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Onion Approach to Wi-Fi Troubleshooting Basics: Do You Have A Wi-Fi Network Mental Checkbox ?

By George Stafanick, Blog Contributor
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Over the years designing, deploying, troubleshooting and managing small and very large wireless networks I can tell you one thing is certain. If a user has any type of problem when using your Wi-Fi network there is a very good chance they will blame your network. The problem may be application, driver, or device related, but you my friend will get the ticket and the blame. As wireless engineers, we have to deal with a lot of blame. It becomes very frustrating. Many less experienced Wi-Fi engineers will have a knee-jerk reaction to these tickets and start powering up and down access points, adding access points and sometimes make changes on the fly without knowing the root cause of the issue.

I've had the pleasure and blessing to speak at Aruba ATM around the world. Often times people will approach me after a session and share war stories. I enjoy these conversations because it gives me an opportunity to share my troubleshooting experience and in the same process learn about their troubleshooting techniques as well. The stories have a common theme. It’s a theme that involves the Wi-Fi network getting blamed and what recommendations would I suggest as next steps.

My friends, I'm here to tell you. You aren't alone!

I was once faced with mounting wireless tickets, users bashing my network for this, that, and the other thing. I wanted to run and hide. I was overwhelmed. I did the knee-jerk reaction. What I realized I wasn't doing my customers or myself any favors. I needed to know if the issue was my network or not. This is where the “Wi-Fi Network Mental Checkbox”  started.

The Wi-Fi Network Mental Checkbox starts with the very basics.

  • Is the RF designed properly
    • 2nd ap coverage for optimal roaming
    • 3rd ap coverage for optimal RTLS
    • Channeled properly
    • Powered properly
    • Limited CCI/CCC
  • Is the wireless configuration simple and optimal
    • Don’t subscribe to complex configurations unless there is a need
  • Have you baselined and tested the area of coverage
    • Roaming test
    • Sample test devices through your network
    • Max load testing
  • QoS
    • Are your applications and devices supporting QoS marking properly
    • Multicast

You need to have a mental checkbox that the wireless network is solid. Remember anyone can provide you a green map. Anyone can hang access points. All to often people will spend thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars on Wi-Fi networks. They buy controllers, licenses, access points, switches, cables, installation services, the list goes on. They hang the access points and assume life is good without any further testing.

If you validate the area of coverage and you are able to tic box each of these items then you my friend passed the mental checkbox.

A ticket rolls into your bucket. You can quickly say:

  • Do you have access points down, no.
  • Any changes to the network wired or wireless, no.

If the answer is no. Then you can quickly focus your attention to the device, application or user issue and not the wireless network.