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How do you anchor mobile network optimization?

A successful mobility strategy hinges on how well users can get their jobs done across a variety of devices, operating systems and locations, according to an expert.

Today's mobile devices take many forms and serve many purposes. They've disrupted every global industry, and chances are they're also challenging your mobility strategy and network infrastructure. And all those devices come with bandwidth hoarding applications -- both company approved and personal.

The productivity gains mobile devices afford are hard to ignore. However, mobile network optimization requires a number of key considerations, including:

• A network infrastructure that can handle the growing number of devices that require connectivity.

• Visibility into overall network traffic, usage and performance -- including application performance at every device level.

• The ability to manage bandwidth to optimize business-critical applications and de-prioritize others.

• Policies that support necessary mobility strategies while ensuring the security and reliability of their performance.

Organizations must strategically approach wireless local area network (WLAN) planning and implementation with the entirety of operational needs in clear view. It's imperative to ask the right questions. How many users will be accessing the network? How many and what kinds of devices will workers be using? Which applications will your network have to support today and in the future? How will the equipment, assets and materials that move within and throughout multiple operating environments affect your network?

One thing is certain: The growth of browser-based network access, mobile devices of all kinds and cloud-based applications will drive more traffic over your network. How well you can see and anticipate this traffic will have a direct impact on the operational productivity you enable.

To boost worker productivity with your WLAN, here are a few considerations.

Wi-Fi Analytics: Monitoring and analyzing the most complex wireless network scenarios, as well as identifying usage and performance patterns, requires detailed visibility and analytics. Approaches should be designed, from the ground up, to track and record performance at very granular time intervals. Key network analytics, such as device health, bandwidth usage, application usage and performance should be readily accessible.

Network visibility: Management tools that ensure the network is capable of meeting workers' needs are a reality. In order to diagnose and resolve issues as they occur, look for software that allows you to visualize the network, and compare and contrast trends at every level -- from number of users to RF stats.

Application visibility: Application visibility is one of the most critical factors to improve productivity. You will need real-time, in-depth insights into every dimension of your network, including Layer-7 application visibility, client devices, device and operating system types, and user profiles. This provides at-a-glance access to the top applications by usage or by count at every level of the network -- from site level to access point and clients. In addition to detection, firewall and quality of service (QoS) policies can use application context to help enforce policies. With this level of intelligence, the overall performance of the WLAN network can be improved by prioritizing business-critical applications and blocking or de-prioritizing others. Both device and application usage trends can help you continuously refine your network design to meet evolving demands and prepare for the future.

Advanced troubleshooting: Monitoring the critical parameters of your entire network can help you quickly spot issues and drill down to examine additional RF statistics and proactively react to resolve problems before they significantly impact network performance. Tools such as packet capture and wireless debugging right from a browser interface can further remediate trouble spots. The ability to create dashboards on the fly to share critical network component challenges provides additional advantages.

Architecting productivity into your WLAN: To succeed in an increasingly competitive landscape, your WLAN network has to provide a reliable data highway over which the majority of your business information travels securely into the hands of mobile workers. Today, productivity -- not mobility -- is the primary goal of mobile network optimization investments. Anything that threatens the reliability of the network is a direct threat to worker productivity -- and to your bottom line.

About the author
Raj Sundar is product manager, WLAN technologies, at Zebra Technologies.

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This was last published in July 2015

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