1. Welcome to TechPowerUp Forums, Guest! Please check out our forum guidelines for info related to our community.

Need Advice from Network Managers - Managed Wireless

Discussion in 'Networking & Security' started by RCoon, Apr 24, 2014.

  1. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    I have approximately a year to decide on a wireless network system for the grammar school I work in. Currently we're utilising a basic system of around 20 independent AP's from 3COM, that have been as useful as chocolate teapots for the last few years. Over this time, we've got to the stage where we're having to restart the AP's at least twice a day. They were initially implemented in order to merely provide wireless coverage as a primary goal, for the insignificant amount of wireless devices we had. We're now at the stage where we have 1200 students and in excess of 150 staff. Staff have access to our internal wireless, but students are asking for net connection, which we refuse to offer in terms of internal access without filtering. What we intend to do is set up an external wireless system for guests, that follows our standard internet filtering (provided by Smoothwall, we're perfectly happy with this filtering method). Our current set up is simply not viable for such density of users, or the required bandwidth. It's so unreliable, we simply can't offer it to anyone in good faith, because it reflects badly on us. We haven't been given funding for a wireless project until recently, the Head teacher has decided to fund us in 2015 to get a proper, future proof, effective and most importantly reliable solution to work for us for the foreseeable future.

    We have narrowed our ideas down to 6 companies: Ruckus, Meru, UniFi, Aruba, Aerohive, and Meraki. We're looking for sheer density in specific areas, of the school, where BYOD will be taking precedent. These areas will be the 6th form (16-18 year olds for our American readers), where projects will be on the higher bandwidth side of things, and we're looking at peaks of up to 200 users spread across 2 rooms next to each other, known as the common room(the social space where they tend to do work outside of class hours). Standard coverage for the rest of the building would be ideal, we're looking at approximately 10-20 devices that will actually be utilised in the entire sixth form building during lessons, excluding the common room area where main the device density is. For this general coverage area, we're looking for solid, reliable, not necessarily fast connection. We don't want to have to touch this wireless system once it's up and running. It just needs to work, and deal with roaming users and connection by itself (On this note, Aerohive's webinar covered a great deal about roaming users and handover of connection between wireless AP's, and this was particularly interesting to us). In the high density areas, we're looking for absolute connection, and support for over 50 devices per AP. We're happy to put up to 4 AP's between these 2 or 3 rooms to provide the density requirements, but we need that connection to have enough bandwidth for those users, and ensure the AP's aren't fighting over each other for the devices connection. Proper aggregation protocols and hand overs will be implicit to this area, because we don't want users to drop or get slowed down too much because of the density of mobile devices. Nearly 100% of our sixth form students own an iOS or Android phone which they have in school with them, and a smaller percentage actually bring in their laptops despite not having wireless available to them.

    To that end, we're looking for 802.11AC as well as the obvious G and N on the 2.4Ghz band and 5Ghz band. We don't require AC right now, but we're looking to do this job right in the first place, and not have to touch it for a while. Meraki's webinar seemed to go on about their cloud based solution providing filtering, we're not interested in that in the slightest, we're only after a solid wireless connectivity platform that is self maintaining on the firmware/software side of things. Any extra gubbins that require technician hours to maintain are a downside to the system. We have better systems in place than these alternatives a managed wireless system can offer, so we simply aren't interested.

    We have a whole new Art and Drama block being built, and while the devices may not be so dense or high in bandwidth requirement, something that has briefly been touched on is video camera streaming. We've had a couple of students asking if they can stream videos from the video camera equipment over to a computer instead of having to copy over the data or use a cable into a projector. While this isn't a main priority, I think it would be something to look into out of future interest. The rest of that entire building will be purely about coverage, as we don't foresee much density requirement for Art or Drama.

    Two areas in particular are the Foreign Languages and English blocks, which are both identical in terms of the way they've been built. They're duplicate buildings, with two floors, and 3 classrooms on the lower floor and 4 classrooms on the upper floor. In these buildings we have 1 wireless point on the upper floor, smack bang in the middle of the block to cover the entire block (again, coverage is the priority here, as density is not something we foresee). The wireless in some of these rooms is pretty poor, occasionally students loan laptops and in the corners the signal is non-existent. In these areas we are looking for absolute solid coverage and connection, with zero black zones.

