What is our primary use case?
The Airport Authority is responsible for providing free WiFi at the Birmingham Shuttlesworth International Airport. There is no charge for the Free Public WiFi at the BHM airport. There are more than sixty APs and one hundred and twenty dual-band radios being used today, providing free WiFi to the traveling public. The WatchGuard Cloud WiFi system is easy to maintain and to make updates to the APs, with virtually no impact to the wireless users.
How has it helped my organization?
It is great to have a trusted wireless environment in a public free WiFi facility. WiFi is a must-have feature today at any airport. Some international travelers may not have activated cellular roaming for coverage with their cellular provider. So providing quality WiFi at an airport is paramount. Providing hi-speed trusted WiFi is great.
What is most valuable?
The cloud analytics are fantastic. Not having to reboot a physical wireless controller is great. It makes it easy to obtain all information about the client experience.
The WatchGuard cloud solution doesn’t need a physical controller, which would require two controllers if HA was required.
What needs improvement?
- If a client device had issues with authentication due to out of date browser or similar difficulties, it would be nice to have the ability to migrate the client onto the portal via one click.
- Improvement of dynamic auto channel selection is needed. The system should have a view of seeing the selections being made.
For how long have I used the solution?
About eleven months.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
Thus far it has been reliable, running for the past ten months. When a problem did occur with an auto-update that was buggy, the support team was very responsive and helped to resolve the problem.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
Awesome! You can manage it all from one single portal.
How are customer service and technical support?
Support has always resolved every incident. Granted, some items required further research if it was intermittent in nature, but most problems were resolved on the first call.
If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?
We used Passpoint prior to this. However, the licensing cost to secure public WiFi via Passpoint was not practical or budget-friendly.
A fixed licensing model isn’t the best solution when the number of active users logged on can swing from a low of three hundred to a high of five thousand, depending on air traffic congestion or weather delays.
How was the initial setup?
On the scale of other similar systems, it is much simpler to set up and get up and running via the defaults if one was new to provisioning APs or similar.
What about the implementation team?
We implemented this solution mostly in-house. I did consult with my managed security provider, JSCM Group, and they agreed it was a great fit for the product.
What was our ROI?
Less wasted man hours on supporting this product. The patrons enjoy it. I get good feedback often about the speed, and the ability to upload or download large files with ease. One jokingly told me that he should just leave his office locally and drive to the airport to upload and download large files from his iPad rather than wasting his time at his place of business.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Look at the details and the fine print on other solutions if security is important and you have an undefined number of simultaneous users. Also, check to see if other solutions preload HS 2.0 settings the way the WatchGuard Cloud WiFi system does.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
ADTRAN was one product that we evaluated because they are produced in my state and I have used many ADTRAN Telcom products in past years with high confidence. Aruba and Cisco solutions were also evaluated. The security features were on par but at a higher cost per AP with enterprise-grade security, due to licensing rather than the cost of the AP.
What other advice do I have?
If I were tasked to set up new WiFi at a single site, or at multiple locations for hundreds of sites, I would make this solution my first choice. You could evaluate another platform against it but a feature-to-feature comparison, coupled with the ease of deployment, should place WatchGuard ahead. It scales easily and you won’t need a team of specialists to configure it.
Your licensing and cost, as would be required for many other solutions, being considered for eighty to two hundred and eighty different physical locations, is just about the same amount per access point.
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.