How Many Access Points Do I Need? Estimate the right number of devices for your network

How Many Access Points Do I Need - Estimate the Right Number of Access Points

How many access points do I need? How to estimate the right number of devices for professional networks

How many access points do I need? A common question in professional network deployment. Estimating the number of access points for different environments is crucial: especially in structures with large areas and requiring large numbers of devices, calculating the wrong number can lead to unexpectedly high costs and a feeling of dissatisfaction when buying unnecessary APs. Conversely, when you want to save too much money, you risk underestimating the number of devices and not buying enough access points for your business.

Tanaza has defined the most important factors to consider and how to estimate the number of access points required.

What factors to consider when estimating the number of access points?

  1. Check floor plan of the environment;
  2. Identify the types of walls;
  3. Evaluate the number of contemporary users;
  4. Calculate the Capacity/Throughput per user/application.

Check floor plan of the environment

The building plan is often a factor that is taken for granted when estimating the number of devices to be purchased. Modern buildings can have different floor plans: L, H, or T.

In this scenario, the geometry of the plan itself influences coverage. In these cases, devices can not be placed in a position that will be central to all users, without the signal crossing several external or internal walls.

Follow this basic networking rules:

  • L-shape – estimate more square feet than 2;
  • T-shape – estimate more square feet than 3;
  • H-shape – multiply the estimated square footage by 4.
How to Calculate the Number of WiFi Access Points

Identify the types of walls

Intuitively, concrete, brick, and reinforced concrete walls have a high magnetic permeability index. In this case, the number of devices required for efficient WiFi signal propagation is higher.
Concrete, with or without reinforcement, has a high attenuation level and represents a significant obstacle between the access point and the client device. The loss of decibels of the WiFi signal increases as the frequency increases.

In the table, below you can see the signal losses by frequency and material. The table is based on calculations and experiments carried out by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Materials 2.4GHz (dBm) 5GHz (dBm)
Reinforced Concrete 22.792 44.769
Concrete Brick 4.295 7.799
Plasterboard Wall 5.388 10.114
Chipboard Wall 0.463 0.838

For example, using the concrete heavy example in the table above and imagine there is a concrete heavy wall between the AP and the client: at 2.4 GHz, the transmission loss is ~23 dB- meaning that as the signal goes through the wall it is decreasing by that amount of attenuation. Now if the operating frequency is changed to 5 GHz, the transmission loss is going to be higher because the frequency is higher – so in this case it goes to ~45 dB.

Estimating the number of access points, it is fundamental to consider the technical characteristics and configurations of the devices, including bandwidth, signal strength, and range. For networks that require large numbers of devices, a platform like Tanaza is essential for comprehensive remote management. The platform allows the signal status to be monitored 24/7, with the ability to modify the necessary settings for each access point in bulk.

Number of contemporary users

The number of contemporary users is a parameter for estimating access points that should only be considered in areas with a large number of users such as schools, theatres, auditoriums, hotels, universities, and sports centers.

Imagine a traditional football stadium with a capacity of 50000 people for a summer concert. The size of the rectangular area is 650 feet x 750 feet. To obtain the number of access points required, you need to calculate:

TOTAL ENVIRONMENT AREA / MAXIMUM COVERAGE AREA OF THE DEVICE

At this point, we consider the number of connected users. With the stadium at max capacity, let’s assume that only 50% of the spectators have connected to the WiFi network: 25000 spectators. Of these, 10,000 are using it together to share the most exciting moments of the event. Once you have performed the above calculation to determine the number of access points needed, you can divide the number of users / the number of APs to quantify the number of access points per device.

Calculate the Capacity/Throughput per user/application.

Another method to estimate the number of access points needed is to calculate the capacity requirements. We have already talked about this topic in a previous article: click here to read.

For a quick review, consider 4 basic formulas:

  • AP Throughput divided by User Throughput = Users per AP
  • Users per AP divided by active users = Usable users per AP
  • Usable Users per AP divided by Adoption Rate = Service Area/Cell Size
  • Capacity divided by service area = AP count
Once the number of access points has been estimated, it is worth considering a WiFi cloud platform that allows the remote management of all devices. With Tanaza you can monitor the WiFi data of the access points remotely.
Available statistics include:

  • data received and sent by the network in real-time;
  • the status of the access points in real-time;
  • historical statistics on possible disconnections;
  • RAM/CPU load percentage in real-time;
  • blocked packets and error rate;
  • the number of connected clients and the aggregate upload and download speed.

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What is WiFi Network Management Software?

WiFi Network Management Software

What is WiFi Network Management Software?