    We have 2 IT rooms parallel to each other, where device density and bandwidth requirement will be much higher. A fair few students will be using wireless devices, and the teachers in these lessons have wireless devices which they use in certain lessons (android tablets etc). This will possibly be one of the higher wireless priority rooms compared to the rest of the main building.
    Our art block is directly below our Science block(one of the largest departments in the school), and only has 3 of our relatively poor 3COM AP's covering this entire area. This is also an area similar to the MFL and English block, that could certainly use some solid coverage with little to no black spots, but device density here is minimal.

    Following from the cloud based management, we're not so keen. These solutions provide hardware that only works based upon a subscription. We don't want useless hardware after 5 years because the management system that resides over it is not being used any more. If we choose to switch the management system to an alternative controller, whether it be physical or cloud based, we want our hardware to work. A prime example of this was a hospital a few years ago in Britain. They had a cloud based system, and good quality AP's. When they decided to stop paying their cloud management subscription and opt for a more price competitive alternative, that company then actively transmitted interference on the AP's they weren't managing any more, because the AP's talk directly to that company when connected in any way to the internet. You may wonder if these AP's were contracted to be only used on that management system, but they weren't, the hospital was within their right to use the hardware on an alternative management system.

    We're not keen on cloud based AP management. It's just one more thing separating us from possible issues that could arrive in the future. As of this moment, cloud based systems to us, are not a solution, they are a problem. The reliability is not there, the option to quickly switch out a piece of faulty hardware isn't there, the control is not there, and the security, no matter how secure these companies claim their cloud based systems are, is simply not as good as having a physical device in our server room we know nobody can access besides us. Cloud based management is a ransom, not a service. While I understand things are moving that way, it's a preference. That being said, if the actual best system available, with the best possible service for our needs is cloud based, then we will cautiously consider it. Sometimes these things become the going standard and we just have to adapt.

    UniFi interests us a lot. We're happy to put in some extra man hours to get the initial system set up, especially when it's open source and cheap, and allows us to hack and slash away at the set-up as we see fit. It's a very cost effective solution, and seems to be the most "DRM-Free" style of wireless we've seen. The only issue is we haven't heard reviews on the actual quality or performance of the physical AP's. If they're strong contenders on the hardware side, they're a likely winner in my eyes. Once set up though, we want these things to just work as I said above, no nonsense like having to change channels afterwards.

    Ruckus have been the most raved about managed wireless service. Every IT worker we've spoken to so far has either had a Ruckus system and sung its praises, or purchased another system, visited a school with Ruckus, and then decided that was their next Christmas present on the list. From what I've heard on EduGeek, they're very reliable, and no nonsense. We're not the kind of people that follow the saying "nobody ever got fired for buying Cisco". While their offering, Meraki, is price competitive, after watching their webinar, they seemed to just advertise what wonderful things their cloud system could do, that essentially had nothing to do with the actual wireless connection. They didn't touch on AC, they didn't touch on any special technologies like handover, or any fancy automated systems they had under their belt. They waffled on about their switches. We don't care, we have good new switches, and we already have web filtering. We're happy to listen to the gritty technical details of the hardware, and do some research if we don't understand what we hear, but we're not looking for anything beyond a strong wireless system.

    Aruba and Meru are two companies I've literally never heard of, but some guys on EduGeek mentioned their names on the subject, so we're looking into them too. After going through all the details of all six, we're eventually going to knock it down to two and get into the gritty details of the systems. From their we're happy to leave the two companies to battle it out for pricing.

    Both Meraki and Aerohive are sending us one AP to test, we're hoping the other four companies will do the same. So far Meraki have been quite helpful and quick to set us up on their cloud service even though we don't have a wireless system to manage, which in itself is a benefit that I can honestly see. Of the two Aerohive actually told us the technical details we wanted to hear, but of course I'll be contacting each company individually in order to give them the chance to go into detail about what their system can promise us. In the event one of the companies does not offer us a demo system (just an AP, and a simple way to manage it), then they're struck from the list. We like to try before we buy. I've mentioned 802.11AC earlier, this is also a must. We won't be buying a managed wireless system without it. As a team we've always thought exceedingly long and hard about every project decision until both the reps and we are exhausted, and as such, we receive nothing but positive response from our end users. At the end of the day, if our users aren't happy with the system, we aren't. Our view is, if we hear nothing about it all year round, odds are the system is doing its job just fine. We have a year to decide, so we will exhaust every option until we're happy.

