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How to optimize your Wi-Fi network

Based on its new wireless LAN survey, Aberdeen Group has specific recommended steps you can take to optimize enterprise Wi-Fi.

But you need to know where you're starting from.

Aberdeen in its “Wireless LAN 2009” report scores enterprises on various performance metrics, and then arranges them in three groups: best in class (the top 20%), average performers (the next 50%) and laggards (the bottom 30%). In the study, all of these groups over the preceding 12 months showed improvements in metrics such as growth in WLAN traffic, growth in area covered by Wi-Fi, and network uptime. But the best in class showed dramatically higher improvements in all three.

So, where are you?

Here are Aberdeen's recommended steps.

For those in the lowest scoring group:

* Start an in-depth performance and security assessment; inventory what you have, buy and use the basic tools for diagnosis, analysis and planning.

* Get the help you need: improve IT and help desk Wi-Fi expertise, evaluate outsourced support services.

* Lock down and lock up your wireless network.

For those in the average group:

* If you haven't done so, shift to a centralized approach for managing and monitoring the Wi-Fi network, and for deploying network updates.

* Start measuring: You can't improve what you don't measure, and you will need tools to be able to see into the WLAN in order to know what's happening and why.

* Allocate bandwidth priorities for applications, and for users including guests or visitors. About 75% of companies in this group are doing neither.

For those in the top group:

* Run cost-benefit analyses for bandwidth upgrades to see if they're worth it; and measure afterwards to see if you're getting what you expected.

* Use pilot programs for new gear, to uncover incompatibilities and performance problems.

* Create benchmarks for what is “normal” Wi-Fi application performance, and make sure you can measure whether your wireless network is meeting them.

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