The Ubiquiti UniFi system is an enterprise grade affordable wireless networking solution that makes it easy for IT administrators to deploy and maintain a high quality and scalable wireless network.
Traditional enterprise wireless systems are expensive and difficult to mange, and they often require highly trained, and expensive to hire, IT professionals. The Ubiquiti Networks UniFi system attempts to relieve some of those pains with a affordable, efficient, and intuitive enterprise class wireless system.
The first part of the UniFi system is the high-end wireless access points. There are a number of different access points at different price points, and include easy sleek mounting to either the wall or ceiling. All units also use Power over Ethernet to eliminate the need to locate the units near a power outlet. You can simply use the included Power Injector plugged into the wall to feed power down the network cable to the access point. This works the best with dropped ceiling mounting as it’s often impossible to get power run over to an access point.
At Geek Beat, we have been testing the UAP-Pro models, which include a few extra nice features such as support for industry standard 802.3af Power over Ethernet, simultaneous dual band 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz wireless for speeds up to 450 Mb (the regular models cannot do 5 Ghz), and a secondary ethernet port to chain on to another access point.
All models include MIMO support for great throughput, with the brand new AC model reaching up to 1300 Mbps in a perfect environment. A “Long Range” model provides ranges up to 600 feet versus the standard 400 feet of other models.
The UniFi system also includes a few weather sealed outdoor models to provide wireless networks out in the open air. The three models each individually provide 2.4 Ghz, 5 Ghz, or 5 Ghz AC connectivity and support Power over Ethernet to allow you to simply run a powered network cable outside without worrying about powering the device in the elements. Cleverly, the outdoor units all support pole mounting to help them get optimal positioning for up to 600 feet of range.
The second part of the UniFi system is the innovative and intuitive UniFi Controller software.
The UniFi Controller is an web browser-based application you can run from either a local server or, optionally, a remotely located machine in the public cloud. In a local deployment, the Controller is easily managed by a single user to maintain an office network with a few access points around the building.
In a cloud installation, the Controller is designed to provision multiple deployment sites, such as multiple school campus buildings and outdoor areas consisting of thousands of access points and tens of thousands of users. The UniFi system can easily expand and scale from small single office networks to monstrous systems spanning multiple networks in multiple buildings all while administering from a single installation.
To manage the large influx of users, the Controller provides great statistics and analytics tools to see where users are connecting, and how much data they consume. The UniFi system even includes a built in customizable Guest Portal/Hotspot system with rate, time, and data usage limiting, built-in support for paid access via PayPal payments, and network segregation to keep users from seeing other local machines.
I found that the Controller was very easy to use and provided extremely detailed analytics of connected clients, down to the amount of data they’ve consumed and the history of what access points they connected to over time.
One neat feature i noticed was the ability to “whitelist” network segments as well. You can allocate all your public devices, such as Apple TVs for presentations and printers, to a specific network segment and via the whitelist, allow your guest users to use these devices while protecting your regular network.
While the Controller is very intuitive to use, it does require some networking knowledge. While a novice IT worker will likely have no trouble setting up a basic system, he will need to have a strong grasp of network topology to fully utilize all the features of the Controller. It’s this ability to scale based on both size and skill that makes the UniFi system pretty compelling.
Together, the UniFi system provides a great alternative to the expensive traditional enterprise wireless network systems on the market. With their intuitive Controller software and affordable hardware, it’s very easy to take your network deployment from a single access point to a thousand access points.