Friday, December 16, 2016

Naughty or nice? Meraki's December AP announcement hits both lists

Just in time for the holiday season and network planning for 2017, Cisco Meraki's announcements this month are packed with key changes to their WiFi product family.
Meraki's new MR30H 802.11ac Wave 2 hospitality AP
MSRP: $599

Meraki's first hospitality AP - the MR30H
Landing on the "nice" list are two new AP models that IT departments (particularly in hospitality) would love to find under the Christmas tree. First, we'll look at the MR30H - a 2x2 802.11ac Wave 2 access point, designed specifically for hospitality environments.

Like other hospitality APs, the MR30H features a non-obtrusive and pleasing aesthetic often sought after in hotel environments.

However, unlike competing models, it also comes with a built-in 4-port gigabit ethernet switch. While the Multi-User MIMO capabilities of wave 2 access points handle a heavier load of wireless devices than previous WiFi standards, the availability of ethernet ports to offload TVs, gaming counsels, desktop computers, etc via ethernet cable helps keep that growing WiFi demand in check - especially in college dorm settings. Oh, and it's got an integrated blue-tooth (BLE) radio, too, primed and ready to support location services and analytics.

Built in 4-port switch for the MR30H
Cisco Meraki already sports the most user-friendly monitoring and configuration interface of any competing enterprise networking solution, and the MR30H is a boon to the hospitality industry, where qualified IT personnel are often limited. Meraki is easy enough for most non-IT managers to navigate with success, and worth consideration at an MSRP of $599 per AP in an era where hotel guests care more about steady WiFi in their rooms than a functioning toilet.

Good things in small packages - the MR33
The MR30H isn't the only new arrival to Meraki's AP family, though, as the MR33 gives the gift of stretching IT budgets a little farther for those looking to migrate to the latest WiFi standard.

New MR33 802.11ac Wave 2 AP
MSRP: $649
This 2x2 802.11ac Wave 2 unit packs a powerful punch at a $649 MSRP. It also includes an integrated BLE radio, so a WiFi system built with MR33s is ready for marketing departments looking to onboard location services and analytics - if they haven't already. Retail in particular stands to benefit substantially from leveraging WiFi infrastructures in this fashion, which means the savvy IT Director can make a case for marketing budgets to contribute to improving BLE equipped access points.

But what really makes the MR33 stand out (or not stand out, rather) is its decreased physical profile. At only 8.5 x 4.3 x 1.3 inches in size, it's takes up nearly half the space of Meraki's other APs, and without sacrificing coverage range. As with all Meraki hardware, a software and support license is required, which gets you next business day replacement in the event of hardware failure, as well as 24x7 phone support.

The MR18 will only be offered
through 3/31/2017
End of sale for MR18s
In considering the "naughty" side of Meraki's December announcement, their flagship 802.11n AP will no longer be available to order after March 31, 2017.

The "n" WiFi standard has been widely considered legacy since the emersion of 802.11ac in 2014. As WiFi devices continue to proliferate on the new 802.11ac standard, the need for APs that support a higher density of users has certainly risen. While 802.11n will continue to suffice in many low-density and residential environments, enterprise networks should take this as a sign to upgrade if plans aren't already in the works to do so. Given the MR18's price point of $649 per unit, the new MR33 serves as a direct substitution / replacement on the newest standard.

In our experience, we've seen some level of discord between 802.11n APs and 802.11ac APs serving clients in the same physical spaces on the same network. If upgrading to AC needs to happen in stages at your organization, we recommend keeping your older N access points grouped and separated from the new AC clusters for the best user experience.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ubiquiti announces new fiber products

It has certainly been an eventful year for Ubiquiti's product development teams.

So far we have seen releases ranging from new 802.11ac access points, to new 1080p HD security cameras, to a new in-home "AmpliFi" WiFi system. And now, Ubiquiti has announced more fiber products to compliment the fiber switches they released earlier this year.

The new fiber offerings include SFP and SFP+ transceivers, as well as pre-terminated cable assemblies - necessary components for IT professionals building or maintaining 1 Gbps or 10 Gbps fiber backbones. There are many flavors of fiber optics standards out there, each suited for certain distances and speeds.

Ubiquiti offers two multi-mode transceiver models: one for SFP supporting 1 Gbps speeds (UF-MM-1G), and one for SFP+ supporting 10 Gbps speeds (UF-MM-10G). Three single-mode options include: a 1 Gbps SFP (UF-SM-1G-S) with Bi-directional technology (BiDi), and two 10 Gbps SFP+ options - one with BiDi technology (UF-SM-10G-S) and one without (UF-SM-10G).

All models come in either 2-packs, or 20-packs. The UF-MM-1G retails for $17 / $150; the UF-MM-10G for $38 / $360; the UF-SM-1G-S for $22 / $190; the UF-SM-10G for $160 / $1,450; and the UF-SM-10G-S for $85 / $750.

