NA - Office Wifi Network

Discussion in 'Technical Corner' started by Lando, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. Lando

    Lando Pre-Flight

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    We’re moving to bigger office next month and I need to set up a little more robust WiFi network to ensure maximum performance everywhere from the lobby to a garage on the back of the building. The new space will be about 4,000 sq. ft. and I’m comfortable tackling IT projects on my own if they aren’t too complicated and/or I can find detailed how-to instructions. Does anyone have recommendations for a fairly simple setup with multiple routers/extenders that do NOT require connecting to a separate _ext network? I currently use a Nighthawk router and love the performance, but I have a suspicion there will be too many walls and interference at the new office.
     
  2. chartbundle

    chartbundle Line Up and Wait

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    Ubiquiti UniFi ( https://www.ubnt.com ) Although I'm not sure what you mean by _ext network. Real networks use wires from the access points to the main switch(which usually uses Power Over Ethernet to also power the access points) for the office which then connects to the router for the office. Ubiquiti does have a mesh product so you'd just put one access point near the router and join the rest wirelessly, but as usual the performance at the end of the chain will be suboptimal, especially if you're using it for anything higher performance than internet access.
     
  3. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    If _ ext means “Ethernet” then @chartbundle covered it.

    Basic information wasn’t covered to even start to answer the question properly.

    How many users?

    What’s the speed of the Internet connection?

    Any credit card or other PII data going anywhere near this network?

    Any need for user authentication to join it?

    Any need for VLANs or other methods of isolating one group of users (employees) and networks from others (guests)?

    Etc etc etc.
     
  4. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    If you're just setting a larger version of what you already have, there's not really any additional things to talk about. You can use multiple access points, just program them to use different frequency channels so they won't interfere with each other. You might have to play around with them to get them playing nice with other wireless networks nearby. Use the same SSID and password on all of them and devices should pick up the strongest one.

    The rest of the questions are more about general IT security that you should be asking whether you have one or 100 wireless access points.
     
  5. Lando

    Lando Pre-Flight

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    Great questions and food for thought...thanks. I guess I never even thought that separate wireless devices would be hard-wired, I always just assumed they were daisy-chained.
    • _ext: If my main wifi network is named "abcnetwork", all of the wifi range extenders I've seen require you to connect to a separate network name such as "abcnetwork_ext"...I want to make sure people only have a single name to choose from ("abcnetwork")
    • 5-10 users will be on the network at a time
    • Speed will be approx. 100-down and 10-up
    • No credit card data...just basic office operations (email, online research, SharePoint access, VOIP phone system and an occasional video conference)
    • Nothing robust needed for user authentication or VLANs...just a password protected wifi network and probably a guest network as well
    I just realized there are a couple Sonicpoint Ni devices mounted to the ceiling (see attached). I'll give them a call to see if I can simply plug those into my Nighthawk router. In the meantime, if anyone has recommendations for a good system, I'm all ears. Thanks again!
     

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  6. Lando

    Lando Pre-Flight

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    Hmmm, so are you saying I can simply set up multiple Nighthawk routers (here's what I currently use: https://www.netgear.com/home/products/networking/wifi-routers/R7000.aspx) and program them to have the same network name and password? If so, that sounds like a really easy solution.
     
  7. Lando

    Lando Pre-Flight

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    Thanks...this looks like it could be a good option if the Sonicpoint Ni that I just realized is already there can't be connected to my router.
     
  8. bflynn

    bflynn En-Route

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    There's different ways to do it. If each router will have a hardwired home run back to your data closet, then you can just set them up as normal with different channels. They're essentially independent devices and they don't even have to be the same brand. If you don't hardwire, then set up one router as normal and set the others up as in bridge mode - there's instructions in the Nighthawk manual on how to do this.
     
  9. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    What are they hooked to now? They appear to already have Ethernet already run to their location(s).
     
  10. Lando

    Lando Pre-Flight

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    They are connected to a Sonicwall firewall/router on the other side of the building. The other tenant in our building is downsizing (we took over about 2/3 of the building) but they are still in the building and using the main hub...they just left the access points in our side of the building. I just got off the phone with Sonicwall, who manufactures the sonicpoint Ni, and it sounds like I would need to purchase a $650 TZ300 from them to make the existing access points work. Sounds like my best bet might just be setting up two separate Nighthawk routers or possibly the Unifi that @chartbundle mentioned.
     
  11. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    Ahh I see. Yeah. Those Sonicwall access points are “decent”. I think you can find TZ300 cheaper than that, used, but Sonicwall will usually want a support contract on them for support and updates.

