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Wireless Reviews

Networking

IPv4 and IPv6 addresses can be dynamically or statically assigned to the LAN interface. The LAPAC1750Pro has two Gigabit ports, allowing for creation of a LAG (Link Aggregation Group ) for additional bandwidth to the wired network. The LAPAC1750 and LAPAC1200 have only one Gigabit Ethernet port.

While the term 802.1q is not mentioned in the Linksys manual or spec sheets, it appears the LAPAC1200 supports 802.1q VLAN tagging. VLAN configuration options are to enable VLAN tagging and specify the untagged and management VLAN, show below.

VLAN Configs

VLAN Configs

Once VLAN functionality is enabled, the next step is to assign specific SSIDs to VLAN IDs. With the LAPAC1200 connected to an 802.1q enabled trunk supporting the assigned VLANs, traffic from an SSID will be tagged with its corresponding VLAN ID, except SSID traffic assigned to the untagged VLAN. The end result is wireless traffic can be separated not only by SSID, but by VLAN.

Analytics

The Client Sessions option in the cluster menu lists the wireless clients connected to each AP and SSID. Online time, link rate, signal level, bytes transmitted and received, and transmit and receive rate are shown. The screenshot below displays wireless users connected to my test AP cluster, showing the IP, location and SSID of the AP, the MAC address of each user and network statistics.

Wireless Client View

Wireless Client View

To see what is going on in each AP's radio, you need to go the wireless client option in the system status menu on each individual AP. The system status menu on each AP also provides a statistics display, showing total packet counts, bytes, dropped packets and bytes, and errors by radio and SSID, as shown below.

Statistics

Statistics

This arrangement isn't ideal. It would be better if misbehaving APs with high amounts of retries or dropped packets were visible from the master AP and settable alarms / alerts would be even better.

System log messages can be viewed on the AP or downloaded for more detailed analysis. The LAPAC1200 can also be configured to send log messages as email alerts, and support SNMP. Log messages can be enabled by type: Unauthorized Login Attempt, Authorized Login, System Error Messages, and Configuration Changes.

Log and Email Settings

Log and Email Settings

Log messages will be emailed to the configured email address based on the Log Queue Length (default = 20) and the Log Time Threshold (default 600 seconds) values selected in the Email Alert settings. The screenshots show my email and log alert settings, as well as an email alert sent on an Authorized Login.

Email Alert

Email Alert

The Diagnostics menu has a simple ping tool and a packet capture tool. With the packet capture tool, traffic going in and out the Ethernet port, a specific wireless radio, or a specific SSID can be analyzed. By enabling the packet capture feature, shown in the screenshot below, a .pcap file is saved to your hard drive allowing you to analyze packet flows via Wireshark from your PC.

Packet Capture Options

Packet Capture Options

Closing Thoughts

Linksys' approach to AP controllers is interesting compared to several other solutions I've reviewed. Linksys' clustering allows one AP to act as a controller for up to 16 APs. The Linksys AP acting as controller can also serve as an AP. Ubiquiti's UniFi solution provides a free PC based application that can control one to "thousands" of UniFi APs . Edimax's NMS is a similar solution to Linksys, where a single AP can act as a controller for up to 8 Edimax APs. The Edimax AP serving as a controller can also function as an AP.

The below table summarizes Linksys Clustering, Ubiquiti UniFi, and Edimax NMS controller features

Feature Linksys Ubiquiti Edimax Note
Guest Portal Y Y N 1
Seamless Roaming N Y Y  
Remote Management N Y N 2
Channel Management Y N Y 3
Rogue AP Y Y Y  
Power Management N N Y 4
Max APs 16 "thousands" 8  
Email Alerts Y Y Y  
Analytics Y Y Y  
Band Steering Y Y N  
WLAN Groups N Y Y  
Connection Controls Y Y Y 5
Summary Table
Notes
1) Edimax does offer a Guest Portal feature with their appliance based NMS, but not with the built-in NMS.
2) Linksys and Edimax APs must be on the same LAN as the controller, so remote management is not part of the controller. But remote management is possible using a VPN solution.
3) All the APs in this table have Channel Management features, but only the Linksys and Edimax have Channel Management features within their controller solutions.
4) All the APs in this table have wireless Power Management features, but only the Edimax has Power Management features in their controller solution.
5) Connection controls in this table references features such as rate and bandwidth limiting, QoS, and wireless scheduling.

From a network scalability standpoint, Ubiquiti's UniFi has a big advantage. The UniFi solution can support and manage significantly more APs at multiple sites. For a smaller deployment with localized control, which is the target market for Linksys, I think Linksys has an advantage over Edimax with support for 16 vs. 8 APs and its more responsive configuration menus. From a cost standpoint, Ubiquiti has lower cost 3x3 and 2x2 802.11ac APs than Linksys and Edimax.

Managing multiple sites with Linksys APs is still quite manageable if the APs are behind Linksys LRT2x4 routers which support an easy to use OpenVPN solution. But Linksys gets a "N" in the table above because easy remote management isn't really built into the product.

Taking it all into account, my overall impression of the Linksys' AP clustering solution is positive. I find Linksys configuration menus intuitive and easy to use. The LAPAC1200 performance in my small network was stable and consistent. In my mind, lower priced Linksys APs would be a clear winner for Linksys' small network target markets.

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