I am tasked with upgrading our WLAN in the office. I am looking for a low-maintenance solution I can deploy and forget about. I am looking at central controllers from e.g. Linksys, and then my plan would be to add APs wherever the signal is weak.

Our office is ca. 11,000 sq feet large, with many open spaces. We are ca. 100 people in the office. Mostly, we use a wired lan, but with more and more laptops and smartphones coming in our current solution (two consumer APs with separate SSIDs) is not working well anymore. I would assume there are ca. 50 devices connected to the network at one time, this number will double towards the end of the year. Bandwidth is not an issue.

What solution/hardware would you suggest for deploying the above?

  1. How would you deploy the number of APs? Since you have an existing wired lan, it might be useful to piggy-back your APs over your existing LAN as the back-haul. This will give you better bandwidth than using a solution like WDS. You may also consider a hybrid solution using WDS where there are no wires.
  2. How would you segregate your wireless network? While it may be tempting to just bridge it over with your existing LAN, you may want to consider isolating your WLAN with specific firewall rules because you have no idea what devices are being connected and/or where they have been.

Personally, I'd get a bunch of cheap routers with dd-wrt on it. However, this is quite subjective.

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  • +1 point for dd-wrt. – MattBianco Apr 4 '11 at 13:19
  • Hi sybreon, thanks for your points, I hadn't looked at WDS yet. I would currently put the APs on our existing LAN. For extra safety, I would connect this backhaul to a separate swith and a separate DSL line for the APs. – jotango Apr 4 '11 at 14:00

I've both deployed and been asked to advise on both large and small wireless deployments into both education and business environments and I have never met wireless solutions that one can really "deploy and just forget about" so the strict answer to your question is "Can't be done".

Assuming you're willing to compromise on that bit somewhat then: If you deploy a system based on home/SoHo solutions, you will forever have to fiddle with it to make it work right. The cost of the hardware for this type of solution will probably work out cheaper. If you go for a proper "managed wireless mesh" solution (e.g. aruba, meru, etc) then you will need to, er, manage it (though I think this may be less work than having to find which WAP out of a bunch of unstructured SoHo units has crashed or is interfering with the others).

You then have to consider things like securing the connection, how you will handle "guest" users (sure, you don't think thats a problem now, but what happens when a visitor wants to give a demo of something that's based on the web); and as Sybreon rightly mentioned, you need to consider Wireless LAN traffic separation from ordinary LAN traffic, etc.

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  • I would want to avoid Home/SoHo solutions (e.g. putting in isolated APs without a central management). Which solution would you recommend? You noted Aruba and Meru, what about the "big ones" ? Cisco, Juniper, perhaps Netgear... Thanks! – jotango Apr 4 '11 at 14:06
  • Cisco's solution isn't up with Aruba and Meru and the like, it's a bit of an 'also ran'. I can't comment on Juniper's solution as I don't know about it, and Netgear... well... If Cisco are an "also ran" in this space then Netgear barely even started the race. The big managed wireless players are, imho, Meru, Aruba, Trapeze and Ruckus. We use Aruba and I'm really happy with them but that wouldn't stop me looking at or recommending one of the others – Rob Moir Apr 4 '11 at 14:09

I use Cisco Wireless LAN Controllers and Access Points. The LAN Controllers manage the Access Points. They allow me to have multiple wireless LANs each having their own subnet. It provides a single management console to monitor. And, as a user moves about the office with their notebook or mobile device, they are handed off between the access points without any interruption.

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