Superior Wireless Troubleshooting Requires an Active and Passive Approach

One’s quicker, one takes longer – but both make your Wi-Fi stronger

Combining active and passive Wi-Fi testing is the ideal way to be sure you’re controlling your wireless environment. Both tests should be used when you’re assessing your Wi-Fi to form a complete picture of performance issues and how to solve them.

Active testing pushes for results, proactively

As the name suggests, active Wi-Fi testing is designed to put your network through its paces. Proactive may be a better name for it since active testing doesn’t wait around for results to come in. It lets us know how a wireless network performs in real time under demanding conditions by simulating traffic that mimics end-user behavior.

The active approach is great for troubleshooting and discovering which parts of your Wi-Fi environment need to be optimized. Introducing synthetic traffic under test conditions reveals these strengths and weaknesses before your wireless system needs to handle real people and devices.

Channel utilization, latency, availability and retry rates are some of the key performance indicators measured by active testing. 7SIGNAL’s tests allow for WLAN performance monitoring over an extended period and particularly during times of Wi-Fi congestion.

The greatest advantage of active testing is that it safely gathers results and spots many problems through simulated network traffic. This advantage is also its Achilles Heel. The data gathered here is valuable, but synthetic/simulated conditions aren’t reality. This is why passive testing is a necessary complement, as it combines active testing’s simulations with real-world data.

How a passive test listens to your network

Passive gets its name from the test effectively “listening” to the WLAN without actively connecting to it. Radio frequency signals are measured between the Wi-Fi and its access points to create a picture of where your wireless may be struggling or blocked altogether. Performance metrics such as interference, noise level, and signal strength are gathered under passive test conditions.

How effective passive testing is ultimately is can depend on the complexity of the Wi-Fi network. The larger the network, the harder it is for a purely passive solution to root out the cause of an issue. Passive’s biggest downsides are its reactive nature and the time it takes to gather data. Unlike active’s safer simulation approach, passive deals with real issues and, unfortunately, real problems that are impacting users.

Finding these issues too long after the fact (or not being able to resolve them quickly) can cause delays, productivity loss, and reduced profits. Longer passive testing also runs the risk of being terminated before gathering valuable access point data. This mode of testing delivers the data on your signal strength, but it’s only half the picture without the traffic management statistics provided by an active test.

The best of both tests for your Wi-Fi

Active and passive have their respective strengths and weaknesses, which is why 7SIGNAL created wireless testing solutions that both talk and listen. Actively, we access your network as a connected device. Our tech emulates end users and probes for answers to questions such as:

  • Is there a delay, and for how long?
  • Is jitter present?
  • What are the rates of throughput and packet loss?
  • Can I connect successfully to the network?

We then track and trend performance continuously and exercise your network at regular intervals. Passively, 7SIGNAL sensors “listen” to each individual interaction between an access point and a client/device and record metrics like the number of retransmissions, client connection data rates, and overall traffic volume and air utilization.

Our service allows you to monitor your wireless network from the end user’s perspective on an hourly basis while comparing and contrasting performance data from previous days, weeks, or months. The Auto-Optimize feature contained within our Wi-Fi analytics software provides you with a detailed list of action items for improving the quality and performance of your Wi-Fi network.

You can see how intuitive our Sapphire solutions suite is in this short video demonstration or experience it yourself with a free demo. We’re proud to offer a service that can track down and solve your Wi-Fi issues in 30 seconds or less.

7SIGNAL is the Wi-Fi company here to help your business grow. Our cloud-based software lets our clients analyze their wireless performance to optimize its health and identify issues before productivity is lost. For more information on our comprehensive solutions, products, and services please call 216-777-2900.