    While talking directly to the reps from each company will give us the factual details we need, I'm looking to get actual in-use recommendations and advice. Any issues, gripes, and general banter about your managed wireless systems in the workplace would be greatly appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
  2. johnspack

    johnspack

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2007
    Messages:
    4,380 (1.70/day)
    Thanks Received:
    864
    Location:
    Nelson B.C. Canada
    My network knowledge is nill, but I think if you want the best security, then pure n band with wpa2 ect protocols will be best.
     
  3. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    Not every device is N, and of course we'll be using security, as we already do. Our current AP's are wireless N, but relatively useless as they're simply "dumb" independent AP's. But of course the AC is incoming, and we'd like to be ready.
     
  4. PHaS3

    PHaS3

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2010
    Messages:
    265 (0.16/day)
    Thanks Received:
    136
    I am IT Manager at a school myself, and we implemented a BYOD policy in 2010. Over the years we have learned some lessons about WiFi standing up to the "brutality" of multiple devices. One of the major issues we had was access points dropping out when more than 10 iPads connected to them (resolved with new firmware and subsequent models of AP). But I digress, I would look at Ubiquiti's UniFi option. We unfortunately missed the boat on it and have individually configure Ubiquiti devices throughout our campus, but I can only say good things about the Ubiquiti APs in general. All our staff have iPads supplied by the school, and we use Airserver to allow the sharing of the iPad screen on projectors (also one in each class), which as you can imagine can put strain on insufficient APs, and have had no problems with the Ubiquiti devices.

    Pop me a pm if you want to chat more about your school network :) always happy to help.
     
    RCoon says thanks.
  5. ne6togadno

    ne6togadno

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2013
    Messages:
    1,360 (2.31/day)
    Thanks Received:
    600
    Location:
    GMT +2
  6. remixedcat

    remixedcat

    Joined:
    May 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2,938 (1.81/day)
    Thanks Received:
    645
    Cisco Meraki is really smooth and very nice

    Here's a review I wrote on one of their routers: http://remixedcat.blogspot.com/2014/01/cisco-meraki-mx60w-review.html

    Highly recommended.

    Oh btw the wireless in the mx60w is even more powerful than amped is even

    Amped rta15: 27dBm
    Mx60w: 30dBm


    I also own an mr12 ap and will be doing some tests soon.

    I do not, however own the mx60w. It was a review unit.

    Also if you have an MX and Mr APs you can setup a concentrator and do l3 roaming and handoff.

    Or you can use a VM.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2014
    Exceededgoku and RCoon say thanks.
  7. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    Thanks Cat, much appreciated. Great review too!
     
    remixedcat says thanks.
  8. remixedcat

    remixedcat

    Joined:
    May 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2,938 (1.81/day)
    Thanks Received:
    645
    You're welcome. Thank you!! ;)
     
  9. brandonwh64

    brandonwh64 Addicted to Bacon and StarCrunches!!!

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Messages:
    18,680 (9.97/day)
    Thanks Received:
    6,154
    Location:
    Chatsworth, GA
    UniFi!! Their controller software is easy and simple to setup! They have new AC units with 1.3GBPS speeds. Just build a simple server (Hell an old P4 will do) and make sure its on the same range as the nodes and you can make maps of were the nodes are at as well as see statistics, who is connected, lock nodes down during no internet times, and MUCH MORE
     
    RCoon says thanks.
    Crunching for Team TPU
  10. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    I don't suppose you could give me a brief description of how you use it (case study sort of thing, buildings, density, users etc), need something semi-formal/useful to provide to governors(the people who decide to give me money and why they are giving a certain company the school's money).

    Thanks
     
  11. brandonwh64

    brandonwh64 Addicted to Bacon and StarCrunches!!!