WiFi network management software has become a necessity as it offers an automated way to monitor and analyze WiFi Access points, network traffic, and client devices. Businesses rely a lot on WiFi to ensure wireless, remote access so that all devices remain connected to the internet.

The network management software serves as the solution, consisting of monitoring devices that create and use the wifi network, analyzing their traffic, and troubleshooting slowdowns that impact the end-user experience. The primary aim of a wifi network management solution is to avoid downtime by preventing rogue devices from accessing the network. Specially in terms of large-scale and dynamic business networks, WiFi management is quite important.

The network management software collects information about the network devices using specific protocols such as SNMP, ICMP, CDP etc to then present this information to the network administrators in a resolved way to help them identify the issue at the fastest time possible and troubleshoot any problems. When many devices connect to a particular network simultaneously, the reliable network uptime guarantee is liable to differ. It depends on many factors including location, access point, network design and configuration.

A WiFi management tool helps to synthesize data effectively. These platforms are configured to track key performance metrics of the network and provide in-depth, critical device details, including current node status, average response time, packet loss, and device information.

Why do you need a Network Management Software for Your Business?

It is important to have a WiFi management software to ensure your network’s stability and reliability and global overview of every single end point. Every network needs a monitoring software that can detect promptly issues to avoid slowdowns that eventually impact the end-user experience.

If a signal gets dropped or there is no connectivity in a particular area, it will hamper the work. An effective network management solution incorporates advanced monitoring technology to help IT admins navigate the complicated and evolving networking landscape. Every wireless device, network application, and even the physical landscape leave their mark on the network, or we can say formerly it affects the network.

If your company has a wireless network, this does not mean that it’s enough to run a small or large business smoothly. It is the responsibility of the IT admins to manage and monitor the networks and the IT infrastructure. Wifi connectivity is liable to deflect depending on several factors. Sometimes when we experience extreme lag or network downtime, we feel frustrated because almost all our work depends on how efficiently our network performs. It’s up to the IT administrator to reach the roots of the problem and resolve WiFi related issues. Hence, a network monitoring software is very useful as it helps IT admins to troubleshoot any potential issue with the network.

A network management software can identify multiple issues within the network and the access points that broadcast the signal. The software gathers and displays robust insights into each category of the network, so IT teams can get to the root of the poor performance before the network and your business comes to a grinding halt. WiFi monitoring tools help detect, diagnose and resolve the most common issues while dropping in the network. If you are facing any of the following issues in context to your wifi network such as:

  • Poor or slow connection speed;
  • Weak signal strength;
  • Mismanaged network capacity;
  • Compromised Network Security.

5 Key Benefits of an All-In-One WiFi Network Management Software

There are many Network Management solutions available in the market, but among them, choosing the one with all the perks is quite a task. Let us discuss the five key benefits of having an all-in-one WiFi Management platform:


  1. Faster and Simplified Network Management
  2. Reduce Operating Costs of WiFi Networks
  3. On-Demand Scalability for MSPs
  4. Full remote network recovery with easy backups and real-time alerts

Faster and Simplified Network Management

It is of utmost importance to have software that simplifies network management and that enables teams to detect problems within the networks before they happen. It will provide an in-depth insight into the network by identifying the root source of the network issue that allows faster resolution times.

The primary benefit of having a single cloud-based platform is that it allows IT teams to monitor and manage thousands of networks and access points regardless of their location and vendor. If you wish to monitor your WiFi effectively, choose none other than Tanaza. It has a single cloud controller platform that effectively monitors your networks and the access points in your networks. It empowers the IT admins to monitor, detect, diagnose and troubleshoot any issue with the network and outages quickly and efficiently.

Tanaza’s Network Management software features centralized management capabilities. This feature lets IT teams set basic configurations of the network applied by default to all the cloud-managed access points in that network.

It also features zero touch provisioning of new access points for small or large-scale network deployments. Also, it helps IT teams to avoid installation errors, reduce costs, and lead time when deploying medium and large-scale networks.

The primary benefit is that configuration of devices can be done remotely and in bulk. It is done even before the deployment. Once all the devices are connected to a network, the platform detects them automatically. It also identifies the associated configuration.

Furthermore, being a user-friendly platform, it allows anyone to perform network deployments. Experienced IT admins can minimize the time needed as they would be able to configure the access points in advance and send the access points pre-configured only for installation. Also, they can enable push notifications to be received once the deployments happen and the units have been automatically configured.

Reduce Operating Costs of WiFi Networks

When you take the help of some platform with a multi-vendor approach, it is much easier to scale the networks as there is no vendor lock-in that constrains or limits MSPs to mix and match vendor access points. With time wifi networks require to scale putting pressure on the network infrastructure.

