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Managed Wi-Fi: Cut the 'Cord,' Head to the Cloud
As everyone knows, users today consider Wi-Fi access as another one of their proverbial birthrights, just like dial tone. That's one of the reasons why I recently decided to forego managing a new Wi-Fi network in favor of using a managed Wi-Fi service.
Using Adtran's ProCloud Wi-Fi service gives me a layer of support that I didn't previously have. The benefit is I now have two Wi-Fi watchdogs: the users, because they will demand to know why Wi-Fi is down or not performing to their expectations, and my managed Wi-Fi service provider, Adtran.
Of course, before I decided to use a cloud-based managed Wi-Fi service, I did my due diligence. Operationally, cloud-hosted Wi-Fi service requires Internet access, as does the "control" element of the wireless access points (WAP). With cloud-hosted Wi-Fi, loss of a switch or power won't bring down all the WAPs (unless there's a complete blackout). Using a managed services also means shifting the server "utility" to the cloud, where it belongs, in my opinion.
When the corporate office was under construction, I did several walk-throughs -- an old-fashioned but highly effective methodology for conducting a site survey. I insisted on use of Category 6A plenum cable for all WAPs. These are monster-sized cables, but they provide protection against future cabling limitations (although even better would be to have fiber for all WAPs). I marked up and submitted the floor plans to an Adtran engineer.
I've repeated this process multiple times in numerous environments with positive results, and I know plenty of others who do the same. Adtran used the location's architectural plans I submitted to do heat mapping for sizing and locating WAPs. The Adtran engineer's WAP count was off my own by only one. The value-add is getting another opinion and resource to ensure successful Wi-Fi penetration.
Adtran provides basic network documentation; the WAPs for all locations and subnets have private static IPs and the originating public IPs from where to expect traffic are set up in Adtran's firewall. When we received the WAPs from Adtran, all we had to do was install them, tag their switch ports as trunks, and grant appropriate VLAN access rights. WAP firmware updates from ProCloud took 20 minutes or less, and then our SSIDs were broadcast and Wi-Fi was live.
Once again, an Adtran engineer requested drawings and distances between all WAPs. This additional small step is golden, a painless step aimed at fine-tuning signal strength. After initial turn-up, Adtran provides credentials and access to ProCloud interface for viewing WAPs and clients across the enterprise. Our internal efforts were focused on the initial planning and discussions -- not during and after the implementation.
For my reasons stated, managed Wi-Fi using Adtran's ProCloud is a win.
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