Your enterprise network’s WiFi signal can fluctuate based on time of day, location in your physical office space, the number of users and bandwidth being used, and other external factors that you have little to no control over. Although they can’t necessarily repair slow WiFi networks, WiFi network analyzer tools are part of the solution to finding and overcoming enterprise productivity problems with slow WiFi channels.
Using WiFi network analyzer software, you can easily create a snapshot of your network’s data performance and identify which WiFi channels are performing at optimal levels. Some tools also offer suggestions via data visualization, helping you to solve problems like optimized server location. Check out some of the top WiFi network analyzer software options below, and take one step closer to total network visibility and optimization.
Top Software for WiFi Network Analysis
- WiFi Network Analyzer Software Features
- Top Products and Software
- WiFi Network Analyzer Software: Enterprise Benefits
When you’re searching for a WiFi analyzer for your enterprise network, it’s important to keep the following features and distinctions for different software in mind:
Professional vs. Personal Use Versions
Many of the software options on this list are available in both business and personal use packages, so it’s important that you look closely at the included features of the software you’re considering. It’s possible that a personal use or smaller WiFi analyzer platform will do everything that you need it to do, but business and enterprise versions usually offer the most robust analytics and user review insights for your network administrators.
A surprising number of WiFi network analyzers come in free versions, and even some of the more expensive options offer free trial periods to users. Do your own pricing research across software platforms that match your needs, talk to their salespeople about pricing options, and ultimately figure out what your top needs will cost with each vendor.
Depending on who in your organization is using the WiFi analyzer and how they’re using it, you’ll want to keep in mind the user interface of the different tools you’re considering. Some WiFi network analyzer tools focus on user-friendly dashboards and reporting capabilities, but some of the open-source and developer-facing options can be more difficult for users to navigate.
Data Collection and Data Visualization
At the heart of a successful WiFi analyzer is an approach that helps you to capture and assess all relevant network performance and traffic data. It’s important that this information is updated regularly and easily visualized on the software. Look specifically for WiFi analyzers that offer data visualization features like heat mapping, allowing you to assess points of high network traffic and network problems.
With every new tool that you add to your enterprise toolkit, you also need to think about how you’ll get the most out of it, especially if it breaks or your team runs into other obstacles. Many of the WiFi analyzer companies below offer complimentary support with your purchase of the software, along with user forums and training guides, so check out those resources and user reviews about support before you make the commitment to a WiFi analyzer tool.
NetSpot is one of the most popular WiFi network analyzers on the market for both personal and business use, featuring one of the most user-friendly and moldable interfaces for network data visualization. Users can work with either discovery or survey mode. Discovery mode provides a snapshot of WiFi networks in your vicinity, while survey mode offers heat maps that survey details such as WiFi strength.
You can choose amongst four different pricing packages, with each package differing in the number of zones, access points, and data points you can work with.
- Cross-platform solution for Mac and Windows
- Enterprise version offers unlimited zones and snapshot allocations
- Scan portions of your network at a time via map itemization of data points
- Wide variety of passive scanning and heat mapping features
- Clean UI with interactive tables in Discover Mode
- One-time purchase price: $149 for pro version, $499 for enterprise version; NetSpot Free Version is also available, with some limited features
Top Pro: NetSpot offers some of the strongest security features in the WiFi analyzer market, with features like unauthorized workstation detection and removal of rogue access points.
Top Con: Certain features, such as mapping, are difficult to view in a desktop environment. There are also several features that are limited to Mac OS.
Although their InSIDDer tool is the most well-known in their portfolio, MetaGeek Complete offers a well-rounded approach to WiFi network analysis and data visualization, along with several in-house and third-party integration opportunities.
The data visualizations are strong across this portfolio, with legible metrics and calls to action related to channel, channel width, signal strength, WiFi generation, maximum data rate, security, and even data about neighboring WiFi networks.
- Multi-layer pie charts for network traffic visualization
- Allows you to export data directly into Wireshark
- Device Finder 2.4 GHz Directional Antenna pinpoints non-WiFi interferences
- Wi-Spy DBx Dual-Band Spectrum Analysis
- One year of MetaCare support included with purchase
Top Pro: MetaGeek partners with several other top players (Wireshark, Cisco, Chanalyzer, Tamograph) to offer comprehensive WiFi and network analysis.
Top Con: The product is more expensive than most others on this list, coming to $1,399, with additional fees for each MetaGeek or third-party tool add-on. However, their popular InSIDDer tool can do most of what enterprise networks need at a fraction of the cost.