We all know that managing a complex ecosystem can be stressful and confusing. The more complex the network becomes, it becomes more expensive to operate as well as maintain. Businesses need to remember that closed software and hardware technologies can lead to huge OpEx, which might increase CapEx very quickly. By going with a multi-vendor SaaS approach, users would be able to easily manage the networks remotely, which will reduce the up-front costs and CapEx.

On-Demand Scalability for MSPs

A WiFi network management solution that allows mixing and matching hardware and integrating further with third-party software applications is optimal. Tanaza enables MSPs to scale according to their needs. Using the Tanaza platform, MSPs will pay only for what is needed and when it is needed. This is because of the flexible pricing packages per access point managed in the platform which can be monthly, annual, or every 3 or 5 years. MSPs can start managing a few devices and networks and expand accordingly based on their customers’ needs. Also, there are no extra costs for managing multiple networks or any cape on the number of devices. The license fee starts at $3.5 per device per month, which includes and covers everything.

Full remote network recovery with easy backups and real-time alerts

Though there are multiple network management software present in the market, Tanaza is the one platform that offers significant perks. It’s 100% cloud-based to monitor and troubleshoot networks remotely. Further, Network admins ensure that outages are corrected timely.

Other systems provide low-cost hybrid cloud solutions that have drawbacks that include hardware, enterprise-grade controllers and do not scale as cloud solutions. However, Tanaza provides all the advantages. It democratizes the benefits of the real-cloud solutions by making them available for any networking hardware –ranging from the most affordable to the most performing.

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5 Best Network Monitoring Software in 2021

Best Network Monitoring Software 2021

5 best network monitoring software in 2021

Choosing the best network monitoring software is a daunting task. As an MSP knowing the state and overall health of your clients’ networks is quite important as if you are unaware of it, you are headed for a disaster. With the technological advancements, there is an ample offer of network monitoring software in the market. 

These software have functionalities such as discovering devices, identifying network trends and traffic, graphically representing monitoring results, backing up network and device configurations, and primarily monitoring network equipment, servers, and applications. 

When it comes to choosing the right monitoring software to manage and operate your customers’ networks there are quite a few things you need to factor in like number of devices to manage, on premises or cloud deployments, co-managed IT, location of the deployment and of course budget. 

But before tapping into more details on how to choose the network monitoring software adapted to your needs, let’s agree on the basic terminology first, so we are all on the same page.

What is network monitoring software?

A Network Monitoring Software is designed to monitor and manage the network traffic flow over a network. This tool is used mainly by network administrators and security staff as they monitor network deployments. This software automates most of the network monitoring processes and workflows. 

So you might be wondering what exactly it does? Well, this software monitors the network’s uptime, availability, and response time. It can also monitor unusual activity and alert the network administrator when something suspicious or malicious is detected over the network. The network monitoring process can be for a physical/wireless LAN, WAN, or both. 

A network monitoring software provides information such as Active devices and equipment on a certain network and IP addressing schemes. It routinely reviews the network for availability and generates an alert and notification when a problem or issue occurs. For instance, it will alert you when an access point goes offline, or any suspicious packet is detected. 

Network monitoring must be proactive, which is a necessity and its most important aspect. It is a process in which all the networking components such as routers, switches, firewalls, servers, and VMs are monitored for fault and performance and evaluated continuously to maintain and optimize their availability.

How to choose the best network monitoring software?

Choosing the right network monitoring system makes all the difference in how accurately your customers’ digital infrastructure will work. The network monitoring tool is the most fundamental technology available for MSPs. With its wide range of capabilities and features on offer, you can select the best network monitoring software that will track network processes end to end. The tool ingests a vast array of performance metrics to discover, assess, optimize, and troubleshoot individual devices and keep cybersecurity threats at bay. Before selecting any monitoring software, it is essential to have a few things in consideration.

Firstly you need to check whether the network deployment is small, medium, or large. Usually, these tools are specifically designed for either small, medium, or large deployments. Also, depending on the type of deployment your customer wants: on-premise, hybrid or cloud-based. 

A lot of things matter while deploying a WiFi network and choosing an optimal monitoring tool. Generally, the small and medium businesses must select the tool that is easy to use and works with minimal configuration, so in the case of a co-managed infrastructure, both the MSP and the SMB can have peace of mind. 

The larger network deployments need a monitoring system that is more feature-rich and scalable. Businesses must have a dedicated team of professionals to manage the IT infrastructure to ensure its functionality. Hence, MSPs managing network deployments of any size should ensure that whatever tool they choose must include node and device inventorying, autodiscovery, automatic and configurable trouble alerts, warnings, and a web-based centralized management interface. 

