Cisco Wireless Review

Coming from another network vendor background I was surprised at how easy the controller was to configure.


What is most valuable?

A couple of features stood out: the most important feature was the ease of installation. Coming from another network vendor background I was surprised at how easy the controller was to configure. The ability to build policies based on device and application type is very powerful. The controller has a built in best practice analysis engine that will not only give your setup a best practice score, but also automatically change settings to increase the score. The controller automatically implements advanced Cisco wireless features like Cisco clean air, coverage hole detection, client load balancing and band steering amongst other things.

How has it helped my organization?

Business systems reach was significantly increased through extensive wireless coverage throughout the entire company head office building (5 stories). The technology also enabled the client business to safely provide internet access to guests, through the Cisco lobby administrator portal, which the receptionist manages without intervention from the IT department.

What needs improvement?

Rack mount brackets must be automatically included in the cost. Aesthetically the 2504 chassis has room for improvement. Product is not the cheapest on the market, can be more competitively priced.

For how long have I used the solution?

This solution has been running for a year. We have dual Cisco 2504 wireless controllers for high availability (software version 8.1.102.0). Managing 40x 1702 Cisco wireless access points.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

The issue we encountered was enabling radius authentication for the employee wireless network. Most of the issue was Windows server related though.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The two controllers running side by side was extensively tested by die client: during production the primary controller was unplugged and within a few seconds the access points registered to the secondary controller. The client even went as far as unplugging various access points to test if the coverage hole detection worked, and was not disappointed. There was never a need to restart the controllers or any of the access points.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

The project was sufficiently scoped from the beginning which prevented any scalability problems.

How are customer service and technical support?

Customer Service:

Good.

Technical Support:

Good, provided there is a maintenance contract in place.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

The previous solution consisted of a wireless controller and 15 access points. There was a lot of labour hours that had to be wasted on fine tuning the wireless settings, the wireless network just did not meet the clients expectations. The issues were escalated to the distributor and the vendor directly, which made resources available on site but still took days to get stable.

How was the initial setup?

Very straightforward. The new software version introduced a wizard which guides you through most of the initial configurations in a few simple steps.

What about the implementation team?

Working as a solutions architect for an IT service provider I did the scoping and implementation for the client.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The pricing on the Cisco devices can seem high, but compare apples with apples and it will become clear that Cisco is not that expensive. The controllers need to have licenses for the access points that it manages, so plan ahead and have enough licenses ready for the amount of access points in the environment.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

  • HP MSM 720 wireless controller.
  • Aruba instant access points with built in controllers

What other advice do I have?

The underlying wired infrastructure is important, make sure it has enough capacity so avoid causing bottlenecks on the wireless network. If possible keep the network on a specific vendor for ease of management and support.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: W'ere partners with Cisco.
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