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.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Meraki's Massive May Product Announcement

Development teams at Cisco Meraki have been busy this year, as new releases for WLAN, switching, and now an IP phone product family hit the presses today. Here's the breakdown of what's new.

4x4 Wave 2 and Multigigabit Access Points

MR52 & MR53 Access Point
The MR52 and MR53 are gracing Meraki's WLAN portfolio. While Meraki announced a 3x3 radio chain wave 2 802.11ac AP earlier this year in the MR42, these 52 & 53 models are faster yet, with 4x4 chains capable of operating with 160 MHz channels. With the use of these larger channels, these APs are now capable of delivering data rates in excess of 1 Gbps. This now means the wired infrastructure of networks sporting 1 Gigabit ethernet lines (most of them) has turned into the new bottleneck for data transfers in a world shifting more and more toward mobile connectivity. The MR52 features dual 1-gig ethernet ports to support link aggregation so wired networks can open up a 2 Gigabit pipeline to these APs over two ethernet lines.

The MR53 also offers two ethernet ports for link aggregation, but one of those ports introduces a new concept we'll be hearing a lot about in the coming years: Multigigabit.

Multigigabit 802.3at PoE Injector
The Multigigabit port on the MR53 can deliver data rates of 1, 2.5, 5, or 10 Gbps. The AP autodetects the capacity of the ethernet line connected to that port, and delivers rates accordingly. The MR52 MSRPs for $1,399, and the MR53 for $1,699 - standard MR licensing also applies ($150 for 1 year, $300 for 3-year, and $450 for 5-year).

To complement the MR53, Meraki also announced a new Multigigabit 802.3at PoE injector, capable of handling the variable data rates while still providing 30W of power. It MSRPs for $399.

Multigigabit and New Fiber Aggregation Switches
MS350-24X Multigagibit Switch

With Multigigabit APs, so to comes a like-minded switch in the new MS350-24X, a 24 port rack-mountable unit with 8 Multigigabit ports. It also features UPoE as an option an any port, which provides up to 60W of power. The remaining 16 ports are 1 Gigabit, and there are 4 SFP uplinks allowing for fiber. Available now for $7,495 MSRP for the hardware.

MS425-32 Fiber Aggregation Swtich
Meraki also announces the MS425 product line - expanding on their fiber aggregation switching family. MS425 comes in 16 port and 32 port flavors, and includes QSFP+ uplinks for up to 40 Gbps data rates. The 16 port version goes for $14,000 MSRP, and the 32 port for $22,000.

Ringing in Summer with IP Phones

Finally, Meraki has released the MC74 - the first model of Cloud Managed Phone managed in the same Dashboard interface users have come to know and love from Meraki products. Not only that, end-users can configure their personal preferences and settings via a web portal, and with this model, teleworkers no longer need to configure a complex VPN design to utilize their phones from off-site locations. Plug them in via ethernet, and they're ready to go.
MC74 Cloud Managed Phone

Meraki's IP phone solution comes with a 7" touch screen, two USB ports, and integrates with Salesforce and Google Aps. The phone itself MSRPs for $599, and the software license is $150 per year. Additionally, the SIP service is required for $8.95 per year. Meraki's warranty on the hardware is good for 2-years - a plus, as most other brands only offer one year.

Meraki Meets New Infrastructure Demands

Meraki products have always set themselves apart from the competition with their ultra-user-friendly layer-7 Dashboard management software. Where other brands require confusing command-line interfaces to create VLANs, VPNs, security policies, etc, Meraki makes simple with a handful of clicks.

Meraki is continues to build on that superior interface foundation with hardware infrastructure that supports new highs in terms of capacity. Releasing APs that can transmit over 1 Gbps doesn't mean much if your switch ports are stuck at that 1 Gigabit limit. So far this year, Meraki is proving that they have thought through these bottlenecks, and provide users with a full-stack solution to keep pace with the data demands of tomorrow.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Meraki Security Appliances just got Awesome...and Free

Cisco Meraki announced a new security feature at the end of March for firewall owners sporting Advanced Security licensing on their MX appliances - Advanced Malware Protection (AMP) now available in open beta.

Cisco's Advanced Malware Protection service is nothing new, but it is just now being extended to Meraki devices as an MX feature. The integration means Meraki now has access to AMP's global threat intelligence database - which includes over 500 million known files and adds another 1 million new malware samples every day.

