to Unifi or not to Unifi, that is my question. I have spoken to a few people and they say Unifi is a quick and cost effective way to get WiFi into schools, however i have heard that once you get too many people using the WiFi it can be a bit of a nightmare. WIth future thoughts of BOYD is Unifi the way to go or do we invest in a more expensive, more thorough model.
What are your thoughts on this?
What is your WiFi access like and what do you use?
I would look at the Aerohive option. This system is modular in nature which would enable you to plan an expanding programme of implementation as your BYOD strategy comes on line and grows.
My understanding is that the intelligent system balances loads so as not to create performance drops as you indicate, all without the need for a controller on the server. The unit prices are cheap, but I believe that there is an annual subscription fee, which ties you into a continual overhead for years to come, but mitigates the need for a large up front investment. Therefore in the medium to long term it may cost more, but at least you get the performance you want now and into the future with a modular system.
Worth a look I think.
I am also looking at systems and several Rotorua schools have taken up Unifi. Warren Hall said to give it a close look when I was at the last regional ictpd meeting in Hamilton. and some ed tech folk I know (well) are saying that Unifi is looking to be a good cheap no ties alternative to Aerohive. I'm testing one of each right now to see how many devices we can get on. What they offer looks pretty similar but Unifi does not go with either the annual licensing or support fees.
Apparently, no matter which system, look at a shelf life of 4 years.
We have recently put UniFi throughout our school and so far have had great results. In the past we have had just the cheapy jobs with a shocking network system which did not mix at all and we ended with loads of problems. Now the school has been snupped and we now have a stable backbone, UniFi works well. Admittedly we have nowhere near loaded it yet. It has given us smooth transition from area to area with no drop offs.
I think that the evidence is that a properly designed and implemented network infrastructure (of which WiFi is a part) can supply the needs of schools. Any of the "Enterprise Grade" WiFi solutions (Cisco, Aerohive, Ruckus, UniFi etc.) as part of this can be both successful and unsuccessful depending on implementation. I will try and keep this post free of too much technical info.
The question of how much to spend and how often is an interesting one. The two real options are to spend up large to get a higher likelyhood of performance and live with it for 4+ years (as you will not readily free up the money to change it) or you spend less on something that allows you to change more frequently. People sometimes reword these sentences to be: "Spending less/more will REQUIRE us to replace sooner/later", I think this is the wrong we to look at it: 4-6 years is a lifetime in ICT terms. There will be at lest 2 order-of-magnitude improvements to wireless througput in that time. For instance, most of the systems that you might put in over christmas this year will be 802.11n on 2.4 and/or 5.0Ghz. It is expected that these vendors will offer (1st gen) 802.11ac equipment in Q2 2013. By the end of the year 802.11ac (2nd gen) equipment will be available that offers significant improvements over 802.11n. If you have to wait 4 years before you upgrade to this you will be dissapointed IMHO.
Given this, the two approaches that you can choose to make are:
- Put in a UniFi system. This will allow you to spend addtional money on your wired infrastructure to upgrade all your switches to managed ones and to look at things like ADSL teaming to improve your internet connection. If you have not been SNUP'ed, you should do this IMHO. If in 2 years time your needs have outgrown it, you may WANT to upgrade and because of the low outlay, you are free to choose any vendor/system you want.
- Put in something else. This will give you a higher likelyhood that in the short to medium term that you will not "outgrow" your wireless network. If minimizing risk is your primary aim, then you should do this. The trade -off is that if you want to upgrade in a couple of year's time, you are constrained by your investment in a particular vendor (you cannot throw out and start again).
It is OK, I think, to have conversations that prove that a UniFi/Aerohive/Ruckus solution can work. I don't think that this forum will allow us generalise and say which is "best".
Please be careful with questions like "how much load can you put on it?" as these questions are not simple to define or answer. Overall performance on a given day has a large number of factors that may affect the percieved performance on the clients. We should be especially wary of asking questions about configuration like "what number of access points did you deploy?" as this is a very site-specific thing: Do you have lots of 2.4ghz interferrence? What is your wall construction like (you may have a wall with mesh that acts as a Farady's cage for instance)? What are your neighbours using? etc.
On the whole, the answers you seek will not be found in these forums: you need to engage an expert to consult with you on your particular situation and requirements. You may get some ideas and it is great to hear success stories of others, but in network infrastructure questions the success or failure of others using a particular design or vendor is not an indicator of whether that design or vendor will work for you.