Right, so there's a small pot of money set aside to improve our wireless network - there are some areas uncovered, and we're running A/B/G APs, so would be looking to increase coverage to most of site, and upgrade some areas to N.
We currently have a fully Cisco wireless system (WLC-4402, LAP1131 access points), so one option would be to just grab approx 8 (for budget) LAP1142 APs and just increase capacity that way. Cisco have "clientlink" technology which may increse our capacity to non-N clients, but we're running an older firmware on the WLC, so don't know whether this would be supported (so may have to consider paying for support for WLC to upgrade firmware, reducing the AP count).
So, suggestions - do I stick with Cisco, buy some APs and get the firmware upgraded, or do I start a phased move across to another provider to allow for better connectivity technology (Meru's single channel wireless, or Ruckus beamforming tech) or cheaper devices (Ubuquity and their insanely cheap APs)? Ideas and suggestions very much wanted. We fortunately have a site where I could move 1 building at a time across to another provider and keep the cisco kit running in other buildings.
One of the things I struggle with with the Cisco kit (and I'm not sure whether the other kit has the same "issue" is that all traffic goes via the controller, so there's less than 2GB bandwidith split between all the APs we get, and as we move towards more N devices, this bandwidth will potentially saturate fairly quickly.
If you want to start upgrading to more N, i'd recommend Meru.
Whilst Cisco’s ‘clientlink’ technology may increase capacity to non-N clients, it doesn’t fix the fundamental issue with Cisco’s microcell wifi, the biggest source of interference and poor performance anyone will ever see within a microcell network – namely, the network itself is the issue. Meru’s single channel completely removes this problem, which is why their performance is so much better.
It seems to be the more AP’s you add into a Cisco deployment, the worse the performance per AP is likely to become, all things being equal. So adding more Cisco APs will only reduce performance. With Meru’s single channel, you can just plug more APs in to increase performance because there is no channel interference; and because we’re single channel, we can run 5ghz and 2.4ghz simultaneously to provide both backwards compatibility and maximize the performance of 802.11n.
There's a case study on Youtube you could look at:
Meru Networks in Newent Community School and Sixth Form College - YouTube
Hope this helps :)
I personally would go with the Ruckus, I have used it in three schools now and love it, the APs do talk to the controller but don't route the traffic via it the APs sort themselves out just getting config and checking rights etc with the controllers. Simple to install and configure, take you about 30 minutes to do all the config including AD integration and all the SSID stuff :) Price point for the system is great and the new APs are quite stylish and flat now rather than the previous domes that were more common, however I did prefer the domes myself as they looked more interesting and I like snazzy things.
Give the guys at Net Ctrl a call (They are an EG sponsor @MarkPower) and they will happily sort you out with a loan set of kit to have a go with :)