Managing wireless technologies is an increasingly important part of any network manager's responsibilities. Wi-Fi is no longer a useless technology to have, or an added convenience for workers who need to keep in touch when they're away from their desks. It's now a mission-critical part of any IT strategy, so any poor performance here can have hugely costly effects on the entire business.
This is why wireless management has become such a high priority for IT pros. In fact, it is now taking up a significant proportion of their time, according to a recent study conducted by ZK Research.
Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research, highlighted in a piece for Network World that almost 60 per cent of IT pros say they devote at least a quarter of their time to troubleshooting and fixing issues within their Wi-Fi network. This works out to more than ten hours a week doing nothing but firefighting poorly-performing networks.
What's more, almost half of respondents (47 per cent) stated it takes them an average of at least 30 minutes to diagnose a problem, while 41 percent said it will then take another 30 minutes or more to solve the issue.
This means the typical businesses could see Wi-Fi issues take more than an hour to resolve. Therefore, organisations that experience frequent disruption, whether this is due to outdated equipment or poorly-configured networks, could be losing huge amounts of productivity.
However, despite this, it seems many professionals are still relying on time-consuming, manual methods to troubleshoot issues within their wireless network. ZK Research's study found 60 percent of respondents still use packet capture as their primary troubleshooting tool.
Mr Kerravala explained this method is akin to a data dump, and requires someone to sift through and analyse the data, which is why troubleshooting times can be so lengthy.
As more businesses extend their Wi-Fi networks to cope with increasing demand in the coming years, this could be a problem that is only set to get worse if businesses continue to rely on labour-intensive, manual methods. Therefore, there is a great need to develop solutions that can improve on this - and one option is the use of artificial intelligence.
Mr Kerravala explained that one of the benefits of embracing AI is its ability to more proactively manage a wireless network - something that will be of particular importance as the number of access points grows.
Such tools can continually gather data from every part of the network and use it to build a detailed picture of the Wi-Fi's performance, identifying where problems have occurred and how severe they were. It can also give real-time updates, so network managers do not have to wait for users to call in and report issues before they react. By developing a more thorough understanding of where problems are likely to arise, AI can also offer actionable suggestions for how to fix problems before they happen.
Mr Kerravala said that as the number of Internet of Things devices and mobile endpoints connecting to Wi-Fi networks grows, such solutions will become "mandatory", and should be put in place before any future wireless infrastructure is deployed.