Getting Your Wireless Together to Save Time, Improve Reception

Brought to you by the Cisco Innovators Program

In business, employees working in unison usually produce better results. The adage is even truer for the access points serving a wireless local area network (WLAN).

A small business typically needs multiple wireless access points—for example, one in the lobby, another in a back office, and some in production areas, in meeting rooms, and in the lunchroom or warehouse. But configuring, securing, and managing them can be daunting. Especially if no one on your staff has WLAN expertise.

Here's a trick for you: When you "cluster" standalone wireless access points, you can improve reception and roaming, strengthen security, and save many hours of technical labor—all without the expense of a wireless controller.

Clustering Improvement

Clustering technology in access points is advanced intelligence that allows them to work together dynamically as a "configuration-aware group." This intelligence simplifies wireless networking. Your business can configure and manage a clustered wireless network as a single entity, and without having to configure (and reconfigure) the settings in each access point separately. Adding more access points—up to ten in total—is almost plug and play.

Using clustering access points can impact your bottom-line in five ways:

  • Saves the cost of a wireless controller. Clustering intelligence makes it easy to set up, configure, and manage multiple wireless access points, without the need to invest in a wireless controller unless your business requires more advanced wireless applications. A controller based on today's Wireless-N (802.11n) technology is a powerful management device and a significant expense.
  • Reduces operations costs by saving hours of (internal or outsourced) technical staff time. Setup requires configuring only one of the access points—it will push the configuration to all the clustered devices. Configure one, and you are done. The cluster also makes management very efficient. A single point of administration—a computer with a web connection—can manage all the access points in the cluster.
  • Increases security and reduces risk. The clustering technology in the Cisco AP541N Wireless Access Point can centralize and share Secure Set Identifiers (SSIDs), encryption settings, administrator passwords, access lists, and MAC address filters to provide robust security for the company data, customer records, and other business assets that users send and receive over your wireless network.
  • Increases productivity by improving roaming. Clustering allows mobile users to roam between the access points, with such a fast handover that their laptop or Wi-Fi phone does not disconnect. IP voice calls can continue without interruption when employees roam from one clustered access point to another.
  • Increases productivity by improving application performance. Clustering resolves squabbling between access points over wireless radio band channels. Standalone access points independently select their channel frequency, without coordinating with neighboring access points. The result is overlapping channels and congestion that cause radio signal interference and slower data transmissions. Clustering can help ensure that each access point checks the channels being used by its neighboring access points and adjusts its frequency appropriately. The clustering Cisco AP541N Wireless Access Point is also dual band: it can operate in either the 5-GHz or 2.4-GHz radio band, increasing the number of channels and bandwidth available for users' applications.

When you want your wireless network to help improve your bottom line—or simply to improve reception and save time—it may be time to pull the clustering trick.

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