A better network is faster, safer, and more enjoyable to use. Firewalla provides you with tools to monitor your network, identify issues, and achieve greater network performance. These features are supported on Firewalla Gold products, Purple products, and Blue Plus.
Firewalla network performance and quality are divided into:
- Wi-Fi / LAN Performance
- WAN Performance
These are all important measures of your network's performance that can be used to identify and eliminate important issues.
Before jumping into these features, let's unpack what advantages these features give you over common Internet quality tests like speedtest.net, speedtest.googlefiber.net, and fast.com. Often, people run these tests from whatever device they have at hand, which means they are measuring their Wi-Fi only, or possibly their Ethernet and switches, and their ISP. To find the source of any problem, we need to measure each part of network traffic separately.
We will start on the left side of this diagram and walk through all of Firewalla's network performance features.
Wi-Fi and LAN Performance
For most of us, Wi-Fi is very important. The Firewalla app has a built-in Wi-Fi test that you can use to test LAN speed between your phone and your Firewalla box. It helps you to:
- see how fast your LAN really is independent of how fast your ISP service is
- determine if you're placing your mesh or APs in the right places to avoid Wi-Fi dead spots
- tune appropriate AP settings, such as which Wi-Fi channels you should use or how powerful your AP's radios should be.
With a little experimentation, you can get the best possible performance from your Wi-Fi gear. See Wi-Fi Tuning below.
Under Network Performance, you will see your latest Wi-Fi test results and their settings. Near the bottom, you will find Test Wi-Fi Speed. If your phone is connected to your local network, you can run this as often as you like and it has no impact on any traffic to your ISP if you have a data cap.
You may well have brilliant Wi-Fi like the image above. If so, this means that you can move files around your network very quickly, such as streaming music or a movie from a DLNA server in your home. This tells you there are no issues with your Wi-Fi network.
To tune your Wi-Fi connection, all you need to do is go to various places in your house (eg, your desk, bedroom, or living room) and run a Wi-Fi test with the Firewalla app. If you find performance is lacking, adjust your AP locations or settings based on manufacturer recommendations and test again. Repeat until you get the best possible "real-world" results that your Wi-Fi provides. Rest assured you have removed your Internet connection from the equation, so you are always comparing apples to apples with this test.
You can even evaluate if it is worth buying faster Wi-Fi. If your Internet is faster than your Wi-Fi, this can justify an upgrade.
Similarly, you can use http://fire.walla:8833/ss/ from any device (connected to your local network via Ethernet or Wi-Fi) to test the connection between your other devices and Firewalla. For example, you can test an Ethernet connection on an Ethernet device.
In addition to the upload and download speed, Firewalla can show you ping and jitter measurements. We'll cover those below under WAN Performance.
The best network is one that's fast, has low latency, and has no packet loss. Firewalla will test all three aspects. We have included a summary widget on the main Firewalla Screen to better present network performance.
Here, a colored bar chart represents the total outage time, max latency, and max packet loss over the last 24 hours. If the bar shows:
- RED: the Internet was down.
- YELLOW: the Internet was unstable because the system detected high latency, high packet loss, or secondary WAN (if you have a dual WAN setting) was down.
- GREEN: your network performance was good.
Any unusual behavior will also trigger an event. In the example below, one of the WAN connections went down. We see that as yellow in the Summary bar to the right. We also see the cause in the Recent Events below.
Internet Speed Test
Network speed is the throughput between your Firewalla Box and a test server.
- The test server is by default a server in the speed test network close to you, although you can manually choose a server to use.
- The network speed test can be run manually at any time and can be scheduled to run daily.
- Though running the test won't impact your internet experience, you may want to run it when there isn't much going on so that nothing impacts the measurement.
- This test does not measure your Wi-Fi, so if the results aren't what you would expect, it could be an issue with your ISP.
- This test will count toward any data usage limits with your ISP.
The Firewalla app will show the Internet speed test results over a 7-day period and provide you with a chart showing your download/upload speeds over time. You can tap in to see details.
Due to the location of speed test servers and the test load, the accuracy of the tests can vary. If you see results that are not accurate, please verify with a desktop speed test program. Firewalla cannot guarantee the test results are perfect.
If the Automatic Speed Test is activated, a chart with download speed will be shown on the box's main page to help you identify any significant drop in performance.
- Firewalla primarily uses measurementlab.net services for speed tests. We may add other speed test services/networks (such as speedtest.net) as we mature.
- Since speed test servers are not always the same, you may get different results between tests. This result may vary more if you are near gigabit speed.
- Speed tests are dependent on the distance between you and the nearest server.
- Please see measurementlab.net and speedtest.net for details on how they use speed test results.
- To verify Firewalla's speed test, please use an Ethernet-connected PC/MAC and use these services:
Tune your Speed Test Server
If you'd like more control over what server you use for your speed tests, you can Tune your Speed Test Server on the app. In any of your test results, tap the server, then choose:
- Always use this server: To specify this server and always run tests on it
- Never use this server: To exclude this server and tell Firewalla never to use it for testing
The "always use"/"never use" server lists can be managed in Internet Speed -> Server Selection.
Inaccurate speed test results can be reported directly through the app without opening a support case. By making the reporting process more reachable, we hope to collect more feedback from you and improve the system further.
Internet Quality Test
When Internet Quality is turned on, the Firewalla box will ping a certain test target at a selected interval. The test results will be kept for 24 hours, and the app will show you a chart for how Latency and Packet Loss change over time.
Network latency measures the round trip time from you requesting information to that information coming back to you. The cumulative effects of distance between you and the server and the Internet infrastructure equipment that gets data there and back mean that latency can never be eliminated completely. "Normal" latency depends greatly on your Internet connection. Here are some rough estimates:
- Cable modem: between 5 and 40 ms
- A cellular link: between 200 and 600 ms
However, if latency spikes, it can drastically affect your online meeting, phone, or real-time interactions. It can even limit the throughput of your network.
Network Packet Loss
Packet loss can slow down your network (particularly TCP or HTTP) because when a packet is lost, a request will be sent to the origin to resend the lost packet and the application will try to restore the content as it was intended. Packet loss will impact real-time content, such as Zoom meetings, streaming video, or VOIP calls.
When abnormal test results are detected, the box will generate "High latency detected" events or "High packet loss detected" events to help you identify potential internet quality issues. The performance bar will be shown in yellow.
Please note that network quality test results aren't indicative of the connectivity status of your WANs. Your Firewalla box can be connected to the Internet with no issue even if the quality test shows 100% packet loss.
Internet Quality Tests will use the ISP-provided DNS server of your primary WAN as the default testing target. This default was chosen because DNS is usually the most sensitive to latency.
If you changed your ISP or if the test results don't reflect your network quality correctly, updating the test target may resolve the issue.
When editing Test Target, Firewalla will list out several suggested servers, including your WAN DNS servers and some public DNS servers with their ping latency. You can tap on any of them to adopt them, or you can enter your preferred IP Address or domain and save.