Small Office Network Problem

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by 8281, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. 8281, Oct 29, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013

    8281 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    #1
    I'm the IT person at my small office, and we are interested in setting up a wifi network. We have about 35 users in a 7,000 square foot office space. Our IT contractor is suggesting we buy enterprise-level access points, and would like to order five or more of them.

    I know you don't know a lot of specifics, but the cost (roughly 500 each) for those APs is prohibitive for us, and they seem a little overkill for 35 users. I sort of feel we are being steered in the wrong direction...

    Any help or advice is welcome, thanks.
     
  2. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Location:
    Virginia
    #2
    You're right, we don't have a lot of information...
    Your space could be oddly shaped or built with radio unfriendly materials, requiring more APs to give adequate coverage.
    You may be asking for management services or integration with additional gear that forces you into higher end devices.

    We used low end linksys devices until we hit about 50 employees, but we were also able to self manage the IT stuff and didn't mind rebooting the devices now and then. Now we're at about 120 employees with a full time IT Staff and we use Cisco/Linksys "Prosumer" Access points, which provide sufficient management and roaming capability to meet our needs. Doesn't mean they would meet yours though...

    Definitely get at least two quotes unless you have an established relationship and a lot of trust with this vendor.
     
  3. Velin macrumors 65816

    Velin

    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2008
    Location:
    Hearst Castle
    #3
    It does sound like overkill for a 7k sq. ft space. Heck, you may be able to do your wifi network yourself buying a few of the new Apple airport extreme base stations. That's what we did, works great.

    But in my opinion, equipment purchases are the least expensive cost in the operations budget. Employees are orders of magnitude more expensive. So the $2.5k you are being quoted for routers sounds awfully cheap to me; this likely is less than one month salary for a single employee.
     
  4. itsasony, Oct 29, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2013

    itsasony macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2003
    #4
    Sigh, what kind of network did you want?

    Do you want a managed network that you have total control of or a post apocalyptic free zone where anything goes? Can you do an anything goes network on the cheap, of course, and you will pay for it in headaches and management woes. I have already tried it. All I ended up with was a bunch of hardware I had to replace and everyone complaining about the problems of the wifi. For example, Apple's support people don't want to answer questions if you're using more than 3 of their wifi routers to build a network. And I've used Linksys in the past. So why do those wifi routers you cannot afford cost so much? They were designed to scale up to larger managed network and take the guess work out of how to manage it properly. People standing around you pointing at residential wifi routers for $100 trying to convince you that you can just get a couple of those to solve this need to stick to their many other skills beside IT mgmt. You need a quality access point about every 50 to 100 feet across the area for reliable coverage. I chose Meraki because of the feedback from customers using them and never regretted it. They use a meshing technology and the cloud sends notifications of events. Their support team is very helpful and you wont feel left in the dark on anything. They can advise you on how many access points are required to provide coverage without dead-zones by reviewing your building and its construction materials. I have 50 people (2 wifi devices per employee) and a campus building of brick and steel with a central courtyard. Think of wifi as you would audio or sound, its not passing through rock/brick much at all. I ended up changing from 7 Airport Extreme that had large gaps without wifi coverage or no coverage zones, to a total of 17 access points. They ship them to you already registered to setup a network, you just have to plug them in to POE and they begin working. Then you sign-in to the cloud and configure your network name and password or other advanced setups. I was able to deploy that network by myself in one day. Its a network, it better dam-well work right all the time, your productivity counts on it. Theres a million ways to go cheap on technology, but I say do not go cheap on network infrastructure. Don't you love it when your cell phone doesnt work?
     
  5. 8281 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    #5
    Thanks for the advice. I don't want to cheap out, but we are a nonprofit, and the quote for the entire setup is closer to 6,000. That's tough to justify when cheaper hardware is available that will do the same thing as an AP that's two or three times the cost. The building is awkwardly designed, but again, there's got to be a workable solution that doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
     
  6. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Location:
    Virginia
    #6
    Is WiFi a nice to have, or is it required for your 35 employees to be productive? What does it cost if your 35 people can't work for an hour because the Wireless is down? What if it's a day?
     
  7. Stewart21 macrumors regular

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    Dec 9, 2011
    Location:
    South Yorkshire
    #7
    Does it have to be a wireless solution? Or could it be a combination of wired and wireless?
     
  8. 8281 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    #8
    Our wired network is already established, and everyone is already plugged into that network. But, we've been investing in laptops (since before I started working there), which are a pointless expense without WiFi. And guests often want internet access for presentations, etc, and it's not very professional dragging out the 50' CAT 5 cable.

    That's why for what we need it for (guest access and occasional access via work laptops), I think spending 6,000 bucks is a little much.
     
  9. Stewart21 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 9, 2011
    Location:
    South Yorkshire
    #9
    I agree. I can't suggest a solution without more information, floor plan, number of floors, location of walls. But the must be a way to provide limited Wi-Fi at a reasonable cost.
     
  10. r0k, Oct 31, 2013
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2013

    r0k macrumors 68040

    r0k

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2008
    Location:
    Detroit
    #10
    Make sure you have a separate guest network for your visitors. It can be in the clear but it's safer to make it password protected and post the password in your lobby so they can easily sign on but the miscreant in the parking lot can't use your wifi to commit crimes. Our guest network is in the clear but our campus is so large that you have to go past a security gate just to get close enough to our building ot get within range of the signal.

    I think those $500 APs are overkill. At our house, we use an Airport Extreme just for the guest network. Then we have some $80 d-link APs scattered around the house to completely eliminate dead spots. Coverage includes the garage, driveway, half the back yard and data rates are excellent in every room of the house.

    The guest network is passable mainly on the first floor and basement which is where the guests usually are. We have a 24 port gigabit switch and Cat5e/Cat6 on all 3 floors and any streaming video is always over a hardwire. There are smaller switches in remote areas where it doesn't make sense to run half a dozen cables. Since you have wired ethernet covering your 7000 sq feet, I suggest you simply add AP's and take a survey by walking around with an android (or jailbroken iOS) device running wifi analyzer to make sure you have everything covered. No need to hire a consultant. You can save that $6K.
     
  11. Panch0 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Location:
    Virginia
    #11
    So it sounds like you're in the 'nice to have' camp and it's not $6K nice for you...

    It is really nice to have an integrated WiFi network that lets you roam across access points without dropping your connections, but it sounds like what you NEED is just to cover your conference rooms.

    You might want to go back to your consultant and get a quote for a more modest implementation that will allow you to grow into the full coverage plan later.

    Or you could just drop access points into the areas that you really need to cover on the theory that spotty coverage beats no coverage.

    Definitely agree that you want a separate 'public' network for guests and that you still want some control on that - a truly open AP isn't a good idea.
     
  12. 8281 thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2010
    #12
    Thanks for the advice. We will be setting up a password-enabled guest network for security reasons.
     

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