What's more, AMP also features retrospective file analysis, reaching up to two weeks into the past and alerting you if any malicious files are discovered to have passed through your network in that time.

Free Gear and License
Meraki has historically made it pretty easy for IT professionals to test out their gear. First, by giving away an MR-18 access point for viewing any webinar on their website, and then last year expanding on that idea to also include a free 8-port, PoE switch for watching their "next generation of enterprise switching" webinar. In both cases, you also get a 3-year Enterprise license to go with your free hardware.

Meraki MX64 security appliance
Now, they have further expanded their array of freebies for IT pros to include the MX64 and 3-year Advanced Security license when you take in their "next generation of enterprise security" webinar. The three available time slots to sign up for the webinar quickly filled up at the beginning of the month, but if history is any indication, we hope to soon see this offer renewed in the future. The free switch was initially supposed to be a limited time deal that has since been left open indefinitely due to it's success. Though the MX webinars are full, you can sign up for the free switch here.

Meraki continues to develop and improve the feature sets of its product families at no additional cost to users. While many IT professionals balk at Meraki's recurring licensing model (Meraki devices don't function at all without purchasing a software license that eventually expires), the companies proven history in continuing to expand it's capabilities helps take the edge off. Also covered in those licensing costs is next day replacement and 24/7 access to Meraki's support. Regardless, IT pros have the chance to test out a Meraki solution for free, with no obligation to see if it makes sense for them.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

New switches continue Ubiquiti trend of price disruption

Ubiquiti Networks has released two new switch models so far this year that are sure to turn heads for network administrators on tight budgets.

The EdgeSwitch-12F (ES-12F) announced in January is a managed fiber switch, featuring eight 100/1000 and four Gigabit SFP ports, as well as another four 10/100/1000 RJ45 ports.

EdgeSwitch 12 Fiber
It's certainly an appealing addition to the Ubiquiti's Edge family. It also includes layer 3 functionality and offers up to 16 Gbps of total non-blocking throughput. Additionally, it boasts a 23.81 Mpps forwarding rate -- plenty for a 16 port switch. While there aren't any SFP+ (10 Gbps) ports included, it's hard to complain at $219.00 MSRP. The world's data demands are only growing, and Ubiquiti releasing their first fiber switch is an encouraging sign that acquiring hardware to properly support the needs of the future won't necessarily break the bank.

Also making headlines in the world of Ubiquiti products is this week's announcement of a new 150 Watt, 8-port UniFi Switch, the US-8-150W. This desk mounted switch features PoE / PoE+ as well as 24V passive PoE. The 8 RJ45 ports are all Gigabit, and the box includes two SFP ports as well. As a part of the UniFi switching family, it also supports the UniFi controller software required to manage Ubiquiti APs and USG Routers. 

UniFi 8-port, 150 W, PoE+ switch
As per usual, price-disruption is the name of the game with Ubiquiti, and the US-8-150W is no exception weighing in at $199 MSRP. By comparison, Cisco Meraki's MS-220-8P is the same hardware with a $1,255 price-tag - and that doesn't include licensing.

The ES-12F began showing up on distribution lists in early March, and is available for order here at As the US-8-150W was just announced, we can only speculate that it will be available in the next 2-3 months, as is often the case with new Ubiquiti products. Pre-orders are also available for the US-8-150W here at

Monday, March 21, 2016

Aruba Beacons: a shot in the arm for patient experience

We've come to expect the worst when stepping into a new hospital, and I'm not talking about the dizzying nausea of last season's flu bug. Sure, being sick or hurt is already ruining your day, but add to that the pain of a long lobby wait in a hard plastic chair and navigating a maze of hallways to reach wherever lab 4b is, and you've got the makings of a Snickers commercial starring Joe Pesci.

Bluetooth low energy beacons are making things better.

We first wrote about this technology when Aruba released their beacon solution back in 2014. The beacons are wireless devices about half the size of a hockey puck and placed every 10-25 feet throughout a building. They communicate with and track other mobile devices connecting with Bluetooth via a custom app. This communication allows users to effectively navigate through buildings, locate their colleagues, and automatically trigger other events (like turning nearby lights on / off) based on their location.

