and improper WLAN configuration. In a world where Wi-Fi is an operational necessity, businesses can’t afford the costs associated with network downtime.

Contact us today to learn more about optimizing your network’s performance.

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.