Along with the transceivers, Ubiquiti also offers steel-armored, outdoor-rated, six-strand single-mode fiber cable assemblies. Their ideal use is for tower installations that also utilize Ubiquiti's outdoor routing and switching products, like EdgePoint. A 100 ft length (FC-SM-100) MSRPs for $59, the 200 ft length (FC-SM-200) for $89, and the 300 ft length (FC-SM-300) for $119.

Ubiquiti has built a solid reputation of price disruption, and their fiber products are no exception. With this year's new fiber offerings, building a 10 Gig fiber backbone to enable a network with high availability is quite affordable. Ubiquiti also plans to begin shipping their US-16-XG in December - a switch with 16 SFP+ ports for 10 Gig fiber managed on their UniFi platform, and that's good news for IT departments that have already embraced UniFi for WiFi, switching, and / or routing needs.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

HPE / Aruba Networks drops price on 802.11ac with new products

Aruba Networks, an HPE company, is looking to grow their footprint in enterprise WiFi in 2017 and warm the hearts of IT professionals. How? Competitive pricing. That's how.

Aruba's new AP-207, AP-304/305
We'll start with the new AP-207, a 2x2 dual-band 802.11ac Wave 1 access point that MSRPs for $395. Compare this to the AP-205, Aruba's 2x2 ac AP of yesteryear retailing for $695. That comes out to about a 44% discount for the same level of hardware. While the AP-205 does offer a flavor with external antennas (AP-204), if internal antennas will work for your deployment, there is no longer a reason to look at AP-205's.

The AP-207 also features an integrated low-energy bluetooth (BLE) radio, so it's ready to participate with location service beacon solutions like Meridian. The AP-205, in contrast, is capable of rocking a dedicated radio for spectrum analysis. Personally, I'd rather pay $300 less for a BLE-ready access point.

Aruba didn't stop with the AP-207's though. They have also announced a new 802.11ac Wave 2 model that's easier on IT budgets. The AP-304/305 is a 3x3 Wave 2 unit that weighs in at a relatively gentle $695 MSRP. These APs offer Multi-user MIMO, 80 MHz channel widths and integrated BLE.

While you might notice the AP-304/305's are lacking the 160 MHz channel sizes normally afforded by the Wave 2 standard, it's also worth noting that there are very few viable applications for channel widths of that size. Even 80 MHz is ill-advised for most deployments. This is because WiFi demands are shifting more and more toward supporting larger and larger densities of connecting devices, and the leading experts in the industry generally agree that the best way to handle that density is in opening up as many 20 MHz channels as you can. The above graphic shows how a single 160 MHz channel uses the same spectrum as up to eight 20 MHz channels. Those extra channels are like extra lanes on the highway for multiple clients to connect on. When it comes to the most practical use-cases, the AP-304/305 is a great option for serving high-density indoors.

Currently, only campus versions of these new APs are available - meaning you'll have to pick up a separate virtual controller or hardware appliance to use them. They also only run on AOS 6.5. However, Aruba plans to have Instant flavors (autonomous APs that don't require a controller) available in the first quarter of 2017 with compatibility for AOS 8.0.

We're also crossing our fingers for the 5-4-3 "WiFi Without Worries" Aruba promotion to be extended past its current Oct. 31 expiration date. This special promotion for customers new to Aruba grants two free Instant access points of the same or lesser value model when you purchase three (literally, five for the price of three). It can also be tapped twice in the same order for up to four free APs. If that promo is extended into 2017 when the Instant AP-207's become available, IT managers who have shied away from Aruba in the past due to sticker shock will do well to take another look. is a division of Copper Wireless LLC, authorized partners/resellers with HPE / Aruba Networks, Cisco Meraki, Fortinet / Meru Networks, as well as selling Ubiquiti Networks equipment. If you have any questions regarding an order, product offerings, network design, how cloud or enterprise networking works or just want to say hello, feel free to give us a call at 1-888-331-7490, or email us at

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New stuff from Meraki: security cameras and outdoor AP

Meraki's fall product release for 2016 includes some intriguing new offerings, including the release of yet another family - Meraki Vision for enterprise surveillance.

There are two security camera models: the MV21 and MV71. Both capture at 720p video quality. The primary difference between the two is their durability, as the MV71 stands up to harsh weather conditions (it's got an internal heater!) as well as the potential abuse of vandals. That's an important feature, because unlike most surveillance solutions, Meraki's video is saved directly on a the camera's 128 Gig hard drive - not on a central NVR.

Meraki MV21
I have to admit, that particular feature puzzled me at first. What happens to the footage if someone destroys the camera? The short answer: it's gone.

