How is user productivity affected by wireless downtime?

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ESG’s past research (Source: ESG Research Report, Mobile Device and Application Usage Trends, August 2013) indicates that about four-fifths of knowledge workers report using two or more mobile devices for personal and/or business purposes. With most of these devices not having a wired network connection, we rely on Wi-Fi to keep us connected, especially when tablets and laptops are considered our primary working tool. 

A key impact area to consider when comparing a controller-less architecture with a controller-centric architecture is the downtime associated with the latter’s single point of failure: the controller. ESG’s research with IT administrators indicates that, while not rampant, controller failure is a real risk, especially given the less than ideal environmental characteristics present in many remote/branch offices. To account for this risk, ESG models the likelihood of a controller failure at 8% annually. In cases where a non-redundant architecture is utilized, the result of a controller failure would be a wireless network outage affecting that site. ESG has modeled the duration of such outages to be 15 hours and has estimated a 10% reduction in wireless end-user productivity for that timespan.

Network outages may come from either a failure of hardware or software which are unplanned, but in some circumstances, outages can be purposefully triggered. With an Aerohive solution, there is no situation where a site’s entire wireless network would need to be taken down in order to update that site’s APs (barring a site having only one AP). Each AP can be selected, updated, and rebooted individually with the other APs at the site picking up the slack.

By contrast, when using a controller-based solution, there are several situations where an update may take down the wireless network.

  • First, in situations where there is no redundant controller, all APs would need to be updated and rebooted simultaneously and thus the network would be unavailable during that time.
  • Second, if a site has redundant controllers but only a small number of APs, the organization may opt to reboot all APs simultaneously after an update. This would ease the effort from the IT team’s perspective when updating APs but, again, would take down wireless connectivity at the site for a period of time.

In these situations, ESG’s model estimates that the typical wireless outage would last on the order of 20 minutes and reduce the affected wireless end-users’ productivity by 10%. 
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