    The Unifi APs are what we’re using at the office. They are not “plug and play” and need a Windows box that’s “always on” for the management server software to at least set them up (they’ll run after they’re set up without it but it’s better to have it) and Ubiquiti makes a little embedded device that can do that job also. Dollar wise they’ll end up about the same with one of those. We got the new Pro version to extend our office space after construction for about $80/unit but we already have PoE switches for our phone system that’ll drive the APs also.

    Four of them more than adequately cover a warehouse sized building though. Excellent units. They also authenticate users from our Windows domain with some setup and handle four VLANs for six companies. M

    Watch out. Some of their devices use a non-standard PoE.

    But they just sit there and run. We had a memory leak on them that required a restart about once in six months in the past but a patch eventually fixed that.
     
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  12. Lando

    Lando Pre-Flight

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    Thanks for all the info everyone...it is incredibly helpful!
     
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  13. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    @Lando also — and I hate to recommend these without experience with them — there are some newer HOME systems that use a separate band/frequency to build a “mesh” (really it’s just a background network) between multiple access points and then those service users without need for wires...

    But they’re just as spendy as what I would deem “business class” and have bandwidth limitations between the devices.

    If you had to have something “up and running tomorrow” they’re maybe an option, but you’d plan to replace them with business class APs managed correctly in the “nearish” future. Easier initial setup, problematic down the road. Google makes one and there’s some others, but my gut feel from reading about them is they’re not stable enough for a business environment.

    That said, they’d work in a pinch.

    Technically even a few old Apple Airports used would do that as well with their “extend a wireless network” feature. They’ve killed their WiFi product division and there’s no sign they want to be in that business anymore, but the old units do that fine, if not somewhat slow.

    Ten users and 100Mb though? They’d work. The old tiny units would be very unobtrusive sitting on desks in a corner also.

    This assumes you have a Mac to manage them with the Airport Utility.

    They also have almost zero options to do any sort of VLAN support or advanced networking but I doubt you need it for ten users.

    So there’s some other options. I just hesitate to tell a business to use them but for your size one of these little “mesh” systems might do just fine.

    It’s essentially what you’d be doing with one of those routers you mentioned — putting them in bridging mode and having them bridge back to a central unit — but the Apple and newer systems do all the config for you.

    Whether they’d need reboots or have other problems with speed regularly, I can’t say. I have a three node Airport setup at home mostly because we have crap internet anyway (10Mb / 2Mb) in our rural location so WiFi speed never taxes anything and everything going to the Internet is slow. Ha. It just sits here and runs and covers the whole house.

    One bigger older Airport unit in the corner office where the microwave system Ethernet comes in from the roof, and then two of their tiny Airport units, one upstairs and one downstairs, extending that network. Setup is brain dead simple for those.
     
  14. Lando

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    Thanks for the additional idea. We don’t take possession of the new space until the first of the month so I definitely have time to look at options and make the right choice. Much appreciated!
     
  15. Cas Hoefman

    Cas Hoefman Filing Flight Plan

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    VOIP phone system... make sure you do something with VLANS/QOS to segregate that traffic otherwise your voice quality will drop dramatically as soon as more than a few people start browsing the web...
     
  16. weilke

    weilke Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I found the Ubiquity Pro access points to be easy to install. They have been very stable over the two years I have been using them. They are hooked up to a PoE switch to keep the wiring simple.
     
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  17. CT4ME

    CT4ME Cleared for Takeoff

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    Use a mesh network. Google wifi, Linksys velob and netgear orbi are popular. We've setup several 6-9,000 sq ft houses with Google and it worked out great. Superb coverage with only one network name and the ability to roam the whole space without changing to diff "_ext" networks. It handles bands and picks protocols for fastest throughput.
    That being said... 'still not a fan of using wifi when wired is possible. Of the criteria (speed, reliability, security & convenience) wifi generally sucks at all, except convenience.
     
  18. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    That was the stuff I was saying to use as a backup plan or quick fix before doing it right.

    Problem is, you won’t find any reviews of them handling 100 users. Ten for him, so they’ll probably behave.

    And no way to integrate them with user authentication or VLANs or any of the usual must-do corporate stuff if their business grows, or gets acquired by a larger company that has to segregate networks and prove via audits that only authorized users are on the WiFi.

    For ten users and a company too small to do it right... yeah, mesh if you have to... and get one with dedicated non-WiFi piggyback bandwidth between the units.