First time WAP shopping

I have been tasked with updating the Wireless Access Points in the office. I work in a three story building that houses about 20 employees per level. Most are using Win7 laptops, but when they are at their desk they use a network cable. They really only use wireless when in meetings.

Currently we have one 3Com 8760 WAP per floor ( When operating optimally, they were still getting the job done, but they are on their way out. Being an advertising agency, we would like to accommodate transmitting the growing amounts of data due to the larger projects we have. Also we would like to allow for things like mapping SBS 2003 drives wirelessly (that the Airports, meant to resolve one specific need, that were bought before I arrived do not allow) and have the ability to handle the BYOD issues that come with a workplace full of smartphones.

I have had a visit from a Ruckus salesperson and I am in contact with another with Aruba. Of course the boss wants me to ensure we buy the cheapest possible solid solution. The Aruba quote came in at $2,500 for 3 WAPs and other assorted charges, and I'm sure based on what I was told the Ruckus one will come in higher. This will make my boss choke.

I know it is hard to say what to recommend based on not knowing variables like office layout and others...but I would like to get your opinion on if I should go the business grade route above, or if I could get by on some high quality consumer grade WAPs at a fraction of the price? Are there sizable benefits that cannot be had with the consumer grade WAPs that make the cost doable?
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  1. As you said, it's *really* difficult to make these kinds of judgments without knowing the layout. But the one thing I would say is, if those locations where you need the wireless have ethernet at the wall, then you can probably get away w/ simple, consumer grade wireless APs (or wireless routers in AP mode, might be cheaper than standalone WAPs). But once you start introducing walls, obstacles, and no line of sight, that's when it gets dicey. And that's where you need some experience and perhaps more sophisticated solutions.
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