Before selecting, it’s also recommended to understand your customer’s budget and see whether they would want high-performance or cost-effective devices to run the network. Thus, MSPs need to have a wide range of software tools within their portfolio to address each segment’s needs. For large network deployments, MSPs should opt for details over convenience, while small and medium deployments will want to prioritize user-friendliness. It is important to foresee that your customer’s network can potentially grow to choose a sustainable solution that can help you to help your customer scale when it’s needed.

An honest list of networking monitoring software

What are the best network monitoring software in 2021? Here you have a list of 5 useful tools for network management:

  • Manage Engine OPManager
  • PRTG (Paid Network Monitoring Solutions)
  • Tanaza
  • EventSentry
  • SpiceWorks

It is important to consider the amount of virtualization in your network while choosing a network monitoring tool. The network performance monitors differ in their ability to provide visibility within the virtualized environment. Before choosing software, it is important to find out which would be the best network monitoring software to handle the consistent and disruptive problems that your customer’s network will encounter. 

Manage Engine OPManager

OP Manager

One of the famous network monitoring tools, Manage Engine OPManager, monitors SNMP devices, switches, servers, and virtualized network services. It features over 200 customizable widgets to build unique dashboards and reports. For numerous alerting channels, this monitoring tool supports email, SMS, and webhook. It uses intelligent alerting to reduce false positives by eliminating alert fatigue across larger networks. The only disadvantage of this tool is that it is time-consuming to learn. Being a feature-rich tool, it requires time to go through all the aspects and configuration settings. Also, it integrates well in the ManageEngine ecosystem with its other products. This tool is best recommended for users that want a simple infrastructure monitoring tool.

PRTG (Paid Network Monitoring Solutions)

PRTG

The Paessler PRTG network monitoring tool is an integrated solution suitable for both small and enterprise environments. This monitoring software is more than just a server monitoring system. It is made to monitor any IT-related resources that connect to your network, including your firewalls, switches, servers, routers, databases, websites, and even USPs. 

This setup is dynamic, so its monitoring capabilities can grow or shrink with the business size or other requirements of your organization. This monitoring software is a windows program that can be installed on a server with shared access. PRTGs can also send email and SMS alerts based on your custom threshold levels so that network admins can get more frequent warnings from critical servers with shared access. 

This application can monitor everything you need to know about your servers, such as CPU load, hard disk capacity and performance, RAM utilization, and bandwidth monitoring. The primary benefit of this system is that it has a simple and clear user interface with functional elements conveniently located in in-built places. Some of the other key features of the system include multiple user interfaces to choose from, failover tolerant monitoring, and distributed monitoring. PRTG is free for 100 sensors, so it is considered great if you have a small network or are looking for a paid solution.

Tanaza

Best WiFi Monitoring Software 2021
Among all, Tanaza is an ideal solution for the best network monitoring software. It is considered best for MSPs serving small and medium businesses and enterprises or SMEs with in-house IT teams. We all know that businesses rely on networks for all operations. In today’s era, networks have to span globally, so network monitoring is crucial for any business. Being a subset of network management, a good network monitoring tool is required. Businesses are under quite pressure and need to manage affordable and straightforward IT infrastructure that works. Currently, the offers from famous network vendors such as Cisco Meraki, Ubiquiti or Aruba compel users to pay for expensive and non-flexible hardware. This hardware doesn’t allow other multi-vendor networking devices within the same network seamlessly due to lock-in constraints.

Tanaza’s operating system is the most reliable software as it delivers security layers that protect hardware from cyber attacks. Tanaza also delivers a scalable freemium model and a comprehensive marketplace that enables third-party software applications to offer added-value services for customers. It is the only single platform delivering world-class operational efficiency in IT operations. 

Tanaza allows you to manage remote access points, networks, and SSIDs. Furthermore, the zero-touch provisioning allows you to configure remotely any amount of devices and send them to the customer’s location only for installation. Once the device is ON it connects automatically to the platform and features all the configuration set up.

Tanaza has an intuitive interface and features multi-tenancy capabilities so you don’t have to share your credentials with any colleague. Each tenant can have their own and have different permission levels to the network. Furthermore, it’s the only software compatible with multi-vendor access points. MSPs can manage thousands of networks and access points in the cloud from different vendors from a single control plane. No other network monitoring software delivers the same.

In terms of monitoring and network management, Tanaza allows MSPs to have a global overview of all the networks, and detailed information about:

  • the number of client devices connected in real-time;
  • uplink and downlink data rates;
  • SSIDs in a network;
  • devices’ load;
  • bandwidth consumption for each access point;
  • list of channels used by each access point;
  • historical devices status;
  • map display and much more.

