Posted by: Craig Mathias
Netgear, network management, wireless LAN
I’m often asked why access points for enterprise-class wireless LANs cost around US$1,000, while one can buy a wireless router with similar specs at a retail store for perhaps US$75. Well, of course, volumes for the enterprise products are lower so costs are higher, but, much more importantly, enterprise-class APs are designed to be centrally managed. Network management isn’t a topic that most SMB managers have a lot familiarity with, but don’t feel bad – even in larger organizations that have dedicated network management and operations teams, network management seldom gets the visibility it deserves.
Network management, wired or wireless, literally involves hundreds of functions, including planning, deployment, troubleshooting, alerts and alarms, performance monitoring and tuning, security and integrity, monitoring, reporting, and much, much more. Think of network management as the front panel or dashboard of your network infrastructure, and you’re getting the idea. Even retail wireless routers have some management capability, usually accessed via HTTPS or a dedicated client, as is the case with Apple’s products.
And this approach can work fine if you have only one or two APs, but beyond that you need a centralized console to make sure everything is working properly. A little error in the configuration of even one AP can truly ruin your day. One company that’s taken the lead here is Netgear, a company perhaps better known for their residential-class products, but they also have a fairly broad SMB offering as well. The company recently announced new management software and controllers, which allows an SMB to get into centralized network management for as little as $50 (!). Now, you may only have one AP today, but growing businesses need to plan for the eventuality of expanding mission-critical operations. I recommend that you start thinking now about how your network will grow without disruption, and you’ll quickly see the importance of putting a network management strategy in place sooner rather than later.