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WLAN: Analyzers and troubleshooting guide

Where can I get information for diagnosing WLAN errors, and is there network monitoring software for 802.11 networks? The company I work for has three 802.11 wireless networks installed and I am a novice regarding wireless networking and wish to learn more.
Handheld WLAN analyzers like YellowJacket and AirMagnet can be useful to perform site surveys, trouble-shoot wireless associations, measure WLAN performance, or diagnose security problems. For example, AirMagnet can generate performance alarms when excessive channel noise, broadcast storms, or CRC errors are detected in a WLAN. AirMagnet diagnostic tools can help you determine when associations are failing due to SSID, channel, WEP key, or link speed mismatch. Handheld analyzers are also helpful to track down unauthorized wireless devices, signal drop-out spots, or sources of interference.

There are also several desktop WLAN analyzers - for example, WildPackets AiroPeek, NAI SnifferWireless, Network

Instruments Observer, and the open source Ethereal. Desktop WLAN analyzers can monitor wireless traffic and filter captured packets against configurable alerts and thresholds. Desktop analyzers tend to have more processing power and storage than handheld analyzers, making them well-suited for routine WLAN monitoring, expert analysis, and trending over time. You might also want to consider wireless-aware IDS products ? for example, the AirDefense Intrusion Protection and Management appliance.

You can learn more about WLAN troubleshooting by visiting these vendor Web sites. Or check out the WLAN troubleshooting and tutorial Web sites run by EarthWeb, 802.11-Planet, Microsoft, and CommsDesign. You might also consider purchasing a book on this subject - for example, Jim Geier's "Implementing High Performance IEEE 802.11 Networks."

This was first published in February 2003

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