We can imagine all kinds of uses for this tech, but healthcare in particular has stumbled upon 3 key benefits of beacon technology.

Happier Patients
Of course, we all strive to satisfy our customers, but with healthcare, the importance of a positive patient experience is especially critical. The Affordable Care Act includes provisions that base government compensation in part on survey feedback that measures and scores overall patient satisfaction when engaging with a given provider. Beacons allow hospitals to effectively engage with their patients through their smart phones, providing navigation through their facilities and real-time updates on wait times. As patients experience this level of engagement, they feel considered and cared for a higher level than before, which leads to higher survey ratings. For healthcare providers, a mobile-savvy patient experience relates directly to increased revenue dollars.

Streamlined Collaboration
These beacons impact healthcare on more fronts than just the patient's engagement - they mean a lot to staff, too. Because mobile device locations are continuously tracked in a beacon environment, nurses and doctors can quickly see which of their colleagues are at work and where they are. Because another aspect of compensation for healthcare providers is based on results, not just the time spent with a patient, physicians need to perform efficiently to accurately diagnose and treat patients, which demands seamless collaboration.

Keeping Patient Data Secure
Anyone who's ever shared an office space with others knows what it's like to share IT resources. In healthcare, printers are a sore spot of sharing due to the risk of sensitive patient information being unnecessarily shared with others. Doctors have to walk all over hospitals, and they are rarely right next to a printer when they need information. This leads to protected health information sitting in printer trays, sometimes for hours at a time until it gets collected. Beacons have been used to eliminate that risk. Doctors can hold print jobs in a list on their phone, and print them when the beacons sense they are within an acceptable range of a printer.

The above examples are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possible applications of location analytics, and already, the benefits for healthcare alone are significant. As the next generation of patients engages with healthcare, they will look more favorably on organizations that value a mobile option for that engagement, and as current compensation structures emphasize patient satisfaction and treatment outcomes, building healthcare IT infrastructures to contribute towards those results is a practical step. The hospitals of the future will do well to embrace these trends.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The future of public WiFi is blazing fast...and a hacker's dream. How to be prepared.

New York City has unleashed one of the world's fastest city-wide public WiFi networks, called LinkNYC. The city has begun turning old phone booths into hot spots boasting gigabyte speeds that surpass most home and corporate office performance. Built on a fiber back-bone across the city, and leveraging Passpoint (also known as HotSpot 2.0), New Yorkers can now enjoy a seamless roaming experience between WiFi access terminals like this one pictured below.

This is not unlike the technology that cellular carriers use to hand off mobile connections from one tower to the next without dropping your phone calls. Once you've connected to the network, there's no need to log in again as you move from one access point's coverage area into another.

And oh, the speeds! To give perspective, Wall Street Journal columnist Joanna Stern reports downloading a 1 GB video in 45 seconds on the new LinkNYC network, which is 8x faster than on Time Warner's cable network, 15x faster than at Starbucks, 20x faster than at LaGuardia Airport, and 32x faster than at a Hilton Hotel. It's enough to make her want to relocate her office to the street right next to one of these access points, despite the cold.

However, free public WiFi networks are already popular targets for hackers looking to tap into exposed data streams, and a high-speed network that keeps you continuously connected across the city is an even more attractive prospect for ill-intent. We've provided tips on how to be safe with public WiFi in the wake of WiFi Sense on Windows 10 in the past, and as public WiFi becomes more and more pervasive, consumers will do well to start learning the best habits now.

1. Practice good "digital hygiene" 
Digital Hygiene refers to general maintenance practices that make your personal information on-line more difficult for hackers to penetrate. Use strong passwords (at least 8 characters long, containing at least one number, one upper-case letter, and one symbol), and a unique password for each of your important accounts. These passwords should be changed quarterly in case one is compromised without your knowledge.

You'll want to set up a secure password manager to keep everything straight -- software that remembers your passwords for various accounts and stores them securely so you don't have to. LastPass, KeePass, and Dashlane are a few popular options.

Finally, setup two-step authentication for all of your important accounts. This requires a secondary code be sent to you (generally via text or email) to log into that account after you provide your password on unauthorized devices.

2. Ensure sensitive data you submit is encrypted 
When browsing on a public network, only enter your passwords on websites that include "https" and a pad lock icon in the web address bar. This indicates the site is using a valid SSL certificate and data you enter is secure.

