Technology – Managing public WiFi networks

Old 4 Comments on Technology – Managing public WiFi networks 20

This is another installment of my Technology posts, geared towards those of us who are technology professionals and support users or clients.

As you know, my company provides 3rd party IT support services to clients. Among these services includes design, deployment and management of public WiFi, or wireless internet systems. Recently, I had the pleasure of installing one of these systems for a hotel.

Publicly accessible WiFi is a completely different animal than internal, or corporate WiFi. When users are using WiFi for work purposes only, there is less likelihood for abuse. That’s not to say that it can’t happen, but it’s certainly less likely. When you get into the realm of publicly accessible WiFi, like in a hotel, the game is totally different. Users on these networks don’t care about bandwidth or how much they use, they won’t think twice about uploading all those photos and videos from their trip / vacation, and many of them don’t care if what they’re doing is affecting how others can use the network.

In this deployment, I designed a managed solution that allows my staff as well as hotel staff to monitor the network and individual usage by device.

wifi1

As you can see above, these are the stats from the first 24 hours of operation. 70 clients logged in, and moved 7,681 MB of data. This isn’t bad, considering the amount of users. None the less, let’s drill down to the per device statistics.

wifi2
Here we can see that 39% of the total overall bandwidth consumption is done by the 5 most active devices. 51% of the total overall bandwidth consumed was done by the 10 most active devices. The single most active device is responsible for 18% of the total overall 24 hour usage. THAT is the detail we need to know. As you can see from the usage graph, this device was moving downstream traffic constantly. In all likelihood, it was NetFlix or a torrenting client.

For this particular network, we have downstream speeds capped to 400 kbps per device. We can help mitigate abuse by doing this, but more importantly, we can ensure that one device doesn’t clog the entire bandwidth pipe, resulting in an unusable network for everyone else. For reference, the internet connection at this hotel is only 5 mbps downstream, which is the fastest internet connection they are able to subscribe to (only 1 ISP and that’s the max they offer). So if you get one single device torrenting at 5 mbps, then there isn’t any bandwidth left for anyone else and the experience becomes very poor.

Remember, as technology professionals we need to think about how our networks are going to be used in the real world. We have ideas of how they should be used, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s how users are going to use them.

Author

Martin Lehner

Martin Lehner is an technology professional working for an IT services firm in Whitehorse, Yukon (Canada). He has been working in the technology field for over a decade. With a degree in Business Admin and numerous industry certifications, Martin leads a team of IT professionals that provide third party support for clients. Originally starting a company to offer web development services, Martin quickly realized that clients wanted the entire spectrum of technology services. When Martin is not at work (which is not often, since his company offers 24/7 support), he is busy at home spending time with his family.

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4 Comments

  1. Haraun July 10, 2014 at 5:19 pm

    Thanks for the nice post.

    Could you explain the wireless design a little bit?
    What kind of WAPs did you use and how many WAPs, coverage area?
    Which mamagement solution?

    Thank you very much

    • Martin Lehner July 23, 2014 at 10:15 am

      Hi there,

      Sorry for the late reply, I missed your comment. This solution is a mesh network from Open Mesh. It consists of 4 APs. Management is hosted web-based.

  2. Timothy Badenach July 23, 2014 at 5:19 am

    I would be interested in what software you use to monitor the networks. How is bandwidth quota managed and can it be changed. Is QOS maintained? and is their a max number of clients that you can allow to connect to the connection at anyone time.

    Cheers

    T.

    • Martin Lehner July 23, 2014 at 10:18 am

      Software is hosted web-based. I can manage per use bandwidth speeds and traffic. Yes, it can be altered. Timeout can also be altered. QoS is buit-in with presets, but cannot be manipulated. There is no max number of clients per se, but things like vouchers have a maximum capability of 1,000 users.

      As I noted about, the solution is from Open Mesh, so take a look and see what you think. I would high recommend testing them out, their solutions are really superb.

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