“What should I look for in an access point,” you ask? Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6? 2×2:2, 3×3:3, 4×4:4? OFDMA or not? Confused yet? Well, buying high-tech hardware means you’re likely to be pelted with meaningless acronyms and technical blather that doesn’t mean a thing to most normal people. But Corporate Armor is here to help. We carry several lines of excellent access points that cover the entire range of needs, use cases, and budget. Can’t-miss brands like Meraki, Aruba, Sophos, and Fortinet, to name a few.
Nowadays, technology – specifically the Internet – is woven into nearly everything we do. And everybody knows the frustration involved in losing connectivity.
More employees than ever work at least a portion of the time outside the office. Some days, the number of connections to your network will be low. Other days, it will be high. And it’s these changing needs that make selecting wireless access points very important.
First of all, you need to take in to account the environment your access point will be operating in. You also need to factor in your personal threshold for what we will call tech-shellshock. Don’t misunderstand, nowadays, IT technology is more accessible and easy to use than ever. But some brands have put extra effort into designing their solutions to be easy for non-IT types to set up and deploy.
A few factors to consider
Tally up simultaneous connections on the average day and also on a peak day. This includes phones, tablets and laptops.
Also, count the number of walls the signal must pass through in a worst-case scenario. This will affect your connectivity and the solution that you will require.If you have a lot of wals to penetrate, the AP should have a built-in high-gain antenna and a multi-power amplifier design. This can greatly improve the signal strength and penetration ability.
What type of information will be transmitted over the wireless connection? Data, voice or video? This is important because voice and video require stronger and more capable wireless equipment to maintain a good experience.
Consider whether you will need meshing. If you have more than two WAPs in range, you may want them “meshed.” Meshing allows a device to seamlessly connect and reconnect to the WAP and the strongest signal. APs that do not support meshing will result in your device disconnecting and reconnecting as you move around. This may cause work interruptions for people in multiple locations.
Is there power at installation site? If not, a PoE switch will need to be added to the network. Then, power can be supplied over the Ethernet cable.
Wi-Fi 5 or Wi-Fi 6?
Do you really need an 802.11ax access point? Maybe, maybe not. WiFi 6 is designed specifically for high-density settings. What WiFi 6 does, is it opens up more lines for endpoints to talk on, so they don’t have to wait as long for their turn. It also allows more data into each packet, which can increase total throughput nearly 40%. It’s not so much that it moves the ‘traffic’ (data) faster, it opens more lanes for it to travel on. But the net result is that it moves things along faster.
Another sort of big feature is called OFDMA. Long story short, it causes the access point to break up it’s bandwidth into sub-channels that move data along more efficiently.
So, you end up with a lot less latency. As a result, you get better coverage, lower interference, and improved flexibility. This leads to increased overall efficiency in small-packet applications in dense environments.
Think of OFDMA like a zip file. When you have a sizeable graphic or other file you want to email, you compress it. With lossless compression, you are just simplifying the data in the file more efficiently for ‘travel.’ Think of OFDMA like that.
The 2.4 GHz band is becoming increasingly crowded and less functional. It’s a good idea for your access point to support 2.4 GHz for compatibility with older devices, and 5 GHz support for newer devices. So you’ll want to purchase a dual-band access point that supports both.
802.11n introduced MIMO (multiple in, multiple out). Basically, MIMO means we get multiple radio chains and antennas to transmit and receive with. The more radio chains, the more sensitive the WiFi radio is. This makes it send and receive more accurately. That means more reliability and speed. Basically, the more spatial streams, the better!
Most small devices like phones and tablets have a 1×1 radio, or 1 radio chain. It conserves space and power. Laptops generally have either a 2×2 radio or 3×3 radio. On an access point, try to go with at least a 2×2 radio. However, 3×3 is better. This will get you the best speed and performance, even if you have a bunch of 1×1 and 2×2 clients.
SMB or enterprise?
There’s a big difference between a home router and an enterprise-grade access point. In a home environment, a $40 SOHO router will work fine, and will handle a few clients with ease.
In a serious high-performance environment, a pile of off-the-shelf routers probably won’t perform well. They’ll handle about 25 clients (each) max, will have poor roaming performance, no band steering, and few configuration options. You’ll pay about $30-$100 each for them.
A business-grade device, on the other hand, will support hundreds of clients each, have much better roaming, and proper band steering. This means users are automatically put on the best band.
They are highly configurable for specific, high-performance network designs. Usually, they require controller or cloud-based management. The entry-level, 802.11ac access point from Aruba, the AP 207, is an 802.11ac device with 2×2:2 dual-radio, and it starts at $346. The Meraki MR30H is comparable, and it starts at $445.
We hope this has been helpful. We have many other choices, and we also have tons of experience in helping people just like you find just what they need, right on (or under) budget. So bring all your needs and question to Corporate Armor by emailing us, or calling 877-449-0458. Thanks for reading!
Things to look for in an access point
|Supports 802.11n and 802.11ac at least|
|Supports 5 GHz, to be ready for the future|
|At least 2×2 spatial streams|
|Don’t skimp if you really need an enterprise network|
|Do you need UL/DL OFDMA?|