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Wireless LAN testing and troubleshooting guide

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Gone are the days when wireless LANs (WLANs) are used for convenient access to Web and email. Todayís WLANs act as a primary source of network access and they support more complex mobility services and mobile device connectivity. As a result, many companies are launching broader wireless LAN deployments that require complex WLAN testing and troubleshooting techniques to verify security, connectivity and performance. This guide provides an overview of tools designed for WLAN testing and troubleshooting.

WLAN testing for security
Businesses can no longer afford to use labor-intensive tools to query signal strength, server accessibility and Wi-Fi vulnerabilities. Testing hundreds of access points (APs) and thousands of clients geographically distributed throughout an enterprise network requires far more efficient automated tools and methods.

APs with wireless intrusion prevention systems (WIPS): Many enterprise APs can now be turned into full-time WIPS sensors when needed, and several AP vendors also offer dedicated WIPS appliances. These devices allow for full-time surveillance, watching for attacks and policy violations.

Centralized WLAN assessment tools: Organizations required to comply with regulations like PCI DSS or Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) will find centralized WLAN assessment tools helpful for pre-audit self-assessments. These tools can help organizations spot holes before they can be exploited.

Non-automated WLAN testing, penetration testing: While wireless penetration testing has not yet become fully automated, tools like command-line utility MDK3 and Metasploit scripts can be helpful during a penetration test.

Learn more about these and other WLAN security testing tools. Troubleshooting WLANs

As WLANs become a primary source of network access for a diversifying workforce, manual debugging tools become impractical. Moreover, WLAN managers canít afford network downtime as they fix problems. So the answer now lies in easier-to-use remote WLAN management tools, backed by proactive WLAN diagnostic tests to spot and fix issues before users are impacted.

Contemporary WLAN managers: Users connecting to the WLAN from the same location may have very different outcomes depending on their device. Contemporary WLAN managers can provide nearly real-time information on a deviceís connection, including click-through access to each clientís event log and basic diagnostic tools.

Distributed sensor platforms: Tools are available that use remotely deployed Wi-Fi sensors to create a distributed test platform for periodic network assurance testing. Once connected, the sensors run defined network assurance tests and proactively alert the NOC to failures and other diagnostic data.

AP-based spectrum analysis: Capabilities differ among AP-based spectrum analysis tools, but at a basic level, they use APs to listen for non-802.11 interferers, such as video cameras and phones. Some even apply signatures to classify interferers. Read this article to learn about spectrum analyzer Cisco CleanAir.

WLAN performance testing

Older wireless LAN performance testing and network design methods do not scale well to todayís larger wireless LANs. More importantly, the methods donít reflect the realities posed by 802.11n and more diverse applications that depend on high bandwidth and low latency. This is where new performance tools designed specifically for 802.11n and important business mobility applications can be a big help.

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Wireless LAN testing and troubleshooting guide