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From an operations point of view, IT managers should treat wireless network infrastructure equipment in the same way as wire-line equipment. Doing so makes managing a wireless network a lot less cumbersome and a lot less expensive.

For example, IT managers can get much of the information they need for wireless network planning simply by leveraging the investment their organizations have already made in management tools for wire-line networks.

Although management tools such as Symbol Technologies Inc.’s Wireless Network Management System and Cisco Systems Inc.’s Wireless Network Management Suite provide useful configuration and management tools geared specifically for wireless networks, the fact remains that wireless access points are, at the end of the day, physical network devices.

Much of the monitoring performed by tools geared for wireless networks can be done with a similar system for wire-line networks. IT managers can avoid spending big bucks on wireless management suites by keeping the monitoring and daily operations of the wireless network in the same system that tracks the wire-line network.

eWEEK Labs recommends that enterprises use only manageable wireless access points, or thin access points that are controlled by a manageable switch, because the SNMP capabilities of these devices will allow any network management tool to track their performance (at least at a rudimentary level).

For example, the traffic measures of any sophisticated wireless access point can be read just fine by Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Network Node Manager Advanced Edition 7.01. BMC Software Inc.’s Patrol Visualis 1.4 can just as readily tell that a wireless access point is offline, as can Concord Communications Inc.’s eHealth Suite 5.6.

In fact, a time-proven method for controlling network operations cost and increasing the likelihood that IT staff will receive timely notification of problems is to consolidate management onto a single pane of glass.

The one reason to consider a specialized network management tool for wireless devices is security. Because wireless networks are physically more accessible than wire-line networks, management tools for wireless networks often double as configuration utilities with additional access control features.