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Wireless Networks Thread, Choosing an Access Point? in Technical; Hello all, I am a tech at a small school district. I am perplexed and need somebody to explain the ...
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    Choosing an Access Point?

    Hello all,

    I am a tech at a small school district. I am perplexed and need somebody to explain the differance between Super Expensive Access Points and cheap ones. We are looking to expand our Wireless throughout our school and I have been researching Access Points. The Ubiquiti UNIFI everyone seems to love, and the Meraki. These also use the "cloud software". Still not sure exactly what that means. But in looking into Access Points people seem to love these ones and I know at my last job we used Cisco Aironet AP's, what I don't get is that the Cisco AP's are INSANLEY more expensive. What is the reason for this Price Hike and do I need something that expensive?

    Thanks for any info,
    -David

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    Meraki's "cloud" controller means every access point when plugs in looks to the meraki servers for its configuration downloads it to the ap and runs it (and keeps checking back every so often).

    You have to pay a yearly fee for the cloud controller but the software and AP's work really well.

    Find a US reseller (or go direct) they will arrange a demo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmh1083 View Post
    Hello all,

    I am a tech at a small school district. I am perplexed and need somebody to explain the differance between Super Expensive Access Points and cheap ones. We are looking to expand our Wireless throughout our school and I have been researching Access Points. The Ubiquiti UNIFI everyone seems to love, and the Meraki. These also use the "cloud software". Still not sure exactly what that means. But in looking into Access Points people seem to love these ones and I know at my last job we used Cisco Aironet AP's, what I don't get is that the Cisco AP's are INSANLEY more expensive. What is the reason for this Price Hike and do I need something that expensive?

    Thanks for any info,
    -David
    Everything Cisco is more expensive. They have a very large marketing base, hire the industry's best engineers, use top quality components and manufacturing processes. Their products tend to be bulletproof and they are often considered the industry standard and what other vendors compare themselves to. Nobody wants their products to cost more than Cisco because they have brand recognition, reliability and the "nobody got fired for buying Cisco" mentality. They can get away with charging a premium that other vendors typically can't unless their competitive products are highly specialized and industry proven. So most vendors will try to price their products below Cisco.

    Do you "need" something that expensive? Probably not, but there is nothing wrong with spending the quality money on a proven wireless system from a highly reputable vendor. Different wireless products will suit organizations differently. For some, they need uptime, something that will work predictably, good support, and lots of information available online for troubleshooting. And the CTO will typically have a lot of pressure to buy something that won't cause headaches down the road. Buying Cisco safeguards the purchase in that everyone knows the name and knows it is trusted. You will typically have very few problems with their products and when something goes wrong you have the defense of buying the Cadillac product. In other words, a lot of people buy Cisco to cover their butts. If you tell your boss that you're going to try out this start-up company's product that is an industry first in putting the smarts of the networking out in their data centers and hope the company doesn't go bankrupt before the product is end of life you might be looking for new work if your investment blows up in your face.

    I don't have experience with Ubiquiti products, but they are highly recommended by people who use them because of their price point. People who try them consider them to be a terrific value of features and performance for their low TCO. Ubiquiti doesn't have a cloud controller as far as I'm aware. Pretty sure it is software based, which means you could put in a the cloud if you wanted to, but that would be on you to do so and manage high availability/failover.

    Meraki, on the other hand, does have a cloud controller. Your configuration is stored within three of their half dozen data center locations around the globe so there is built-in high availability into the system. The access points download their configurations and can function at 95% feature set even if they do not have connectivity to the controller. Whereas with an on-site hardware controller you would have to purchase two controllers if you wanted high availability. Otherwise you would have to wait until you can have a new controller delivered to you and configured. Some vendors also offer VMware controllers, and you could accomplish this with Ubiquiti yourself if you wanted to go that route. This would negate the lack of high availability other vendors have.

    As far your subject heading is concerned "Choosing an access point?"... first you should choose the type of wireless technology that suits you best. Single-channel architecture or multi-cell. Both architectures have their pros and cons. If you choose single-channel you are pretty limited on your choices. If you choose multi-cell you should then consider what type of controller deployment works best for you. Your options pretty much are: hardware controller, software controller, cloud controller, or a controller built into the APs themselves. Personally, I see the days of the hardware controller being numbered. They require on-site service/maintenance and typically aren't deployed with high availability. Then in regards to which access points to choose I would highly recommend getting access points that are 5.0GHz compatible and match up the radio specs for your needs/hardware taking into consideration future growth. And don't forget 802.11ac is around the corner, if this is something you would need instantly as it becomes available to enterprise wireless networks I'm pretty sure only the newer Cisco 3600 series APs allow for bolt-on modules for 802.11ac functionality. You'd also have to make sure your switches/power source can power the AP + module.

    And don't forget to look up educational discounts and take bids (typically required for public school districts by most states unless using an approved vendor). Cisco actually ended up being priced competitively and in many cases cheaper than a good chunk of companies who bid with us. We have a very strong relationship with our local Cisco reps so YMMV.
    Last edited by SuperfluousAdjective; 15th November 2012 at 01:10 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wirelan View Post
    Hi dmh1083

    Hope you found your answer, However I thought I would second that the Ubiquit Unifi are a good product, with them being low cost you can use more of these and make your network even bigger. But having used many Unifi UAP LR I find them very good so far.
    I have used Unifi UAP and Unifi UAP-Pro.. Absolutely fantastic at a price that makes a joke out of the big boys.

    I was given quotes of £8000-15000 from professional companies and in the end did it myself for £1000.00

    No problems encountered so far!

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    @SuperfluousAdjective It is true that Cisco gear has all that backing but, from experience, it doesn't mean that it is the best - they also seem to be pretty slow to implement the latest technology. A quick trawl of the forums will show many different opinions.

    I looked at numerous vendors (including Cisco) when purchasing a solution for the school I used to manage... I settled on BlueSocket at the time as the performance and feature set was very good. Since then, I have had experience of Ruckus and that is seriously good kit backed up by some good support.

    It is also worth getting some demo units to test in YOUR environment. What works in one place very well, may not work well somewhere else - most companies that believe in their kit will do this free of charge.

  6. Thanks to Ric_ from:

    TheTechieUK (30th November 2012)



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