Cisco offers the Wireless Control System (WCS) as its management platform for wireless networks, but what does it actually do?
WCS is more than just a management 433 mhz remote control platform. The software also offers configuration and fault finding features. Once configured with templates, WCS may be used to configure controllers – this allows controllers to be consistently configured in the same manner – and then be audited against the database to determine any differences.
Templates may be used to provision a range of services, such as voice, video and data over the wireless network – and depending on which you want to appear in an area, you only select the templates you need.
Fault finding is a strong reason to deploy WCS. WCS will allow you to enter the MAC address or name of a client which is failing to connect and WCS will then do the fault finding for you – determining at which stage the client fails. Spotting that the certificate is out of date or your pre-shared key is incorrect is easy with this tool.
Need more information? WCS can pull the debug messages directly from the controller and display them in the GUI – you don’t need your most experienced user to debug client issues any more.
What though about network management? WCS provides a wealth of historic reports, but also has some really useful dashboards, which can be used to give the administrator a rapid snapshot of the network – including items such as detailing if there are coverage holes because of an access point failure.
WCS also provides the ability to visually represent the Wireless LAN. Floor plans can be imported and managed access points overlayed onto those floor plans. This allows for predicted coverage heatmaps to be displayed as well as predicted locations of clients, rogue access points and so on.
Essentially WCS provides a way to visualise your wireless network – this is a powerful tool in dealing with issues and problems on your network. For example if you’re looking to diagnose a fault that clients are reporting, you can check on their location when they reported the fault – using Cisco CleanAir technology, you can then pinpoint sources of interference – for example a nearby Microwave oven that is interfering with the 2.4GHz (802.11g) spectrum.
Upgrades are the one tricky aspect of Cisco WCS. The software version on the wireless controllers needs to be kept inline with the software version on the WCS platform – so if you’re considering an upgrade it should be carefully planned.
In summary then, WCS provides unparalleled abilities to manage your wireless network. Previously with unmanaged autonomous access points, its been a bit of a guessing game. With WCS though you can get the system to fault find for you – using the maps locate and isolate where issues are occurring.
Our recommendation is to use WCS on all installations where there’s more than fifty access points – it can host multiple sites though, so your investment in the server and software will be useful across multiple site installations.