Wireshark is one of the oldest and most trusted protocol analyzers on the market, continually building on an open-source project that started in 1998. Wireshark cultivates a thriving developer and user community, with large conferences like Sharkfest, detailed user documentation, and increasingly peer-reviewed and edited best practices over time. The analyzer can run on a variety of operating systems, read and write a huge variety of capture file formats, and export in several different output formats.
Some enterprises may not want to work with Wireshark due to the product’s niche focus on protocol analysis. However, if you need more than a simple protocol analyzer, Wireshark partners with and integrates with Riverbed Technology and their tools, such as SteelCentral AppResponse, for network and application performance management.
- Deep, ongoing inspection of hundreds of protocols
- Live capture and offline analysis
- Active user community and user documentation
- Decryption support for IPsec, ISAKMP, Kerberos, SNMPv3, SSL/TLS, WEP, and WPA/WPA2
- Powerful display filters
- VoIP analysis
Top Pro: Wireshark offers a strong and detailed approach to packet capturing and analysis.
Top Con: The user interface is dense and not very user-friendly to navigate.
The SolarWinds Wi-Fi Analyzer is designed with business needs in mind, making it easy for network administrators to monitor and manage wireless networks, customize a dashboard for troubleshooting needs, and access key device and service insights across their network.
The Network Performance Monitor (NPM) is a more recent add-on to the Wi-Fi Analyzer tool and is well suited to larger enterprises. Some of the top features that NPM brought to Wi-Fi Analyzer include intelligent maps, advanced alerting, and performance and health checkups across a multi-vendor network environment.
- Free trial available for 30 days
- Fault, performance, and availability monitoring
- Cross-stack network data correlation
- Automatic heat mapping with library organizational feature
- NetPath visual trace route tool
- Customizable, drag-and-drop dashboard
Top Pro: The user interface is considered very intuitive and easy to use/access by multiple network administrators at a time.
Top Con: A massive cybersecurity attack was successfully launched against SolarWinds in 2020, so security concerns, particularly with their Orion tool, remain at the forefront.
Paessler PRTG is a popular network monitoring tool on the market, not only for its top-notch features, but also for its simplicity and highly rated support. You can launch PRTG with a fully functional 30-day trial, or you can take a look at their pricing options here, based on the number of sensors that your organization needs.
Paessler PRTG also supports several vendors across operating systems, security software, and enterprise suites, such as Cisco, Dell, Oracle, Apache, Windows, IBM, and VMware. If you’re looking for a solution that integrates well with your existing enterprise technology, PRTG is designed to work with several tools that you likely already use.
- Transparent pricing structure
- Individually configured PRTG sensors and SQL queries
- SNMP monitoring for improved bandwidth and application performance
- Real-time, customizable maps and dashboards
- Flexible alerting and notification approach
- Cluster failover solution
Top Pro: It’s easy to configure and their support services are considered very helpful and low-to-no cost.
Top Con: The user interface is often reviewed as outdated and unintuitive, making certain actions like hierarchy configuration more difficult for users.
Ekahau is best known for their Heatmapper tool, but with Ekahau Connect, you’ll have a more diverse portfolio of WiFi hardware, software, and services all-in-one.
Some of the product’s top strengths include predictive designing for predictive analysis, post surveying, and troubleshooting. Ekahau also offers several courses, video tutorials, and white papers for self-training, so this could be a great tool for users that require additional support.
- Ekahau Analyzer for WiFi health validation and troubleshooting
- Ekahau Pro for designing, analyzing, optimizing, and troubleshooting WiFi networks
- Ekahau Capture packet capture tool for advanced troubleshooting and in-depth analysis
- Ekahau University with training and certification programs
- Price: $8,790, plus required annual Ekahau Connect Subscription for $1,595
Top Pro: The Ekahau Heatmapper tool successfully detects rogue APs and hidden networks.
Top Con: Several tools within the portfolio, especially Ekahau Pro, come with a sizable learning curve for users and a hefty price tag.
NetAlly created the industry’s first handheld network analyzer in 1993 and has been a leader in WiFi analysis ever since, growing beyond network hardware offerings into powerful analyzer software, like AirMagnet.
NetAlly’s AirMagnet WiFi Analyzer PRO is a popular wireless network analyzer and diagnostic tool that continues to grow its capabilities and integrations with other tools in the NetAlly family. One of the most interesting and convenient integrations for network administrators came with the AirCheck G2 and EtherScope nXG instruments, which allow users to complete survey projects and heat mapping on a dedicated, well-integrated device.