Tanaza provides liability to SMEs/SMBs to choose from the hardware of their choice. They can select among cost-effective enterprise gear by saving on CapEx and OpEx as they can reuse their existing networking infrastructure and scale their networks.

EventSentry

Event Sentry

EventSentry is an on-premise network monitoring software that is owned by NETIKUS.NET Ltd. It enables businesses to monitor their IP-based devices performances. The primary functionalities of this tool include monitoring server health and network performance by managing logs and compliances. 

It has a wide range of features such as heartbeat monitoring, SNMP, and Syslog monitoring. The only drawback of it is limiting false positives that become challenging at times. However, it is a good network monitoring tool that enables your business to comply with government and industry regulations such as HIPAA, PCL, and SOX.

SpiceWorks

Spice Works

It is one of the open-source network monitoring software that is known for its scalability and flexibility. It is a great solution for granular monitoring of memory, disk activity, and more. The primary benefit of using this tool is that it is quick and also easy to implement. It allows independent thresholds per system or device. SpiceWorks tracks infrastructure devices such as switches and routers for input/output rate, packets per second, and packet loss. Though this tool provides excellent monitoring, it does not support SNMP version 3. It means that it does not reconcile systems that are going down. Also, its user interface is comparatively slow.

Among the top 5 best network monitoring software, it is up to the requirements of network admins to choose according to their IT infrastructure and business size. Tanaza represents itself as a comprehensive, affordable and flexible SaaS platform for IT professionals to manage WiFi networks in the cloud. Being the only software in the market that works with multi-vendor networking hardware.

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Load balancing

Load Balancing for Network Performance

Understanding Load Balancing for Network Performance


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What is Load Balancing?

Load Balancing is the process of distributing network traffic across multiple WiFi access points. In this way, any access point handles too many client devices connected to the same device.

By distributing the load evenly, load balancing helps to improve the responsiveness of applications. Furthermore, users can have greater availability of applications and websites.

Wireless networks are getting more and more popular and have become an essential part of our lives with the ever-increasing use of IoT devices. The reality is that users expect high-quality connectivity in all scenarios, especially in public spaces with crowded networks and multiple concurrent users downloading and uploading content simultaneously.

Hundreds of devices want to connect to a network comprised of multiple access points and a limited spectrum. For all of those devices to receive a decent connection quality, throughput, and delay, there shouldn’t be access points overloaded. Otherwise, it would not be easy to provide service for each client device connected to the network.

Load balancing and the IEEE 802.11 standard

The IEEE 802.11 standard specifies that the client device decides which access point to connect to. In high-density environments, the client device’s choice to connect to one or another AP can lead to an AP overload. It might also lead to oscillations in the AP association as a client device has limited data about the network’s performance.

Also, since it doesn’t collaborate with other client devices before connecting to an AP on another, it creates overload easily. This whole mix provides the recipe for undesired behavior for load balancing, as there is no control over the client devices.

How does load balancing work?

Load balancing ensures that client devices are distributed evenly, so no single AP is simultaneously overloaded with too many client devices. Therefore, the total number of client devices can be served by various APs, delivering better performance and an improved user experience.

If a client device wants to connect to an access point, it sends a “request of association” to the AP. If the access point is already overloaded with client devices connected, it will deny the client device’s association request. The client device then would have to resent a request of association to a nearby access point that it has more space to grant a “room” to the client.

A network with multiple access points shares the client devices’ load information. Load balancing is a mechanism that can exist in distributed architectures in which all the access points communicate with one another. Or in a centralized architecture that uses a WLAN controller.

It optimizes throughput for all client devices by continually optimizing user associations to give each client device optimal throughput. This improves the throughput for each client device and dynamically balances the client load for the network.​

Load Balancing: Before vs After

When do you need load balancing?

Load balancing is an ideal setting to enable in high-density environments in which roaming is not necessary. For instance, a theatre room with multiple access points installed in the same open space. In a deployment of this type, the client device will hear all the access points and load balancing in this scenario is a must.

On the contrary, when it comes to deployments in which roaming is the star, load balancing is not the right approach as it would cause client devices to become sticky and stay associated with the access point way longer than it should. In this type of scenario, where roaming is a must, having load balancing can be detrimental for the roaming process. So be aware of the settings.

Hardware vs. Software Load Balancing

Load balancing typically comes in two flavors: hardware and software-based. Vendors of networking hardware load proprietary software into the device provided, which often uses specialized processors that activates the load balancing capabilities. Software solutions like Tanaza generally run on open standard networking hardware. You can install the Tanaza operating system on a compatible access point of your choice and manage the device from a single control plane.

