With the purchase of AirMagnet in 2009, Fluke Networks expanded its portfolio of network tools. Today, these products are still sold under the AirMagnet brand. One of these, WiFi Analyzer PRO, is intended to audit, monitor, and troubleshoot wireless LAN (WLAN) networks.

I tested the full version of WiFi Analyzer PRO, as the vendor provided me with an unrestricted trial license. I was also provided with four 802.11n USB wireless adapters from Proxim Wireless: one to use as standalone and three to use with a USB hub to test the product's Roaming Analyzer feature. Not all USB wireless adapters will work with the product, so Fluke Networks provides a list of tested and approved adapters. The list includes adapters that fully support all the product's features and adapters that support only some features. The Proxim Wireless adapters I was provided are 100 percent certified to work with the product.

Downloading and Installing was Simple

I tested the product on a laptop running Windows 7 SP1 64-bit. Downloading and installing the product was simple. I was very pleased to see that the installer didn't spray icons on my desktop or otherwise do anything to make a pest of itself. The only hang-up I encountered was installing the drivers for the USB wireless adapters. The drivers are included with the installation package but aren't installed automatically. A separate setup program has to be launched to install the drivers. I would've liked the product's installation routine to ask if I was going to use the Proxim Wireless adapters and install the drivers for me.

Upon starting the application, I was greeted with a colorful dashboard that immediately began to populate with information about the wireless networks around me. In addition to the usual suspects, such as signal strength reported in decibels, I was impressed to see the application reporting such details as the most utilized wireless channels, the most "chatty" wireless stations, and the number of devices in each Wi-Fi standard (a, b, g, and n) broken down into access points (APs), ordinary stations (e.g., laptops), and stations acting in ad-hoc mode. Just by glancing at the default dashboard, it would be easy to make a snap decision about which channel to use if I were installing a new AP, for example.

Easy to Find Information Needed

Fortunately, the product doesn't stop there. Another impressive ability of the application is how easy it is to drill down to find exactly the information needed. By clicking on the AP tab, for example, I was presented with a list of all the APs within range of the Proxim Wireless adapter. The sensitivity was excellent, finding APs well beyond the range of my laptop's built-in wireless card. One icon appearing on the left side of some of the listed APs was a red alarm bell. Here is where one of the greatest strengths of the product comes though: WLAN auditing.

By just clicking that icon, I was presented with a list of potential problems with the AP in question. I saw some issues I was expecting, such as utilizing Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) instead of the far more secure Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). However, the application also highlighted an issue I didn't expect to see: The AP was reporting an available speed that didn't match the configured wireless band. The software suggested that the AP might be configured incorrectly, and upon examining the AP, I found that it was!

I wasn't able to fully explore the Roaming Analyzer feature because of the suburban location where I was conducting my testing. This location consisted of only a dozen or so independent WLANs with little or no roaming between APs. However, I did test the three-USB-wireless-adapter configuration that would be utilized for this feature and came away very impressed. Just by utilizing the additional wireless adapters, the scanning speed of the application improved dramatically. The dashboard widgets updated very quickly and it was really neat to see an instantaneous view of the airwaves updating in near real-time, with the ability to drill down into an area to obtain more details.

Detailed Reporting Helps with Compliance Reporting

WiFi Analyzer PRO includes detailed reporting, including precanned reports available to help IT pros meet compliance reporting requirements, such as those for the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). It also includes tools to not only troubleshoot performance problems but also simulate potential performance if you were to add more APs or stations.

Having used numerous network analysis tools, I came away impressed with WiFi Analyzer PRO. Although many excellent free utilities are available to perform wireless network analysis, this product goes above and beyond them to provide full visibility into the plethora of wireless networks that surround us all. If you work with Wi-Fi networks regularly and need an all-in-one analysis tool, this product is recommended for sure.

 

AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO
PROS: Deep visibility into all aspects of wireless networking, including security and performance recommendations, packet analysis, and integrated reporting
CONS: Drivers for wireless adapters not automatically installed; expensive if used infrequently
RATING: 5 out of 5
PRICE: $3,995 for AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO, $495 for multi-adapter kit (pricing might vary depending on country and region, so check with local sales representative)
RECOMMENDATION: If your work includes constant analysis and troubleshooting of wireless networks, this product should be on your short list of tools to consider adding to your arsenal.
CONTACT: Fluke Networks • 800-283-5853 or 408-753-1500 • www.flukenetworks.com