Roger Sands, Wyebot
MEDdesign

Preparing Your WiFi Network for the Future (Part 2)

By Roger Sands
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Roger Sands, Wyebot

How artificial intelligence and automation play an important role in future-proofing networks.

The first part of this series explained why healthcare facilities need to future-proof their networks and took a look at some current challenges in regard to this process. Part two will highlight how to use artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to prepare for the future and avoid expensive and time-consuming upgrades.

Automation and AI

As healthcare WiFi networks have grown more critical to patient care and support, they’ve also grown more complex. It’s common for large hospitals to have tens of thousands of devices connected to the network, and even smaller clinics are experiencing changes as practices like telehealth and remote monitoring with IoT devices become more standard. Monitoring and managing the network supporting these practices is a full-time job, one that is best supported by an AI-based WiFi automation platform.

These platforms are capable of monitoring the entire network ecosystem 24/7. They never tire and can have “eyes” everywhere at all times. With AI-support, platforms can analyze thousands of data packets a second, which is needed to keep networks optimized in real-time. This amount of data far outstrips the amount that a human can consume and analyze in the same amount of time.

Not only can these platforms monitor the entire network ecosystem in real-time, but, with AI-support, they also learn to recognize normal network behavior. If this behavior changes, the platform recognizes the issue and automatically alerts IT. Some platforms will also identify the root cause of the issue and provide actionable recommendations for resolution. This enables IT teams to resolve the problems before end users like patients and providers are affected.

By automatically and proactively analyzing the network and reporting all issues, these platforms not only keep the network optimized for present day use, but also provide IT professionals with the information needed to prepare for the future.

The following are three ways to use these platforms for future network optimization.

Capture Analytics 24/7

As mentioned in the first part of this series, networks are dynamic. They are constantly in-flux and must be monitored at all times if administrators want the most detailed analytics for planning purposes. Any time that a network isn’t being monitored, data is being lost, which deprives administrators of the complete picture of network health.

The best way to prepare for the future is to know exactly how the network is being used, how infrastructure is performing, and how analytics have changed over time. Professionals need complete visibility into the network’s health and behavior in order to understand how it’s changing and what it needs to support in the future. With insights gathered throughout the year, administrators can make the best possible decisions about how to future-proof the network so that it meets a facility’s specific needs rather than responding to general market trends.

For example, these analytics will answer questions such as:

  • How quickly are new devices with new technology entering the network? Is the network nearing max capacity?
  • Is infrastructure health slowly degrading signaling a need for replacements?
  • If there was an upgrade, for example to WiFi 6 technology, did network performance respond as desired? Are there any interoperability issues?
  • What are devices using the network for? Are there a lot of data intensive activities like video streaming?
  • How many devices use the 2.4GHz bandwidth and how many are 5GHz capable?

Facilities should work with a platform that provides these analytics in real-time and automatically saves data for reference at a later date. When it comes to future-proofing, it is these historical analytics, when reviewed over several months or a year, that will provide the insights needed for budget and capacity planners.

2. Avoid Expensive Upgrades

With detailed analytics into every aspect of network health and performance, administrators can make the best decisions on what infrastructure needs to be updated, and which does not. For example, many access points (AP) are designed to last three, five or seven years. Historical analytics will reveal if an AP’s health is degrading, or if it will sufficiently support a facility for another year.

These specific insights can also help administrators as they decide when to upgrade to new technology like WiFi 6. The next-generation of WiFi was designed to address WiFi issues in highly congested areas like concert halls. AI-based WiFi Automation platforms deliver analytics that tell administrators exactly how congested a facility is when it comes to WiFi traffic. With these platforms it is easy to tell if a facility does not yet need WiFi 6 and can push out the upgrade, or if perhaps only certain wings or buildings need the technology. These platforms will also give IT all the information on how many current devices are WiFi 6 capable, and how many new devices would need to be purchased.

3. Build-In Flexibility and Remote Support

As mentioned in part one, remote support is critical for ensuring consistent optimization for wireless networks. Working with a platform that provides this support gives IT professionals the flexibility that they need to address issues from anywhere at any time.

Be sure to work with a platform that provides remote network visibility and troubleshooting; visibility on its own won’t provide the same return on investment. The platform should also be vendor agnostic. This ensures that it will always continue working even if a facility changes AP or internet vendors. It also supports IT teams that serve facilities with multiple sites; even if the facilities use different vendors, the team can still monitor all locations using the same platform.

Finally, another advantage to using these platforms is that they can monitor 500 devices as easily as 500,000. Even as facilities grow, the future-proofing support will still be there, giving facilities consistent operational efficiency. With a platform’s support, IT can trust that the network is monitored and optimized—unless automatically notified otherwise—and focus on other mission critical responsibilities.

Cost-Effectively Preparing for the Future

AI-based WiFi Automation platforms support future network optimization by automatically providing detailed insights into the entire network’s health and performance. Healthcare facilities that use these platforms can plan a future network that meets their specific needs, removing unnecessary upgrades from the budget. They can also trust that the platform will continue providing critical services no matter how the facility grows. Use one of these platforms to save both time and money, optimizing the network so that it continues to support critical patient care services now and into the future.

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Roger Sands, Wyebot

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