Tanaza supports 802.11v. Besides helping to preserve the device battery life, this standard also allows the WiFi network to influence the device’s behavior, providing the information of nearby access points (like their load), optimizing client transition to the best identified AP. Activating this capability for the ideal scenario efficiently balances the number of devices connected to an access point. It also helps to direct poorly connected devices to the best AP.

If you are a Tanaza user and would like to activate 802.11v to improve the load balance of client devices in your networks, read this article to learn how to activate 802.11v within the Tanaza platform.

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Tanaza OS

How to use the OSI Model to Troubleshoot Networks – Layer 2

How to use the OSI Model-to-troubleshoot Networks at Layer 2

How to use the OSI Model to Troubleshoot Networks at Layer 2


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Our previous article discusses how to use the OSI model to troubleshoot network problems at layer 1. We covered how to outline issues with your WiFi Networks and how to troubleshoot them using the OSI model.

Just to refresh your memory, the OSI model helps break down an issue and isolate the problem’s root. Ideally, it’s best taking a layer bottom-up approach as most of the WiFi problems happen in the first two layers of the OSI model. If the problem is not in layer 1 or 2, it is not a WiFi problem. Period!

In this article, we continue our way up in the OSI model with the data link layer.

OSI Model to Troubleshoot Networks at Layer 2

Data link is the second layer of the OSI model. It relates to how the systems using a physical link cooperate with one another.

It helps to transfer data between two devices on the same network. The data is broken down into packets. The data link layer’s job is to define unique sequences to indicate the beginning and the end for each packet. Also, it is directly responsible for flow and error control in intra-network communications.

The data link layer has two sublayers: the Logical Link Control (LLC), which interprets electricity, light, and WiFi into 1s and 0s that become the data packets. The other sublayer is the Media Access Control (MAC) layer, accountable for moving data packets to the Network Interface Card (NIC) to another across a shared channel. Thanks to MAC protocols used in the sublayer, the signals sent from different stations across the same channel don’t collide.

WiFi radios talk via 802.11 frame exchanges at the MAC sub-layer of the data link layer. Therefore, the next layer to look into when troubleshooting networks is layer 2 of the OSI model.

Retransmissions

The most common problem in layer 2 is retransmissions that happens at the MAC sublayer. Everything starts when a transmitter device sends a unicast frame to a device. The receiver device uses a cyclic redundancy check, aka ‘CRC,’ to confirm the data packet reception’s integrity. If the CRC passes, it means the data packet has not been corrupted during transmission.

The receiver device will send an 802.11 acknowledgment ‘ACK’ frame back to the transmitter device, as a way to verify the data packet delivery. If a collision happens during the information transmission or part of the unicast frame is corrupted, the CRC will fail. Thus the receiver device won’t be sending an ACK frame to the transmitter device.

In turn, the transmitter device will transmit the frames again, causing retransmission. Retransmissions have a high impact on WiFi networks as it creates extra MAC layer overhead. Also, it consumes additional airtime in the half-duplex medium.

Layer 2 retransmissions have a negative effect. For instance, if the throughput goes down and latency goes up, it would most likely impact voice and video. So, an increase in latency will result in echo problems, and high jitter variations will result in disjointed audio. As a rule of thumb, for WiFi calls, the maximum rate of retransmissions your WiFi network can handle without affecting the service should be less than 2%.

Reasons for layer 2 retransmissions can be quite a few. For example, a radio frequency interference paired with low Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) due to a lousy WiFi design. Both of them happening at layer 1. Furthermore, there’s the possibility of adjacent cell interference and a hidden node that can also cause higher percentages of layer 2 retries.

Let’s break the reasons down:

SNR (Signal-to-noise ratio)

It is the difference between the received signal power and the noise power expressed in decibels. The retransmissions at layer 2 increase when the background noise is close to the received signal power or if the signal is too low. Stats to live by for WLANs: A good signal quality should be between 20 and 25 dB. Anything below these ranges is considered low signal quality.

RF interference 

It plays a significant role in the retransmissions in layer 2. Excessive retransmissions will happen when frames are corrupted because of RF interference, and therefore, throughput is reduced significantly. If these retransmissions occur frequently, it’s essential to understand the source to remove the interference device.

Channel interference 

Let’s go back to basics. When designing the 2.4GHz WLAN channel allocation plan, make sure to use the channels available for 2.4GHz properly. When there’s an overlapping coverage cell, and overlapping frequency space, the chances of having corrupted data and layer 2 retries are remarkably high. Remember to set up a reuse pattern for 2.4GHz channels 1, 6, and 11 (US) or 1, 5, and 9 -sometimes 13 is also used in deployments for Europe. In this way, you prevent adjacent cell interference in your WLANs.

