Taming the wireless LAN

By Mandy Andress, InfoWorld |  Networking

Wireless LANs are quickly becoming a viable alternative to traditional wired networks in the enterprise. The flexibility and cost-savings they provide are getting a second look from IT managers. One problem that companies face with wireless LAN installations is that few strong tools exist to monitor and troubleshoot them.

Sniffer Wireless 4.6 from Sniffer Technologies Inc. changes this. Based on the award-winning Sniffer Pro, Sniffer Wireless provides traffic monitoring, troubleshooting, and analysis for 802.11b wireless networks. Unauthorized network users can easily consume your bandwidth. But by knowing where unauthorized users are, administrators can quickly and easily disable illicit network access as well as pinpoint congestion areas and rogue systems trying to access the network.

Those acquainted with the Sniffer product line will find Sniffer Wireless very easy to use: The familiar Dashboard display interface, filters, and triggers are all there. On top of that, Sniffer has added a few features specifically for wireless networks, such as automatic channel surfing and WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) support.

Along with those wireless-specific features, Sniffer Wireless automatically scans available channels to capture all wireless traffic. This capability helps administrators identify misconfigured devices or devices being used in an attempt to piggyback the company network.

Using the WEP decryption options, administrators can specify the network keys to be monitored. They can then encrypt and decrypt wireless traffic, a valuable benefit because they can use the recommended security features for wireless LANs but still have the opportunity to monitor and analyze network traffic.

The Dashboard displays not only how many packets are traveling across the network but also specific 802.11b information. It provides administrators with an overview of how many packets were sent at what speed, as well as how many data, management, control, and WEP packets have crossed the network. The host table shows the details about every single network station. Sniffer Wireless monitors all details, including transmission speed and signal strength, for each station.

Equally valuable is the Decode display, which shows all detailed packet and protocol information for the 802.11b network. Here, administrators can see everything that passes across the network and identify rogue stations, trouble spots, and overall network health.

The Expert System analyzes 802.11b frames from the physical to application layers, giving network managers automated problem-solving information. This system helps them identify problems quickly without having to analyze reams of data.

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