- Live snapshots and top issue highlights of the network
- Client perspective testing with no access point downtime
- Full compliance reporting engine
- Several technology partners for network installation, validation, and operation
- AllyCare support, Knowledge Base, user guides, and white papers
Top Pro: This tool offers strong report generation features that can help with regulatory compliance for PCI, ISO, and SOX.
Top Con: Some users have described AirMagnet’s licensing policy as ineffective for larger enterprises and their rollouts.
Kismet is a free, open-source WiFi analyzer development tool, where developers and other interested users can submit their coded plugins and update proposals via GitHub. Its primary areas of specialty include wireless network and device detection, sniffing, and wardriving.
The user interface can be daunting for users who aren’t familiar with an open-source approach to software development, but with their commitment to always be open-source, users can trust that they’ll continually have the freedom to adjust and add onto Kismet according to their unique needs.
- Works with WiFi interfaces, Bluetooth interfaces, some SDR hardware, and other specialized capture hardware
- Support for plugins and external helper tools
- Kestrel live mapping feature
- IoD Screwdriver plugin
- Report generator for grouping devices by BSSID or SSID, with export to PDF and CSV
Top Pro: The Kismet Git Repository is always changing its code to improve the overall product. The community does troubleshooting as a whole, improving the software and adding their own plugins over time.
Top Con: Some users have explained that Kismet does a great job of identifying WiFi networks in a smaller area, but that the tool struggles with wider detection ranges.
Acrylic WiFi extends a variety of package options to their customers, with unique specialties in areas like law enforcement. Acrylic is a great option for analyzing network health metrics like RSSI, SNR, and speed.
It is considered an advanced tool for more experienced network administrators because its many features go beyond the basics that most analyzers provide. One of the most highly touted features is their Monitor mode, a data capture mode that makes it easy to visualize access points and the clients acting within the WiFi’s frequency bands.
- Heatmaps, Home, Professional, Sniffer, Law Enforcement, and Analyzer packages available
- Dashboard with behavioral analytics
- Territorial mapping features
- Simulations of new WiFi network deployments
- 802.11/a/b/g/n/ac/ax WiFi Analyzer with integrated sniffer.
- Monitor mode with client device identification
Top Pro: This tool brings forth incredibly detailed analytics in areas like hidden wireless network detection, reachable wireless devices, and packet retry rate.
Top Con: This product’s deployment and support options are almost entirely limited to Windows desktops.
LizardSystems Wi-Fi Scanner has seen nearly equal success across business and personal use, with the personal use version offered at no cost, and the perpetual Business License coming in at the low price of $99.95, with one year of support and maintenance included.
The tool mostly offers the key basics of monitoring and analysis on 802.11a/b/g/n/ac/ax wireless networks, but if you don’t necessarily need all of the extra features that come with a WiFi analysis portfolio tool, the LizardSystems Wi-Fi Scanner is an easy-to-use basic enterprise tool.
- Fully functional trial package
- Device name and model number discovery of access points
- Display features for signal level and spectrum mask
- Ability to connect and disconnect wireless adapters
- Perpetual business license for $99.95
Top Pro: Wi-Fi Scanner comes with a perpetual license at a lower price than most business and enterprise-level WiFi scanners.
Top Con: Wi-Fi Scanner is only available for Windows users.
With so many users trying to connect to WiFi across an enterprise network, WiFi network analyzers offer a slew of benefits to users and network administrators alike:
- Connection reliability and signal strength: WiFi analyzers give you the visibility to check performance across your channels, allowing you to adjust channel needs before detrimental network downtime affects your employees.
- Simplified troubleshooting through heat mapping: Sometimes, a network’s WiFi problems are as simple as a poorly placed server. With WiFi analyzer features like heat mapping, you can detect where problems are occurring and what changes you can make to fix poor connections.
- Device/IP scanning for additional network security measures: Many WiFi analyzers offer device and IP scanning features, in order to give network administrators a better picture of who’s on different WiFi channels. As a bonus, device and IP scanning let you know if you’re looking at an authorized user or a malicious actor that needs to be removed.
- In-depth analysis for optimization opportunities: Perhaps the top enterprise benefit of a WiFi analyzer is all of the optimization opportunities that these tools help you to discover. Without investing in heftier network security software that often comes at a higher price point, WiFi analyzers offer you simple glimpses into opportunities for better router placement and stronger security measures.
What it boils down to: the right WiFi network analyzer software can provide your enterprise with valuable insights in a digestible, budget-friendly format.
More on Network Security: Best Network Security Software & Tools of 2021