3. Delete public WiFi networks saved on your device
Passpoint networks are an exception to this rule, as they check your authentication against a saved profile on your iPhone. This means you won't automatically connect to a look-a-like network that a hacker might attempt to setup. However, other public WiFi networks don't have this safe-guard, and if you keep the network saved on your phone, you will automatically join it (or a disguised network setup by someone with mal-intent) when it's in range, which could put you at risk.

4. Connect with a VPN
Using a virtual private network (VPN) connection might sound a little intimidating for most consumers out there, but setting one up is simpler than it sounds and is one of the absolute best ways to protect your data transmissions on public networks. A VPN connection basically creates a encrypted tunnel from your device out to the internet. Information sent this way is very difficult to tap into.

It's worth noting that even taking these steps is no guarantee that someone with the right technical aptitude can't steal your information. However, staying safe from cyber criminals is a lot like out-running a hungry bear. The truth is that humans can't outrun bears...but you can outrun other humans. In the sea of consumers connecting to public networks, cyber criminals are most interested in the ones who haven't safe-guarded themselves with the above steps, and they are unlikely to spend the extra effort going after someone who has.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cicso Meraki releases wave 2 access points, among other new products

Cisco Meraki is kicking off 2016 with key releases from all four of its products families: wireless, switching, security appliances, and mobile device management. The most noteworthy addition, is an 802.11ac wave 2 access point, crashing the market at an aggressive $1099 price point.

Meraki's new MR42 802.11ac Wave 2 access point

The MR42 sports 3x3 radio chains with wave 2's signature multi-user MIMO. It also includes a 4th radio chain dedicated to blue tooth. With multi-user MIMO in full swing, the new access point is capable of an aggregate data rate of up to 1.9 Gbps - communicating simultaneously with MU-MIMO compliant client devices. While MU-MIMO devices still have yet to hit the market, wave 2 access points currently represent the cutting edge in high-density WiFi solutions for the looming future of bring-your-own-device dynamics. WiFi experts agree that the capacity limits of 802.11n, 802.11ac wave 1 access points, and their single-user MIMO capabilities will fall short of efficiently servicing the wireless connectivity needs of the device volume we'll see by 2020. Those who want to be prepared for that future now, would do well to consider adopting 802.11ac wave 2 access points.

In Meraki's switching department, new fiber switches with 16 and 32 SFP interfaces are now available in the MS 410 series. These models feature two SFP+ (1/10 GbE) uplinks (four of them in the 32 port model), and are virtually and physically stackable up to 8 units. The MS410-16 hardware is priced at $8,500, while the 32 port version (MS410-32) is $15,000.

MS 410-16, Meraki's new 16 port, fiber aggregation switch

When it comes to security appliances, Meraki announces the MX65 and MX65w. These new firewalls feature 2 dedicated internet ports for failover, eight 1 Gig ethernet ports, along with 2 PoE+ lan ports and support up to 50 concurrent client devices. The additional ethernet ports mean cost savings for smaller network deployments, as investing in an additional switch may not be necessary to enjoy Meraki's layer 7 management capabilities in switching. The MX65w packs the same punch, but with 802.11ac wireless capabilities also built in. Hardware MSRP is $945 for the MX65, and $1,245 for the MX65w. For small office deployments, the MX65w potentially represents an all-in-one solution for not only a stateful firewall and redundant internet uplinks, but also enterprise, gigabit switching, and 802.11ac wireless connectivity.

Meraki's new MX65w: an all-in-one firewall, switch, and 802.11ac access point

Finally, Meraki rounds out its surge of product updates in a number of improvements to their mobile device manager solution, Systems Manager / Sentry. Systems Manager now includes support for Android for Work applications, FileVault2 integration, as well as added Windows 10 network options. Additionally, new Windows 10 and OSX features make desktop management easier, and include a more powerful and user-friendly installer. Systems Manager is always free to try and use for up to 100 devices. For networks needing to register more than 100 devices, MSRP is $40 per device per year, $80 per device per 3-years and $120 per device per 5-years.

All of these new additions make Meraki's cloud-based solution and industry leading layer-7 management more attainable for smaller enterprise networks. All this and more are available on our website,, with additional discounts available on Meraki orders over $5,000.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New 802.11ah standard for IoT comes with tempered expectations

This year's annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) announced details around a very important new standard for managing the Internet of Things - 802.11ah, also known as HaLow.

