Network Capabilities describes the best-case outcome for a network, or more specifically a network connection. For each connection, the access point and client each have certain capabilities. The best case performance for the connection between them is determined by the set of capabilities that they both possess. Understanding the Network Capabilities is the first step for a customer to understand if their network can handle their Network Needs (described later), and if not, what might be improved.
Network Environment is anything impacting the connection between the access point and client that causes the connection performance to degrade from the best case (Network Capabilities). The environment includes everything from connection distance and physical obstructions to neighboring networks and other clients. Some environmental factors, such as non-WiFi interference and talkative neighbors, may be avoided, while other factors like brick walls may not be avoided. Most of our products focus on Network Environment issues, such as RF interference.
Network Performance is what actually happens when the Network Capabilities meet the real world of the Network Environment. There are always environmental factors negatively impacting the connection, so no connection will ever achieve its Network Capabilities. Throughput tests are the most common measure of performance because they provide a reasonably accurate measure of performance quickly and easily.
A simple way to measure Network Needs is to measure the amount of data transmitted through each access point, which can also be done through 802.11 traffic analysis. Measuring Network Needs over time provides insight into the variance caused by time of day, day of week, etc. Measuring the variance in Network Needs and in Network Performance (caused by Network Environment) allows us to inform the network admin of the likelihood of the Network Needs exceeding the Network Performance. This should either instill confidence or encourage action to improve the network.
Ryan is the Founder and Chief Geek of MetaGeek.
In 2005, after becoming frustrated with the cost and awkwardness of traditional spectrum analyzers, Ryan quit his corporate job to create Wi-Spy, a low-cost spectrum analyzer focused on Wi-Fi troubleshooting. He is also the creator of Eye P.A. and inSSIDer. Ryan has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Computer Science with an emphasis on wireless networking protocols.