Hidden node

In wireless networking, a ‘hidden node’ means that a specific node ‘talks’ to a WiFi access point but can’t ‘talk’ directly with other nodes already having a ‘conversation’ with that access point. This should ring all the bells, because it leads to problems in the MAC sublayer as multiple nodes send data packets to the access point at the same time, thus creating interference at the AP level, resulting in data packet loss.

Side Note

When there’s frequent packets loss, and thus retransmissions occur often is crucial to keep an eye on the percentage of packet loss and retransmissions. Tanaza has an embedded ping tool in the cloud management platform that allows you to track data packet loss and network performance to identify connection issues proactively. Our ping tool measures and records the packet round trip time, which lets you know the levels of latency between devices. Additionally, it measures if there are any losses along the way while performing the ping test.

Roaming

Another common problem in layer 2 is roaming. Sometimes roaming problems occur due to drivers’ issues on the client device side, and sticky devices due to bad WiFi design. Usually, roaming improves for those client devices that support 802.11K protocols.

Furthermore, roaming has a correspondence with WLAN security. When client devices roam from one AP to another, they always need to go through an authentication process with the new AP. When AP’s act independently, establishing an authentication takes place every time the client device roams. 

For instance, an end user’s smartphone is connected to the airport’s WiFi – where dozens of AP’s coexist in the same network. If the end-user is on the move, without the inclusion of standards 802.11r/k, the smartphone disconnects from the existing AP before establishing a connection with the new one. 

As a result, the end-user experiences WiFi disconnection and latency while reconnecting to a new access point. It translates into dropped WiFi-based calls, websites loading slowly, difficulties in uploading images on social networks, and other negative performance. 

The Tanaza WiFi cloud platform supports the current fast roaming IEEE 802.11 protocols. The fast roaming standards are leveraged when a client device is connected to a secured-password or captive SSID in a wireless network. The standards allow the client device to roam quickly from one access point to another seamlessly. The client devices do not need to re-authenticate to the RADIUS server every time they switch access points.

By installing the TanazaOS operating system on access points that do not have roaming within the stock firmware, you can add roaming features following the IEEE 802.11r/k/v standards to the devices. Consequently, the Tanaza Operating System enables the fast roaming feature on top of multi-vendor networks of a variety of WiFi access points its compatible with.

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Troubleshooting wireless networks with the OSI model – Layer 1

Troubleshooting Wireless Networks

Troubleshooting wireless networks with the OSI model


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Troubleshooting wireless networks? We have the right recipe! 

Deploying a robust state-of-the-art WiFi network that allows delivering high performance and reliability has turned out to be a challenging task for many enterprises. Wireless networks can be expensive and complex to set up and implement; thus, organizations, more than ever, seek assistance from Service Providers.

Rightful, having a cloud-managed WiFi solution that proactively pinpoints performance issues before your customers know they exist, has become a necessity. Nowadays, network administrators need to be able to troubleshoot issues right away, remotely, and fast.

Outline the issues in your Wireless Networks

Before attempting to solve any issues with WLANs is crucial to understand the root of the problem and gather information about the situation by answering the Five Ws questions (who, what, when, where, why), to outline the issue and define an action plan.

Identify the issue by asking the right questions to your customer.

  1. What is the problem the customer has? Is it a slow connection to the Internet or no Internet access at all? Or does the Internet connection drop randomly?
  2. When is the problem happening? All the time, at certain times in the day, once in a while? Timestamps are key! Check the access points log files you are monitoring.
  3. Where is the problem happening? Is the problem described in question one happening in one area? Multiple areas? Is it campus-wide. By asking this question, the problem can be isolated to a specific access point or area.
  4. Who gets affected by this problem? Does the problem affect one client or many client devices? If it affects many devices, it might be a deeper issue; however, if it’s affecting one client, it might be a problem with the device itself and not with the entire WiFi network infrastructure.
  5. Why is the problem happening? Mostly it could be associated with changes carried out by the customer. Understanding if the customer did any change to the WiFi structure that might have triggered the problem is crucial.

Once you have gathered all the key information from your customer, it’s time to start troubleshooting your WLANs, layer by layer.

Troubleshooting Wireless Networks with the OSI model

At Tanaza, we like to take a structured approach when it comes to troubleshooting wireless networks. We use the OSI (Open Systems Interconnection) model as a framework for troubleshooting networks.

The OSI model is a conceptual model that enables different communication systems to “talk” in the same “language” using standard protocols. This universal language for computer networking splits up the communication system into seven different layers, each one stacked upon the last.

The OSI model helps to break down an issue and isolate the root of the problem. Ideally, we suggest taking a layer bottom-up approach. When it comes to WLANs, most of the WiFi problems happen in the first two layers of the OSI model. So, if the issue can be narrowed down to one specific layer, you can save some valuable time and avoid needless extra work.

