WIPS hardware often looks much like a rack server while the associated sensors resemble Wi-Fi access points. However, instead of serving as a connection point, a WIPS sensor monitors the radio spectrum in its environment and takes automatic actions to protect the network. While WIPS features and appearance can vary, they generally overlay the existing wireless network with dedicated hardware and an application whose sole purpose is to mitigate malicious events. Some network access points have WIPS technologies that monitor in their spare time.
Most stand-alone WIPS systems share the same fundamental components:
- Sensors -- spread throughout the Wi-Fi network, monitor the radio spectrum and forward logs back to a central management server.
- Management server -- one or more servers that allow access to the console to coordinate the monitoring process and manage the WIPS. These servers also receive information captured by the sensors and take appropriate defense actions based on this information.
- Database server – Stores and organizes the information captured by the sensors.
- Console -- The interface that lets users and administrators control the WIPS.
Aside from being a security layer, WIPS can also monitor performance and point out access points with setup errors. While WIPS provide many valuable features and protections, especially to enterprise, they can be quite costly. With hardware, applications, subscriptions and training all factored in, an enterprise with 250 access points might spend as much as $100,000 on a complete WIPS solution.