HaLow extends the consumer WiFi radio frequency spectrum to include sub-1 GHz frequencies at low-power. The lower, 900 MHz frequency enjoys longer range (roughly twice the distance of current 2.4 and 5.0 GHz frequencies used in consumer WiFi) at the expense of throughput, as well as lower power ratings. As these devices connect on separate, 900 MHz channels, adopting them onto your network theoretically means less contention and interference with existing smart phones, laptops, and tablets already dominating the 2.4 and 5.0 GHz frequencies.

However, it's worth noting that there are plenty of devices out there already living in the 900 MHz space. Wireless internet service providers, for example, often utilize 900 MHz connections in areas where trees and other obstacles make a 2.4 or 5 GHz signal impossible. AV equipment, blue-tooth, and cordless phones are also often found utilizing 900 MHz for their wireless functionalities.

Power needs represent another potential concern with adding an additional 900 MHz radio to access points already sporting 2.4 and 5.0 GHz radios - particularly for those rated for Wave 2 802.11ac. Access points certified for the wave 2 ac standard require a lot of power. In fact, a whole new standard for POE (power over ethernet) was adopted to support them called 802.3at or PoE+. While the power footprint of a 900 MHz radio is less severe on it's own, it still isn't clear if an already power-hungry dual-band wave 2 ac access point can handle a third radio on the existing 802.3at power standard. A third power standard may also be needed to allow such a device to powered over ethernet.

It's worth bearing in mind that even the best guidelines and standards for WiFi aren't fool-proof, and there's no shortage of devices out there that while technically abide by a given WiFi standard, still sport wonky radio behaviors, shoddy security capabilities, or poorly implemented network drivers. These poor practices can't be solved by a new standard and spectrum option, and time will tell if consumer device manufacturers are mindful of these dynamics as they begin to release IoT devices for 802.11ah.

We're not likely to see many HaLow compliant devices for another year or two, which gives administrators and WLAN designers time to familiarize themselves with appropriate spectrum plans that include 900 MHz. However, device manufacturers are the ones who really need to get it right first, or even the best admins will be facing unpleasant complications by 2018.

Monday, January 4, 2016

One week left for most IE users to upgrade

Back in August of 2014, Microsoft announced they would be discontinuing support for older versions of Internet Explorer across a number of Windows versions by January 12, 2016. Over a year later, with only one week left before the cut-off date, millions of users have yet to upgrade.

The move by Microsoft appears to be an inspired push to shift users onto their new browser, Edge, which is included by default with Windows 10. However, the new browser's branding doesn't really distinguish it from the former Internet Explorer (a blue, lower-case "e" continues to serve as the logo for Edge), and most users aren't likely to realize there is a new browser in play for Microsoft. New features for Edge include a distraction-free reading mode, the ability to annotate web pages, as well as integration with Microsoft's voice assistant, Cortana.
To this end, only the latest versions of Internet Explorer will continue to be supported beyond January 12 - IE 9 for Vista, and IE 11 for Windows 7 and 8. These older versions of IE will continue to function, but Microsoft will stop releasing security updates and patches for them after the cut-off date, which potentially puts the many users who have not upgraded at the mercy of hackers and cyber-criminals who continue to find exploits in Internet Explorer.

Most home users shouldn't have too much trouble upgrading. Microsoft Edge and the latest versions of IE will work fine for most common needs. Enterprises running web apps or intranet sites standardized on older versions of IE are not so lucky, though. Reworking code of custom software to be compatible with Edge, or even the newest versions of IE is an expensive under-taking, and may not even be possible with some services.

In addressing these concerns, Microsoft points to Enterprise Mode of Internet Explorer 11, which offers better backwards compatibility for legacy applications that won't normally work with the latest versions of Microsoft's browsers. Enterprise Mode will continue to be supported through 2020, to give businesses time to find alternative, modern solutions.

Despite Microsoft's efforts, most Windows users have abandoned IE and Edge, with as many as 70% of them have turned to Google Chrome. Google has also announced the end of support for Chrome on Windows XP, Vista, and OS X versions 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 effective April 2016.

Regardless, home users are advised to stay current with the latest version of their web-browser to continue receiving the latest security updates and patches.