OSI Model Layers

In this article, we will cover troubleshooting WiFi Networks at Layer 1 of the OSI model. In our next article, we will cover Layer 2. Keep an eye on our Tanaza blog or activate your notifications so you are the first one to read the next article.

Troubleshooting Wireless Networks – Layer 1

The layer 1 of the OSI model, includes the physical equipment involved in the transmission and reception of data, like connectors, cables, switches, and fiber. In this layer, the data is converted into a bitstream, a series of 1s and 0s. That means the physical layer of devices, by default, must agree on code and modulations; thus, the 1s can be separated from the 0s on both devices.

As a rule of thumb, WiFi (802.11) operates at the first two layers of the OSI model, in other words, the physical layer and the data link layer. Broadly speaking, Physical Layer issues can be split into two main groups: outage and performance issues.

Outage issues

Investigating outage issues is the easiest one. Network admins can start by simply checking that all the equipment is connected correctly, and access points, switches, cables, and gateways are turned on and online. 

Performance issues

On the other hand, when delving into performance problems, it’s crucial to have the right tools to diagnose degraded performance. An easy and fast way to understand performance issues is by pinging devices to know whether the target device is active, the network path between source and destination is right in both directions, and also to measure the packet round trip time to determine latency and jitter levels. 

The Tanaza software has an embedded ping tool that allows network admins to perform routine ping tests. After pinging a device, the tool displays the ping results through dynamic diagrams. These graphics allow users to get a quick overview of the network situation in a fast and organized way, while at the same time pointing users in the direction of what’s causing the Physical Layer problem.

Also…

As part of the check-up, take a quick look at the configuration of the device’s drivers and the access points’ configuration. Commonly the main reasons for a breakdown in the connectivity. First-generation radio drivers and firmware are notorious for possible bugs, which often causes connectivity issues with brand-new access points. Ensure all client devices, whenever possible, have the latest drivers installed and ensure that all access points are up to date with the latest operating system. 

The Tanaza WiFi cloud management platform allows network admins to update the access point firmware of all cloud-managed access points in bulk without the need to reboot the devices and from remote. With each firmware release, Tanaza delivers turnkey features, patch vulnerabilities, and drive security and stability, to empower your devices.

Radio frequency signals can cause another potential performance problem. An outside entity causes noise that interferes with the signal or dataflow across the network, affecting not only the performance but also the coverage of the WLAN, i.e., a microwave interfering with the WiFi signal.

High Power. Having the access points transmitting at full power, particularly for indoor deployments, might lead to oversized coverage, increasing co-channel interference and roaming issues, like sticky clients. So, take a notch down in the access point power.  

You can always avoid these problems with good WLAN design. Most of the issues that appear because of inadequate WLAN design are coverage holes due to access points misplacing and antenna orientation and also co-channel interference. Design your WLANs for for capacity and air time, not for coverage. Read our 7 key recommendations to plan a better WLAN design.

In our next blog article, we will be discussing how to troubleshoot WiFi networks using the OSI model – Layer 2. Make sure to keep an eye on our Tanaza blog.

Looking for a cloud-based platform to manage your WLANs?

Tanaza is a complete cloud platform for IT professionals to manage WiFi networks. Our platform allows MSPs, System Integrators, Network Administrators and ISPs to improve their efficiency levels by managing all WiFi networks, access points, SSIDs and clients from a single platform.

Tanaza simplifies the implementation and configuration of multiple WiFi access points. Users can manage the settings of hundreds of WiFi access points from a single cloud controller platform. Tanaza allows to enable SSIDs, configure IP addresses, set radio power and channels, and more from the managed WiFi dashboard.

Users can increase operational efficiency by enabling network-wide configurations and maximize service availability. Configure access points without rebooting them or restarting the services. Apply the same configuration to multiple access points simultaneously, each access point added to the network will immediately receive the same configurations as the others.

Among the main features of Tanaza:

  • Centralized configuration
  • Remote monitoring
  • Multi-Role Access
  • Fast Roaming
  • Integrated hotspot with advanced analysis

Tanaza is compatible with the most well-known access point brands in the market, like Ubiquiti, Amer Networks, TP Link, LigoWave and more. Alternatively, users can choose from our line of Tanaza Powered Devices: wireless access points pre-loaded with TanazaOS – the powerful Tanaza operating system based on Linux.

Would you like to know more about the Tanaza platform? Download the Tanaza brochure

Try Tanaza

Experience the power of managing WiFi access points from the cloud with Tanaza.

Start a free trial

✔︎ No credit card required ✔︎ 15-day free trial

Tanaza OS