However, storing footage from several cameras on a central NVR comes with its own risks. If the NVR goes down, you loose ALL of your camera footage, not just one view. Backing up footage to the cloud means you'll be clogging your internet pipe with video uploads, in addition to paying storage fees.

Furthermore, MV cameras continue to record as long as they are powered, even if the local network is otherwise down, which is typically not the case in a more traditional NVR deployment.

Meraki MV71
Most camera designs are already looking to place cameras out of the easy reach of potential vandals as well as cover other cameras in a given deployment. At that point, storing video on the camera itself seems a reasonable solution, as it avoids the need for another on-premise device in a high-storage capacity NVR.

Still, a back-up option for Meraki's video footage is a bit of a gap in their current offering. I'd be surprised if if that option isn't on their short list of new features to roll out in the near future.

The MV21 retails for $1,299, and the MV71 for $1,499. Each unit also requires a license for $300 / year (includes support and next day replacement). Licensing can also be purchased in bulk for added discounts ($600 for 3 year; $900 for 5 year, etc).

Meraki MR84 w/ external antennas
Meraki also announced the MR84 - an outdoor AP featuring external antennas, four spatial streams and 802.11ac Wave 2 technology. The AP also includes Meraki's recently released multigigabit ethernet port, as well as a standard gigabit ethernet port.

The MR84 represents an expected expansion to Meraki's outdoor options with the latest and fastest WiFi technology. Before the MR84, the MR72 served as Meraki's primary outdoor offering, but only includes three spatial streams at the 802.11ac wave 1 standard. The MR84 is built for more density and retails for $2,399.

Meraki continues to set the bar high among the competition when it comes to simplified, intuitive network management for small IT departments as well as for individuals without traditional network administration experience. Meraki's cloud solution is built out-of-the-box for fast-growing enterprises looking for quick deployment solutions that are easy to manage and configure.

This year alone, we've seen Cisco Meraki offer new product families and cloud-based networking solutions in IP phones, and now video surveillance. It'll be interesting to see where they go next.

These new products are available now. Demos are also available for IT departments looking to test things out before committing to anything. For more information, contact us at, or give us a call at (888) 331-7490.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Ubiquiti's EdgeMax announcement just unlocked 10-gig for everyone

Ubiquiti's penchant for disrupting enterprise networking continues. This month, they're dropping the hammer on 10-gig switching with the announcement of the ES-16-XG.

EdgeSwitch 16 XG

This EdgeSwitch sports 16 SFP+ ports, and another 4 RJ45 ports -- all capable of 10 Gbps. The usual layer-2 functions like link aggregation and VLAN tagging are supported, and it also comes with limited layer-3 features with a DHCP server and static routing.

MSRP is only $599. You can expect to shell out thousands for 16 SFP+ ports on one switch from other vendors. No ETA just yet on when it will be available, though we'll have an announcement in our monthly newsletter when it is. You can subscribe for that at the bottom of our website, (be sure to check your SPAM folder for the required email confirmation).

Ubiquiti also announced an 8-port flavor of their PoE+ EdgeSwitching family - the ES-8-150W.
EdgeSwitch 8 150W

The 8 RJ45 ports support Gigabit speeds, as well as the 2 SFP ports. Up to 150W of power is available for PoE+ and 24V Passive PoE.

This addition to the EdgeSwitch offerings has been anticipated, as Ubiquiti released an 8-port model for the UniFi family earlier this year. The unit MSRPs for $199 - same as the UniFi model (US-8-150W).

Ubiquiti's August announcement also includes some highly anticipated EdgeRouter software updates. V1.8.5 is here and offers hardware offload for packet forwarding, per-port VLAN feature, and traffic analysis and DPI support. These features are available on the ER-X, ER-X-SFP, and EP-R6.

Additionally, the alpha release of v1.9.0alpha1 is available for IT pros eager to start testing the next wave of upgrades. These feature offerings include IPsec crypto offload (ER-X, ER-X-SFP, and EP-R6), a web UI switch wizard that allows you to setup the router as a simple layer-2 switch (ER-X, ER-X-SFP, and EP-R6), and for all models, IPv6 DHCP prefix delegation configuration in the web UI setup wizard.

You can grab these software releases on Ubiquiti's Community Forum here.

As Ubiquiti continues to expand product offerings at a fraction of the cost of their competitors, do-it-yourself network administrators and IT professionals are enjoying more options. Provided the hardware works as advertised, it's a profoundly necessary trend, as IT infrastructure demands are outpacing the pool of skilled professionals available to provide services. As hardware costs are driven down, those with less experience are more able to experiment with the gear and learn how to use it.

For our part, we'll continue to post instructional videos on our YouTube channel for Ubiquiti configurations and reviews as the products become available.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

WiFi Alliance Expands "Certified" AC Standards

The WiFi Alliance just made it easier for IT directors to pick out client devices with the latest and greatest 802.11ac Wave 2 capabilities. The latest revision to the "Certified" stamp for 802.11ac indicates wireless gear with some key new operating standards.

Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MU-MIMO)
This Wave 2 AC feature improves upon Single User MIMO technology, which allows one client device to communicate wirelessly with an access point across multiple spatial streams at the same time. Before MIMO, client devices could only transmit on one radio spatial stream at a time.

Image from
Multi-user MIMO now allows multiple client devices to simultaneously transmit and receive data from a compliant access point, which is an important innovation to meet the increased density and demand more and more wireless clients are placing on wireless networks. Most mobile devices these days only have enough antennas in them to communicate across 1 or 2 spatial streams. However, access points often have 3 or 4 spatial streams available. MU-MIMO allows an access point to use all of those spatial streams to serve data requests from more devices at once. Moving forward, 802.11ac "Certified" devices will support Multi-user MIMO.

160 MHz Channels
The 802.11ac standard allows devices to utilize significantly larger channel bandwidths. While 802.11n only permitted 20 MHz and 40 MHz channels on the 5 GHz band, with 802.11ac, 80 MHz, and 160 MHz sized-channels are possible. The bigger the channel, the higher the data transfer rate.

The previous version of the Certified stamp for 802.11ac only guaranteed use with 80 MHz channels. The new version promises compatibility for 160 MHz channels.

Image from
However, it's worth noting that the leading WiFi experts still only recommend 20 MHz channels be used in high-density areas, because the 5 GHz frequency band has room for significantly more channels at that size. When you crank things up to 180 MHz, there are only two non-overlapping channels available, and your data transmissions are subject to much more interference, which in turn slows down your transfer rates. While it's nice to know the "Certified" AC stamp means 160 MHz is supported, the actual use-cases for channels of that size are going to be very rare -- even if you can manage to find a clean RF environment to use them in.

Four Spatial Streams
The latest "Certified" indicator from the WiFi Alliance means the device can operate on four spatial streams, a boost from the three promised previously. That means a potential 33% boost in transfer speeds over the same devices communicating with only three spatial streams.

When it comes to designing your network infrastructure, it's important to remember that the slowest device in a data chain will act as a bottle neck within that chain, and WiFi is no exception. Having 802.11ac Wave 2 access points throughout your building won't impact a performance boost over Wave 1 APs if your client devices aren't also rated for Wave 2 features. While Wave 2 clients are still few and far between (the technology is still fairly new), this new certification standard for 802.11ac from the WiFi Alliance will make it easier for IT to ensure their wireless devices are all firing on the same cylinders.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The first multi-band router released for 802.11ad WiFi standard

TP-Link broke the ice on 802.11ad (also called WiGig) this past month with their release of the Talon AD7200 - the market's first wireless router operating on this WiFi standard.

TP-Link Talon AD7200 wireless router
The Talon AD7200 supports data rates of up to 800 Mbps on it's 2.4 GHz radio, up to 1733 Mbps with 5.0 GHz, and up to 4600 Mbps on the new 60 GHz band. With all radio chains active, this consumer-grade router is capable of handling up to 7200 Mbps, a capacity that is well beyond the average consumer's needs. 

However, the bulk of wireless devices connecting in today's world are still fighting over limited channel space on the 2.4 GHz band, and while the next era of devices are able to connect on faster 5.0 GHz frequencies where there are also more channels available to serve them, WiFi experts are still concerned about future capacity. 

Phenomenons like the Internet of Things (the emergence of WiFi in everyday appliances and devices like watches, TVs, stereos, thermostats, washers/dryers, refrigerators, etc) and Bring Your Own Device (users connecting wirelessly with multiple devices at a time and with a growing array of different kinds of devices) will put a heavy demand on today's WiFi networks. Additionally, new technology like 4k video and virtual reality will mean significantly larger data requests coming from those devices. Exponential devices times exponential data demands means....well....way more powers of WiFi capacity than the majority of systems can handle today! 

But you don't need to be good at math to know 802.11ad will help. Because the new standard operates on the 60 GHz band, connecting devices won't interfere with older ones taking up space on 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands. And that 4600 Mbps data rate is nothing to scoff at either. At more than twice the speed of current 802.11ac devices, routers like the Talon AD7200 are prepared to better serve the large data rates of 4k video - faster even than the Gigabit ethernet ports most of us currently use at home.

As with past innovations to WiFi technology and the release of faster routers and access points, it won't mean a whole lot until compatible client devices hit the markets too. This typically takes a year or two. Additionally, the significantly higher frequency of 60 GHz means obtaining those high data rates will require an unobstructed line of sight between the router and clients, and at shorter distances than we enjoy with 5.0 GHz and 2.4 GHz. Even with these draw-backs, the new technology spells capacity relief for a future full of WiFi.