I am the computer technology chair of a college fraternity house. We are looking to upgrade our wlan. We are looking at higher tier business access points and not messing around with home routers/ AP's any longer. I am looking for feedback on recommended access points for our use and have several options currently:
Currently we have a wired dual wan business router with the DHCP server at the front end, connected to four switches because every room also has ethernet. Connected throughout the house are 4 apple airport extreme routers that are in bridge mode and act as access points. The airports are getting tired from years of use and are becoming overwhelmed with our growing demands also.
For a breakdown of usage we have a basement and three stories in the house. The basement just has a study room and rec room. The 1st floor has about 20 residents. 2nd floor is the longest and has approximately 40-45 people. The 3rd floor has approximately 25 people. Each person has about 3 devices on the wireless network. The first two stories have 8'x10' rooms with 2 people in most. The 3rd floor consists of 10'x12' rooms with 3 people in each. Lots of wall, but the apple's actually covered the area for the most part.
-For each router we have a budget of $200-$300 max
-Gigabit Uplink port
-Configuration for the access points must not require an additional wlan controller.
-I have used cisco IOS in the past but prefer browser config's
-Uptime is priority with speed a close second
Commercial AP may not buy you want you want if your problem is over utilization of the radio bandwidth. Although some do a better job it is still a half duplex system and the more machine you get the move overlap transmissions you have.
I am too lazy to read though all the fine print of these AP. The key features most have is that they contain 2 actual radios. You can either put one on 2.4 and one on 5 or in some cases both on 2.4. This gives you the ability to run G and N on separate radios. In addition to having more total radio bandwidth the radios do not have to deal with all the issues of running G and N on the same radio. Be careful to read the fine print like consumer models they will all claim to be able to run multiple bands and multiple SSID but only use a single radio to do it.
There are many other features related to vlans and security that they have but if you do not need the feature it is a waste of money.
If your problem is a pure capacity issue you may be better off buying 3 cheap AP for each location and run them on difference channels locking some to N and some to G.
John, I appreciate your response and sorry for the delay getting back. If we went with more cheaper access points do you mean we would have 10 or 12 total?
It very well could be overwhelming the radios on the current apple airports. The logs are full of "Disassociated with station" errors which seems to be an apple firmware problem mostly with the encryption (WPA2) and the clock synchronization.
My main considerations with more devices are the following:
-Management of cheap hardware is inefficient and not centrally managed
-Longevity of cheap hardware might not be there and they don't have much for warranties on those models
-I worry about the frequency channel overlap with that many devices. Ch 1,6,11 are the only non overlapping and auto sense has never impressed me when two wireless routers/AP's are next to each other and pick the same channel
Are there any models you or anyone else would suggest?
Even if you were to go with commercial AP to make the administration easier the design is similar. You need to try to balance the number of active users per AP and keep the number as low as possible. The recommended number is about 7 in a business environment but that always assumed there would not be steaming of video. Since everyone pretty much just transmits at the same time on wireless the more users the more overlap transmission and the more errors you see. The number of AP needed many times is trial and error when you cannot predict the traffic types.
There are 2 designs. You divide you area up based on users/AP and then place AP in those areas using different channels in adjoining areas. Or you put in multiple AP on different channels in a central location and tell the users to select the one you assigned to them.
In large configuration you use a combination of both which then give you the reuse of channel problem. Normally the way to solve this is to turn the transmit power down so the overlap area is minimized. You never want to let the routers auto select the channel you want to control everything.
The most common issue you will find is that G or even worse B devices degrade performance when running with N. You really if at all possible want dedicated AP to run N and G. As you point out this get tricky with only 3 channels to choose from. I know we gave up on one site and only ran G on 2.4g and N on 5g. So only users that had dual band cards could run N. It was much more stable running only G that running a mix. Never was sure if it was a issue with the APs (they were commercial HP) or if it was just running mixed mode.
Go check the price on the controller appliance thing on the commercial systems. This is what lets you do central management and much more. If this price does not scare you away then I suspect you will similar. I have used systems from HP,ayaya,cisco and belair. They all work about the same it mostly which software on the management console you like the best.