As wireless LANs get more ubiquitous, IT may well find they’re spending an inordinate amount of time managing them, especially in organizations with multiple sites. Configuration changes require logging in to the controller at each site, troubleshooting can be a bear, and reporting is all but impossible. That is, unless you have a centralizedmanagement strategy.
With centralized wireless management, the wireless controllers that manage access points in each location all connect to a central management console, from where IT can monitor and control each ‘remote controller’ (as opposed to ‘remote control’, which apparently only my 11 year old daughter has access to). To learn more about why centralized wireless management is so important, we talked to Chris Williams, a pre-sales consulting engineer with Carousel Industries. Williams offered these four reasons why centralized wireless management is a boon to companies with big wireless networks.
Conduct Comprehensive Wireless Reporting
Every wireless equipment manufacturer provides a tool for managing their access points, but they typically have limited memory to store logging and tracking data. You can get a live snapshot of what’s happening right now, but to get historical data you need to offload the log data to a separate server, such as a centralized wireless management platform. Reporting is important for staying in compliance with regulations such as PCI and HIPAA, or even for schools, Williams says. He cited the example of a school that was being sued because a student hacked in to a web site from school property. The school had the AirWave Master Console from Aruba Networks in place, so was able to look at its records, figure out the MAC address of the device that performed the hack and from there determine which student did the deed – and get the school off the hook.
Easing Wireless Administration
Say you’re a large company, with 100 sites that each have a wireless LAN. You need to monitor the sites each day to make sure all is well and, occasionally, make configuration changes. Without a centralized management tool, you’d need to log in to the controller at each site individually. At the same time, you’d be risking configuration errors if you have to make the changes individually, and it’d be tough to maintain the same security policies. Centralized management enables you to maintain uniformity in terms of configuration changes, policy enforcement, security layers and the like, Williams says.
Network-wide Historical Troubleshooting
Employees rarely report wireless connectivity issues while the problem is happening. They typically just grouse about it and connect to the wired network somewhere to get their work done. Then they see an IT administrator in the hallway days later and mention they were having problems last Friday. “With centralized management and all the reporting, you can wind back the clock,” Williams says, and determine where the individual user was sitting at the time the problem occurred. Perhaps he was sitting next to a microwave oven at lunchtime and it was causing interference. “If you didn’t have all that location, tracking and historical information, you wouldn’t be able to do that,” he says.
Tracking Wireless Devices
All that tracking data can also be integrated with an RFID system to provide location tracking for devices on the wireless network. Hospitals, for example, often install RFID devices on the “computer on wheels” carts that roll from room to room, to ensure they don’t roll out the door. The systems can be programmed to send an alert should the tag cross a predefined line on the floor plan. The systems can also be used to find assets. “If someone puts a pump in a closet and nobody knows where it is, you can identify it based on an RFID card, even if the device is turned off,” Williams says. “You can’t do that if tracking by MAC or IP address.”
Not all centralized management systems are equal, of course. The AirWave system is vendor-agnostic, meaning it supports wireless systems from more than 15 different vendors. The level of control you have over them may vary – command line for some, GUI interface for others – but you’ll be able to extract logging and tracking data from all of them. And that’s a valuable thing.
To learn more about centralized wireless management and what it can do for your company, get in touch with Carousel.