Wireless network uptime truth: Five 9s don’t exist in Wi-Fi

I’ve recently heard Marketing VPs, CTOs and CEOs of competitors yapping on and on about five 9s (99.999%) uptime with their solution. That’s just pure marketing CRAP. It’s a lie. Don’t believe the hype.

Let’s talk about what’s involved in delivering five 9s.

First, 99.999% uptime means only about 5 minutes per year of downtime. Have you ever experienced that? I sure haven’t, and I’ve tested everything in the market myself. In fact, you have to spend a gojillion bucks on Ethernet switches to get that kind of uptime because the switches have to be architected in such a way that you don’t ever have to reboot them to update code or if you do, it can only happen once per year and take less than 5 minutes. Considering that WiFi’s uptime depends on Ethernet connectivity, how can Wi-Fi vendors claim five 9s?

Second, the RF medium is license free. I can easily PROVE that vendors claiming five 9s are lying to you because I can walk into or next to the same building with their network and turn on my RF jammer for 10 minutes. Voilà, they’re now to four 9s. If I stand there for a little while, BANG…down to three 9s.

Third, what about code updates, maintenance windows, troubleshooting, buggy code on APs (which happens with any vendor from time to time), hardware failures, RF interference, incompatible client-side issues, DHCP problems, Ethernet downtime, RADIUS downtime, and all of the other variables?

Five 9s. What a crock. There isn’t a single vendor or customer anywhere in the world that can show you five 9s uptime on Wi-Fi.

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Devin Akin is Chief Wi-Fi Architect at Aerohive. Devin has over 10 years in the wireless LAN market and over 15 years in information technology. Devin's background includes working as a network design engineer for EarthLink, AT&T/BellSouth, Foundry Networks, and Sentinel Technologies as well as working as an RF engineer in the US Army. He has authored and edited several books with Wiley-Sybex and McGraw-Hill and holds some of the industry's most esteemed certifications, including CWNE, MCNE, MCSE, CCNP, CCDP, CCSP, and INFOSEC. He is considered an authority on Wi-Fi.