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Captive Portal

Another key feature included in the Linksys small business APs is the captive portal feature. With a captive portal, guest Wi-Fi access can be managed with various authentication methods (no authentication, password only authentication, local user name and password authentication, and RADIUS user name and password authentication) through a customizable web page. In addition, Linksys' captive portal provides tools to control guest Wi-Fi users network utilization.

Linksys has a nice how-to for captive portal setup, which I followed to set up a captive portal on the master AP with a customized web page and local user name/password authentication. My configurations were propagated to the slave APs, allowing guest Wi-Fi access throughout the coverage area of all three APs. Below is a screenshot of my test captive portal, prompting guest Wi-Fi users to authenticate with a user name and password, which I configured in the master AP.

Linksys Captive Portal

Linksys Captive Portal

The captive portal menu on the master AP has a client information page that shows a list of guest Wi-Fi clients. An additional captive portal tool allows limiting guest Wi-Fi users' connection time from 0-24 hours. Connection controls, which I'll cover next, allow you to further limit guest Wi-Fi access by applying schedules, QoS and rate limit settings to the guest SSID .

Connection Control

Each SSID on the LAPAC1200 can have several controls applied to manage Wi-Fi activity, including a scheduler, rate limiting and QoS. The scheduling tool allows you to create up to 16 different schedule profiles, each with up to four different time rules (based on day of week, weekdays, or weekends, as well as start and stop time of day) to enable/disable an SSID. In the below configuration, I created a schedule called "testschedule" that enables Wi-Fi from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m - 5 p.m on Saturday and Sunday, as shown below.

Scheduling Options

Scheduling Options

A rate limit can also be applied, controlling bandwidth utilization by SSID. I ran a test where I did a speed test on my guest SSID before and after applying a rate limit. Before I applied the rate limit, my upload and download speed on the guest SSID (about 30' from the AP) were about 3 Mbps up and 8 Mbps down. After I applied a rate limit of 1 Mbps on both upload and download to my guest SSID, my speed on the guest SSID was about 1 Mbps up and down as shown below.

Rate Limiting

Rate Limiting

802.1p QoS markings can be applied per SSID to allow for packet prioritization in your network switches or routers. Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) support, which applies voice (highest), video, best effort, and background (lowest) priorities, is enabled by default on each SSID, but can be disabled. Note, WMM requires the wireless client also supports WMM.

Wireless

Up to 8 SSIDs can be configured on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios. The 2.4 GHz radio can be set to G-Only, N-Only, B/G-Mixed, or B/G/N-Mixed (default). The 5 GHz radio can be set to N/A-Mixed, N-Only, AC-Only, or A/N/AC-Mixed (default). Both radios can be set to a specific channel or to auto channel (default).

The advanced settings menu on the LAPAC1200 allows for enabling isolation between SSIDs (blocking connectivity between SSIDs) and band steering (directing clients to 5 GHz if the client supports 5 GHz); and setting channel bandwidth (20 MHz and 20/40MHz on the 2.4 GHz radio, 20/40/80MHz, 20/40 MHz, and 20 MHz on the 5 GHz radio.) Additional advanced wireless settings include guard interval, CTS protection mode, beacon interval, DTIM interval, RTS threshold, fragmentation threshold, and output power on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radios. Below is screenshot of the wireless advanced settings menu.

Wireless Advanced Settings

Wireless Advanced Settings

Band steering is a useful option as it pushes 802.11a and 802.11ac clients to the 5 GHz band, maximizing wireless bandwidth. After enabling band steering on the LAPAC1200 cluster, I noticed my laptop which supports 802.11a/b/g/n, switched from the 2.4GHz radio to the 5 GHz radio as expected.

The LAPAC1200 allows for up to 8 SSIDs per radio for a total of 16 SSIDs. Creating an SSID template, referred to as a WLAN Group by other vendors, is not an option.

A useful feature on the LAPAC1200 for scanning neighboring wireless networks is Rogue AP Detection. When enabled on each radio, the LAPAC1200 will display all SSIDs, including SSIDs broadcast by other members of its own cluster. When Rogue AP Detection is enabled, the LAPAC1200 runs a scan to detect other SSIDs. Additional scans must be triggered by clicking the Refresh button on the Rogue AP Detection menu. Linksys reports that Rogue AP scans run without impacting current client connections.

By default, all detected SSIDs are listed as untrusted. You can manually select an SSID as trusted. Marking an SSID as trusted or untrusted is simply a label. The below screenshot shows detected SSIDs on the 5 GHz radio. The SSIDs at the bottom, MDC10, are the SSIDs broadcast by the other LAPAC1200 in the cluster, which I marked as trusted.

Rogue APs

Rogue APs

The LAPAC1200 also supports WDS (wireless distribution system) and Workgroup Bridge modes. Neither mode is supported in a cluster configuration. WDS mode allows you to expand a wireless network by linking APs wirelessly instead of connecting them to Ethernet cables. WDS mode is useful to extend a wireless network to areas where you don't have wired Ethernet cables. Workgroup Bridge mode allows you to use APs to form a wireless bridge between two wired networks. This is a useful solution when trying to connect two networks without running an Ethernet cable between them.

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