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Messages:
    18,680 (9.97/day)
    Thanks Received:
    6,154
    Location:
    Chatsworth, GA
    I can give you a small layout of a college we did using this product if that is helpful
     
    RCoon says thanks.
    Crunching for Team TPU
  12. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    Small update so far. Meraki's AP (The MR18) has arrived and we've been testing. Aerohive are the only people sending us an AC AP, and Aruba have been the most helpful and social so far, arranging a meeting next week and are sending us an AP to fiddle with. I've got high hopes for those guys. Not impressed with Meraki's cloud based management, the interface is less than stellar, and nothing is particularly well thought out in terms of settings. Seems like a bit of a mess, but it was relatively easy to set up. The virtual AP map where you upload a site plan is not so great, didn't bother with it. Meraki are also the only people who don't advertise max distance for their AP's. Everyone else does(they're probably woefully inaccurate).

    As for the Meraki MR18, I've done a few field tests on the 802.11n band.

    3GB single file

    Peak: 5ft away
    Link Speed: 144Mbps
    Peak Transfer: 8.71MBps
    Network Utilization: 61.75%

    Worst: 114ft away (1 breezeblock wall)
    Link Speed: 6Mbps
    Peak Transfer: 256KBps
    Network Utilization: 30%

    Further than ~115ft caused a disconnection from the wireless or unusable network connection.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2014
  13. remixedcat

    remixedcat

    Joined:
    May 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2,938 (1.81/day)
    Thanks Received:
    645
    Well I'm testing another enterprise brand and the test unit I have is DOA (bad firmware and possible hardware damage) so I got an RMA and a new unit on the way and gotta send this one back soon. Will reveal in my upcoming review.

    One company I don't recommend so far is barracuda networks, the rep spent most of the time talking bad about meraki and constantly asking for a credit card number and not even trying to tell me much at all about thier products! The guy was unprofessional and downright rude. I wanted an evaluation but he said that they would need a credit card and runt eh whole purchase through and then after 30 days "I can return it and get my money back" ... ummm that's not an eval that's a "30 day money back guarantee". there's a difference. eval holds the CC# and after the period if you don't return it then they charge. Used car salesmen sound more warm and sincere and knowledgable then that rep did. Too bad I didn't get his name he was one of the worst reps I've dealt with and I've dealt with a lot.
     
  14. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    Might be worth checking Gartner's Magic Quadrant for reputable wireless companies, they seem a trustworthy source. Also check EduGeek, there's a lot on there about reputable Managed wireless providers. That's how we came up with the 6 companies. I must say props to Aruba, they've been the best in terms of providing the information we asked for, and the guy I spoke to wasn't pushy in the slightest, and instantly took my address for an eval AP to be sent. Haven't heard anything from Ruckus, Meru, or UniFi yet. Meraki don't talk much, and Aerohive's AP hasn't yet arrived.
     
  15. remixedcat

    remixedcat

    Joined:
    May 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2,938 (1.81/day)
    Thanks Received:
    645
    I'll see what other units I can get to test. :)
     
  16. Easy Rhino

    Easy Rhino Linux Advocate

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Messages:
    13,461 (4.64/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,264
    Considering the amount of coverage you are looking for and the amount of clients served, I would suggest you go with a company who does this kind of thing every day. Pay a networking company to come in and set everything up the way you want it and then you guys can handle the day to day stuff. Your manager should know this.
     
  17. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    We intend to get a survey done, and gather recommendations on AP types and locations based on density and coverage. We're fully capable of drilling holes where we're told and patching in cables. Also we're not accustomed to getting ripped off by a company charging 200% profit margins to drill some holes. This is the way it is done, and has been done in the last 5 schools I've worked in.
     
  18. Easy Rhino

    Easy Rhino Linux Advocate

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Messages:
    13,461 (4.64/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,264
    i am not saying you are incapable of drilling some holes. but if you think all that goes into setting up a realiable,robust, and secure network for thousands of people is drilling some holes then you are in for a rude awakening. i mean as it currently stands you have a system of 20 APs you have to restart twice a day. whoever set that up needs to be fired. also, considering the very bad state your wifi network is in your management should be looking at going through a vendor. sorry to day.
     
