NETGEAR has produced complementary hardware products designed to take the frustration out of deploying and securing wireless infrastructure at the enterprise level, and we were very impressive with the solution they came up with.
Editor's note: This product was originally called the "NETGEAR ProSafe Smart Wireless Switch".
NETGEAR delivered to the lab two 802.11g wireless access points (WGL102) as well as one wireless security gateway (WFS709TP).
We took the products and set them up considering factors such as installation, configuration, administration and management. Overall we consider ease of use from the administrator's perspective as well as the end-user.
As this is a security device everything needs to be set out in an easy and straightforward manner to ensure that those using the products (either as administrators or end-users) can understand the device and ensure that there are no inadvertent security holes introduced due to incorrect configuration.
Design and Features: NETGEAR WFS709TP Wireless Controller
The NETGEAR WFS709TP wireless Controller
The NETGEAR WFS709TP is encased in a sturdy 1RU form factor steel chassis, and comes in the signature NETGEAR blue. Something that NETGEAR have managed to do impressively over the years is maintain consistency in their products, and not just across certain families of hardware devices, but across their whole product range -- both the interfaces (software/firmware) as well as the products casings, and even their packaging.
This shows the time and effort NETGEAR expends on achieving quality in research and development. This means not rushing products to market or sourcing and re-badging another manufacturer's product.
The WFS709TP is designed as a network switch to connect, secure and manage up to sixteen wireless access points per device. Wired network upstream connectivity is via a Gigabit network port. All connections, except for power, are found on the front of the device. Administrators can access the configuration for the network switch via serial (console) or a Web interface. The serial interface can be frustrating, as many notebooks do not have serial ports these days, a USB connection for console access would have been more useful.
The configuration menu is straightforward, easy to navigate, and can be easily understood by a network administrator. The menu gives the administrator a range of possible tasks and access options. The WFS709TP needs to be configured prior to attaching any of the wireless access points.
Overall this is a very impressive package for small to medium businesses replacing older systems or introducing secure wireless networking into their IT environment.
Design and Feature: NETGEAR WGL102 Wireless Access Point
The NETGEAR WGL102 wireless access point
It should be noted that NETGEAR also have a WAGL102 access point for use with the WFS709TP, which is an 802.11a/g dual band access point. The lab was not shipped one of these for review.
The WGL102 and WAGL102 both support Power over Ethernet (PoE), which the WFS709TP provides; they also ship standard with a 12V plug pack which can be rather clumsy and prone to failure especially if the APs are deployed in ceilings or areas where the packs are likely to be accidentally knocked or unplugged. We think PoE directly from the WFS709TP is a much better solution. Antennas are detachable and therefore if required, alternate antenna can be used.
All management of these access points is via the WFS709TP wireless gateway switch. This is excellent as it centralises the management and administration functions to this single point.
Overall, NETGEAR has provided an easy to use and well integrated wireless security solution. NETGEAR have created with the WFS709TP wireless security gateway and the WGL102 and WAGL102 access points a straight forward proposition for SMEs who want to replace older or less secure or disparate wireless network infrastructure with a new secure an integrated system.
One drawback is that the system is proprietary, so the access points do not operate standalone. The Access Points need the gateway and the gateway does not manage/administer other vendors' access points. NETGEAR reports that other NETGEAR access point models can be repurposed for use with the WFS709TP Controller and NETGEAR refers users to their support Web site for a list of instructions on how to complete this task.
WFS709TP ProSafe Smart Wireless Controller RRP AU$3,699
WGL102 ProSafe 802.11g Thin Access Point RRP AU$249
WAGL102 ProSafe 802.11a/g Thin Access Point RRP AU$329