Photo credit: Depositphotos
By Roger Sands
Historical network analytics provide healthcare facilities with the information they need to plan upgrades that will best address their wireless network’s pain points.
Every department in a healthcare facility depends on the WiFi. The network supports lifesaving patient monitoring, communication between providers, financial services, and more. Monitoring the network in real-time for quick problem identification and resolution is crucial, but it’s just as important to pair real-time analytics with historical data. This is because wireless networks are dynamic, constantly fluctuating based on everything from connecting and disconnecting devices, to building remodeling, to nearby networks’ behavior. Trends over time in client distribution, airtime and client utilization, and infrastructure performance reveal critical insights into overall network health and are needed in order to identify exactly what upgrades and updates the network needs to provide optimal service.
- Many access points (APs) need to be replaced every 3, 5, or 7 years. Historical performance metrics can be used by IT to determine if the budget needs to include AP replacement, or if the devices are good for another year.
- Historical data will identify if physical changes like construction of a new floor or wing have affected current network performance.
- If infrastructure was updated, maybe to include WiFi 6 technology, these analytics will show if there was a positive change in network performance after the update, and/or if there are any interoperability issues with the new technology.
- Historical analytics will identify changing network demands, giving capacity planners insight they need to plan for the future.
How to Gather Historical Analytics
First and foremost a facility needs to have a consistent and reliable wireless network. While historical analytics can be gathered intermittently, the best data insights will come from 24/7, uninterrupted network monitoring. This is because, as mentioned above, the network ecosystem is dynamic. If a facility wants the most complete picture of its network’s health and performance, it needs analytics from every second of the day, and from every single connected device. If a network isn’t reliable, this is a problem.
To design and maintain strong networks for the best historical data, facilities should do the following:
If a facility is designing its network for the first time, it should perform a site survey. Similarly, if it’s been several years since the network was designed and there have been significant changes in the area (i.e. such as building renovations or new construction), an additional site survey might be needed. Engineers perform these surveys in order to determine the WiFi design that will provide the best coverage and quality of service.
If a facility uses an analytics platform to monitor its network, the platform can provide the information needed to optimize the network without additional site surveys. Depending on the platform chosen, the facility can get 24/7 monitoring, automatic issue alerts, suggested resolutions, and historical analytics. These platforms help save on the expense of a site survey, and ensure that IT teams have access to data year-round.
Proactive Monitoring with Artificial Intelligence
The best way to maintain optimal performance in real-time is with proactive monitoring. Analytics platforms powered by artificial intelligence not only never tire and can therefore analyze network behavior 24/7, they also learn to recognize normal and abnormal behavior. At the first sign of something abnormal, platforms can instantly alert IT. This allows IT to resolve issues before end-users are affected.
Healthcare facilities should also use a network testing platform (if one isn’t included in the analytics platform) and schedule network tests to run every day. As these tests run over time, not only do they help identify current or potential issues, but the analytics are also added to other historical data for a complete network picture.
Use Historical Trends to Support Future Patient Care
Networks are designed to provide service for at least three to five years, but without access to historical data, administrators don’t have the insights they need to make the best assumptions about future use. How has wireless device utilization changed? Is there network congestion from guests’ smartphones or from the new wireless printers added on every floor? Does the third floor need new access points? The best way to answer these questions and more is with historical analytics.
Armed with the precise knowledge of how the network changed over the last year, facilities can make the best investments for their specific needs, optimizing the network for their patients, providers, and employees.
Roger Sands is the CEO and co-founder of Wyebot Inc.