  19. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    I have over a year to research and learn, hence the point of this thread, and all the tests I intend to do over the next year period. I am aware of what is involved. I mean no offense to you, but you're really not helping in this thread, you're just sounding a little condescending, which isn't like you. Maybe I'm just getting the wrong impression, but we usually get on pretty well. If I've got the wrong idea I do apologise, and I appreciate your concern if you think I'm in over my head, but I have a huge amount of research to do, and plenty of time to think about and do it.

    He was :laugh:

    I'm the person in charge of projects within the IT department, I've only been here a year and we've managed to get a few implemented. This is my next big project, and I get to spend about 70% of my time dedicated to it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2014
    remixedcat says thanks.
  20. remixedcat

    remixedcat

    Joined:
    May 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2,938 (1.81/day)
    Thanks Received:
    645
    Thing is RCoon is doing the right thing by testing the gear on the actual site and fully understanding the client. An outside person will inflate prices, and find ways to suck more money out of someone and a ALOT of them just push the highest price APs becuase they want to make more commission, etc. A school also doesn't need to cover the entire campus in high end 802.11ac units those can be deployed in strategic locations that need the extra B/W and the rest can be covered in cheaper to mid grade N APs. Seen a few hotels that do this as well as some hospitals.
     
    RCoon says thanks.
  21. Easy Rhino

    Easy Rhino Linux Advocate

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2006
    Messages:
    13,461 (4.64/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,264
    Sorry I didn't mean to come off like an arse. I have seen a lot of people come through and ask for advice on big projects and they are completely clueless of the scope of the project. It does sound like you have been given plenty of time to research. My advice, which you are looking for, was for your employer to go through an outside vendor which usually costs more upfront but is less expensive years down the road. You did say you are getting a survey done so that will be immensely helpful. In six months if the project seems like it is getting over your head see if you can hire a consultant. After all, if it is going to take a full year to plan this out it is going quite a bit of time implementing and troubleshooting and finally managing and upgrading. This is just from my IT experience.
     
    RCoon says thanks.
  22. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    At this stage my boss wants me to evaluate the 6 companies and what they have to offer, then in a few months time after I've tested their kit (and tested their customer service experience), we're going to knock it down to two companies, and ask them for their quotes, their gear, their costs, etc, and evaluate further from there. Once we have a winner in terms of services provided, we'll get the actual project done.
     
  23. brandonwh64

    brandonwh64 Addicted to Bacon and StarCrunches!!!

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Messages:
    18,680 (9.97/day)
    Thanks Received:
    6,154
    Location:
    Chatsworth, GA
    sorry it took so long but here is the layout of the college UniFi setup we have.

    upload_2014-4-29_10-23-15.png
     
    Exceededgoku and RCoon say thanks.
    Crunching for Team TPU
  24. remixedcat

    remixedcat

    Joined:
    May 13, 2010
    Messages:
    2,938 (1.81/day)
    Thanks Received:
    645
    Thing is... How fast is ubiquity to respond when issues arise or you got to RMA something?? I hear they are forum support only is this correct??
     
  25. RCoon

    RCoon Gaming Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2012
    Messages:
    7,446 (8.11/day)
    Thanks Received:
    3,577
    Location:
    Gypsyland, UK
    Small update from after having run tests on the Aruba AP

    3GB single file

    AP225 (.11N / AC)

    Peak: 5ft / 5ft
    Link speed - 780Mbps / 180Mbps
    Peak transfer - 23.1MBps / 12.5MBps
    Utilization - 30% / 75%

    Worst: 60ft / 140ft
    Link speed - 60Mbps / 26Mbps
    Peak transfer - 4.64MBps / 2.6MBps
    Utilization - 33% / 26%
    Max Distance - 60ft / 140ft

    Further than ~140ft caused a disconnection from the wireless or unusable network connection. When I was using an AC device, it would switch from AC to N at around 60ft, and as such gain a higher link speed up to around 300mbps, but it seemed to have some issue where when it switched to the N band but didn't go much farther.


    It's also worth noting the Aruba instant access management on the independent device is pretty awesome. The cloud management console is quite delayed though, and can take up to two minutes to display what just happened. Waiting on our retailer to provide us with a 90 day evaluation on the Aruba AirWave software so we can try that out as a management method on a virtual machine onsite.
     
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2014
    Exceededgoku says thanks.

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 members and 1 guest)

Share This Page