What are the advantages of an Enterprise-grade access point vs a residential solution?
The need for reliable wireless connectivity is no longer limited to industrial and commercial buildings full of offices and customers. More people are working or studying from home due to the pandemic. Whether temporarily displaced from their corporate job, crafting an after-hours side business, or taking online classes and exams, houses and apartments are full of residents trying to download, upload, and stream. As such, the search for efficient and high-quality WiFi has led many to consider switching from their typical residential solution to something more reliable.
The idea of installing an enterprise-grade wireless access point (AP) may at first seem like overkill – these are typically used in large corporate buildings or areas with hundreds of people at minimum, right? In reality, installing an enterprise AP in your home can solve many of the problems you may have with your typical residential solution. If you’re experiencing dead zones, limited connectivity, or reduced bandwidth because of multiple users, you may want to consider what an enterprise AP can provide to your home.
What is a residential solution?
Wireless access points provide users access to the Local Area Network (LAN). In most homes, an internet provider installs a router that is combined with WiFi that can be accessed wirelessly. This is a simple plug-and-play process, which is what makes this system appealing. The ease of use allows homeowners to install the product seemingly hassle-free and start-up their systems within an hour or two.
The primary downside to this solution is the limited area of connectivity. For example, let’s say you live in a two-story house with several other people. In order to keep the system out of the way and easily manageable, you have the internet provider install the router in the basement. Unfortunately, the top floors of your home will most likely experience dead zones and weaker connectivity. The network connection will begin to drop significantly if you have multiple users trying to stream, play, or download at the same time. Watching TV in the living room while someone is connected to an iPad in the kitchen will reduce the connectivity for those trying to play a game on the upstairs computer and watch videos in an upstairs room.
Network congestion is a common problem for families and roommates that are all trying to accomplish equally important tasks at the same time. These systems serve users on a first-come, first-served basis, steadily reducing the streaming availability and causing lag, buffer-time, and occasionally even dropped connection. Also, because the wireless router is centrally located, those closer to the installed location will experience better connectivity. If you find these issues cutting into your daily life, there are several alternatives that could benefit your household.
What is an enterprise-grade wireless access point?
In contrast to the residential solution, the router is separate from the wireless access points within an enterprise-grade system. This provides reliability, increased range, and higher density capabilities. You also have more control over the system and hardware with centralized management and easier placement capabilities.
An enterprise-grade wireless AP is more reliable because of the dedicated WiFi device. Because they are connected to a high-speed ethernet cable, the wireless AP can provide multiple users with quality connectivity. While a residential solution can struggle to maintain several users at a time, wireless APs are designed to allow anywhere from fifty to hundreds of users access. You have a guarantee of efficiency within your household, even if you had every user sending and receiving signals and downloads simultaneously.
An AP is also useful for extending the coverage of your network, with the capability of reaching several hundred meters before the connection is lost. Whether you’re placing multiple or one centrally located AP, every area in the house will have similar connectivity capabilities with no dead zones. Because these were initially designed for higher density areas with more consumers, the enterprise-grade wireless access points turn your home into a hub of fast and reliable connectivity.
These APs have centralized management thanks to their cloud-based features. The computer with the control system makes changes that are saved and pushed out to all connected wireless APs. You have the ability to remotely configure settings, monitor network, and security data, and look over performance metrics. APs also have Power over Ethernet (PoE), meaning the ethernet not only connects them to the network but provides a power source. There’s less hardware involved, meaning you can easily install the APs on ceilings or walls and they quickly create invisible mesh networks without being noticeable.
What to consider
A wireless access point will cost more than a wireless router. This is because of the additional hardware, increased coverage, and advanced features of the wireless AP. Occasionally, your internet provider will include the router, modem, and installation fee in your first month’s bill. While the wireless router will provide you basic features and connectivity in comparison to an enterprise-grade system, the latter will last longer, support more users, and boost your security.
When comparing prices, consider what your space is lacking and which system solves those pain points. If you have a single-room apartment with only one or two residents using the WiFi, you most likely will not need an expansive enterprise-grade system. But if you’re a family in a large house similar to our previous example, you may want to consider the connectivity and range an enterprise-grade wireless AP can provide the members of the household. Take into consideration how many users there are, the frequency your network is used, and how often high-quality connectivity is needed.
A wireless router is typically one or two pieces when included with a modem. These are typically kept tucked away in a basement, closet, or wherever the nearest working ethernet port is within the house. You’ll need the proper cables to connect to the network and any additional ethernet cables for desktops or consoles that need to be directly plugged in for stronger connectivity. Unfortunately, the equipment can’t always be kept out of sight without running the risk of poorly impacting the network performance.
Wireless access points have more hardware besides the router and could be intimidating for an unfamiliar homeowner trying to install it independently. However, if a professional comes in to set up the proper switches, cables, and ethernet hubs, the job can be completed in a few hours at most. After the installation is complete, they’ll be able to run you through the necessary maintenance, point out where the equipment is located, and give you a rundown of any problems you should call them about. Although there’s more equipment involved, these can be placed out of sight on ceilings, upper walls, or off to the side on a counter without being too much of an eyesore.
As opposed to an internet provider’s residential solution, the enterprise-grade system is not nearly as plug-and-play. There are many advanced features that you have the ability to change and configure once the device is programmed. You’ll need to familiarize yourself with things like DCHP, Gateway IPs, WiFi channels and bandwidth, DNS, and SSIDs to name a few. While this looks like complicated alphabet soup, they’re not complicated systems to understand. The equipment almost always comes with a manual that will include these terms and more context to help you understand what you’ll need to be familiar with. For example, a Gateway IP is simply the router’s IP address.
Wireless AP novices don’t necessarily need to worry about having an enterprise-grade system installed. Many times, if a company installs the system for you, they’ll provide you with the information you need to understand in order to run the APs efficiently for your environment. Often, this includes many of the terms mentioned earlier, and you’ll quickly be able to identify and recognize their purposes within your wireless network.
Optimizing your home WiFi
Especially now that people are working from home and taking online classes more often because of the global pandemic, the wireless network in a home needs to be fast and efficient. It’s no longer acceptable to have dead zones, poor connection, and an unreliable system. There are some wireless routers that can provide enough connectivity and range for a small space and a few users. However, when it comes to reliability and security, it’s hard to beat an enterprise-grade system.
Wireless access points connect corporations, small businesses, and large families without keeping users on a first-come, first-served basis. Enterprise-grade systems are no longer solely designed for corporate offices. Bringing these devices into your home can help you and your household stay online with strong connectivity.