How to sabotage your wireless network
Consumer-grade wireless gear and a consumer mind-set are bad for business networks
Of course, many organizations will be concerned with putting the ultimate control of an important asset into the hands of a third party. Meraki may not be a good fit for a three-letter federal agency or a bank that requires maximum security and control. Meraki is a clearer win for organizations such as small businesses and educational institutions where security requirements are less stringent, and ease of deployment, low cost, and manageability are top concerns. Regardless of the nature of the business, any organization considering Meraki (or any cloud solution) should weigh the cost savings of outsourcing against the loss of direct control.
Wireless LANs: Beyond the home network
Another good option is the Netgear ProSafe wireless LAN system. Combining the ProSafe WNDAP350 wireless access points and the ProSafe WMS5316 wireless LAN controller, the Netgear solution should appeal to cost-conscious businesses that prefer to maintain their own infrastructure because of security priorities. The Netgear WAPs support simultaneous 802.11a and 80211b/g/n networking, and the controller can handle a maximum of 16 WAPs. The system will automatically reassign channels to minimize radio interference and will provide fair load balancing of wireless users. It supports multiple VLANs and multiple SSIDs, so you can configure separate networks for guests, the sales department, and so on.
The Netgear ProSafe wireless LAN system is a great fit for a small business, providing reliable performance at a reasonable cost. A small IT team with average skills could easily install and maintain this device, though initial setup may present a significant hurdle. Infrastructure, maintenance, and support costs will be higher than with the Meraki solution, due to Netgear's less elegant design and its weak technical support. If you have moderately experienced IT staff, the Netgear solution can be extremely cost-effective, particularly when security restrictions outweigh ease of use. Netgear has a well-engineered, business-grade solution, but (at least in our experience) has not yet backed it with business-grade technical support.
The Netgear and Meraki solutions are worthy of consideration for any small to medium-size deployment. They are several orders of magnitude more capable and reliable than their consumer-grade counterparts, and at the same time significantly less expensive than traditional enterprise solutions. Depending on the nature of your business and the time and skills you have available, you could offload the management infrastructure to the cloud or keep everything in-house. Either way, you get great manageability and room for growth.
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