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UniFi for SMB

In this episode we’re going to run through our experience using UniFi and how it can benefit the SMB. This is a series of episodes we’re recording to address SMB Wi-Fi requirements, pricing, features, and more.

With the current offerings from Ubiquiti UniFi, there’s just the one-time cost to keep things simple. Paying for the hardware will include some advanced features, analytics, and monitoring tools often excluded from other SMB Wi-Fi solutions.

To make UniFi shine in the SMB a cloud key is really needed which could be an appliance or a VM installed on a computer. The cost can vary depending on the access point and other hardware you need but still highly affordable.

UniFi solution scales very well, up to 50 UniFi devices with the Cloud Key and you can add sites, if required.

While the access point costs are low, costs can increase as you add more hardware such as a security gateway, switches, and a cloud key. You can expand to cameras as well.

It’s important to note that a Cloud Key does not fully make management of the network in the cloud. It simply enables hybrid cloud management. With a UniFi account, the Cloud Key enables cloud management access to a local controller via WebRTC, hostname, or IP address.

Support from Ubiquiti appears to be lacking with the only option being community support. The tips offered by other community members can be incorrect and often a response takes time.

Ubiquiti makes the installation as simple as possible through the use of mobile apps although configuration can be done through command-line or the web GUI. Having options can be beneficial.

We ran into some issues during installation that required us to either reset an access point, use the command-line to configure an inform message, or manually upgrade the firmware of an access point.

Monitoring and analytics is impressive from the UniFi dashboard. For an SMB solution, there are multiple dashboards that can be used to monitor the health of the overall network. There is a Wi-Fi specific dashboard to have views into metrics such as retry rates – a really nice metric to have. With the combination of a User Experience metric plus the retry rate metric troubleshooting becomes a little easier. Being able to monitor where devices are connected, seeing bandwidth utilization per device, and having deep packet inspection really gives you good insight.

Unfortunately, Ubiquiti does not have any 802.11ax access points yet. They may be waiting for ratification which is smart. Roaming, 802.11r, is still in beta which we thought was interesting. With 802.11r being part of the 802.11 Standard for over 10 years now we would have expected Fast BSS Transition to be out of beta. There were no options for selecting OWE or WPA3 for increased wireless security but from what we’ve seen, Ubiquiti has not been in the forefront of implementing newer wireless technologies.

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Note: Links are Amazon affiliates

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Rowell

Rowell, CWNE #210, is a network engineer in Higher-Ed. He enjoys working with wireless networking technologies and loves to share and engage with the community. You can connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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1 comment
  • The lack of support kinda sucks but like you mentioned, a lot of their gear is cheap enough that you just keep a cold standby ready to drop in. I would never deploy Ubiquiti in a mission critical environment but for small business it’s fine. I’m in the middle of rolling out Ubiquiti at my church right now to replace a bunch of old Cisco SG gear.

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