Thoughts on Ubiquiti

by Colin Berkshire

Our company is very frugal. So were don’t get to play much ion the sphere of Cisco and other higher-end communication companies.

We have “stumbled” into an amazing product for companies with small branch offices and with many offices. It’s also a great headquarters product. It is the Ubiquiti UniFi product line.

The short of it is that you can sprinkle WiFi access points throughout your company and across the globe and everything will be centrally managed and everything will work as one coherent system through a central management point.

Previously we had a patchwork of WiFi access points from many companies. You set them up to use the same SSID and password and users can roam across them. It’s cheap and simple. But when you get many access points it is hard to manage. It’s hard to keep updates, and hard to keep everything synchronized, and hard to manage SSIDs and passwords.

UniFi fixes this simply and cheaply.

In our case we mail out a gateway device (USG) and a management device (Cloud Key) and one or more WiFo Access points (like USG-AC-PRO). Sometimes we may also mail out a replacement switch. Users in the field plug all of the new stuff in and rip out and throw away all of the old stuff.

After they do this, we have a remote branch office that we have full visibility into. Were can set up to 4 SSIDs. We have had a guest SSID that is firewalled from the rest of out organization. We have an internal SSID for equipment and with a password that is very secret and that doesn’t change. And, we have the staff SSID that we can change the password in whenever we want.

We can see what devices are connected. We can see who is using bandwidth. We can blacklist devices. We can assign static IP addresses. We can add routes. We can see the internet speed and bandwidth. There is full visibility into a branch office from far, far away.

Everything is remotely administered from HQ now. The Cloud Key eliminates NAT and firewall access issues. We can add users to the HQ system and they can have full visibility into every branch and can access and administer the branches.It’s all so very simple to do.

The Access Points are super compatible. I have never found any client device that they don’t talk nicely with. Clients hand off between access points gracefully. While the Access Point range isn’t huge (the UAP-AC-PRO is getting us about 10 meters for 5Ghz and about 40~40 meters for 2.4Ghz frequencies) it is reliable. The higher-end models support true POE, so all of the little power packs are gone.

We used to have insanity. Branch offices would be a nightmare with things working and not working, things out of date, difficult to update with security patches, rogue devices.

Today we have sanity. Were just never get calls about Wifi any longer. Everything stays security patched. We can see every site. Guests are controlled. When any device fails we get notified. Speeds are great;. And, everything is compatible.

The prices are great, too. The access points (802.11ac compatible with POE) are about $140. The Cloud Key (one per remote location) is about $80. The gateway device is about $110. It means we can bring a branch office into the system for a cost of under $350. Wow.