Netgear's Orbi Pro provides a simple and affordable option for small businesses that need to set up both an internal office wi-fi network for their staff, along with a public network for visitors, or clients in locations such as hotels and restaurants. However, the Orbi Pro is aimed at small businesses that operate in a single location.
The new Cloud Manager system from Linksys represents the next step up for SMEs that need to manage wi-fi networks in multiple sites. Linksys Cloud Manager is primarily aimed at managed service providers (MSPs) requiring remote access to and control of networks that they manage on behalf of their small-business clients, and fills a market gap beneath enterprise-level solutions from vendors like Meraki and Aruba.
The Cloud Manager software provides an online 'dashboard' that can be accessed via a web browser on any type of computer or mobile device, and provides tools for remotely setting up and administering networks using the company's own range of access points. Use of the Cloud Manager service requires a licence, which is currently included in the price of the company's 802.11ac dual-band LAPAC 1200C, 1750C, and 2600C routers, which respectively cost £119.99, £159.99 and £209.99 (inc. VAT, or $199.99, $329.99, and $499.99). Those prices include a five-year licence for the Cloud Manager, with subsequent renewal fees depending on the number of access points and locations using the service.
All three access points support Power Over Ethernet (PoE), providing easy installation with a single cable. Once connected to the internet, the access points automatically connect to the dashboard service using a secure SSL connection, and the network administrator can then remotely setup and configure the new network without needing to visit the site in person, or sending along an engineer.
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If you need to manage multiple networks in different locations, the dashboard can display a global map of all locations in use around the world. Administrators can then zoom in on individual networks to monitor network performance and traffic, and even individual devices that are connected to the network.
It's also possible to specify the maximum number of client devices that can use the network, to set bandwidth limits, or use 'client isolation' to provide internet access while restricting access to the rest of the network. To reduce costs for service providers, the Cloud Manager provides a number of diagnostic tools that allows the network administrator to remotely detect faults, such as a ping test to check internet access, an environment scan to detect radio interference in a particular location, and a 'rogue access point' option that can detect faults in individual routers. Administrators can also set up email or text notifications to alert them when problems arise.
The Cloud Manager and dashboard don't have the sheer simplicity of Netgear's app-based Orbi devices, but its browser interface does allow administrators to connect from any device in any location. Linksys also allows potential customers to set up a demo account in order to view the dashboard and see if it meets their needs and their level of technical expertise.
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