By Scott Carson, Network Engineer
Working environments can vary so much these days. Workers have been becoming increasingly mobile over the past several years. I won’t surprise anyone if I say that wireless in an office can be a great way to help collaboration and productivity, especially in a case where most of your workers aren’t tied to a desk.
I did a recent customer deployment that fit this mold but with a few unique characteristics. At any given time, most of the staff is out of the office onsite at customer locations. However, much of the work is assigned and documented via tablets that they work remotely. When they return to the office, a functional and secure solution is critical for them to be able to connect those tablets and complete and end-of-day tasks.
It is tough to invest a ton of capital into a solution that will be widely used, but not necessarily full-time for users in the office.
This is where Aruba InstantOn made our lives a lot easier. We get a ton of functionality in a low-cost easy to use solution. It does a great job bridging the gap between a consumer solution you would pick up at a retail store and a controller-based enterprise wireless solution. It was a perfect fit for this particular deployment.
The Deployment Details
We upgraded from one small AP in the server room to full coverage around the office. In areas with a lot of collaboration (such as conference rooms or their warehouse), we were able to add APs so that signal strength and connectivity are solid throughout their office and warehouse.
For the deployment and configuration of the APs, I had scheduled an hour in my calendar to work on them. I needed to mount one last AP in the conference room then get them powered on and configured. I had an after-hour maintenance already planned for this customer, so I simply added an hour ahead of that to get things done.
Mounting the last AP was very easy. The access points include a small mount kit that I used to mount directly to the rails between ceiling tiles. No drilling or other tools required. It took me longer to set up the ladder than it did to mount the AP itself.
With access points in place, I patched them into the network. Looking at the APs themselves, I watched them power on and get connected. Physical lights on the access point indicated that each were ready to be discovered from the mobile app. I did a quick walkthrough to check on each, once they were ready, I signed into the app and worked my way through the configuration wizard.
Having worked with Aruba controllers in the past, I knew their wizard would help with much of the configuration. As I went through it, I was able to find all the APs almost immediately. InstantOn uses BLE to discover devices, all 5 of my new APs were already found when I reached that step in the wizard. In larger controller-based deployments, the process of discovering the APs and getting them to check in to the controller can be a slow process. Nothing difficult in getting them connected, but the process just seems to take a while. Completely different experience with the InstantOn app.
The next steps were to create a new wireless network. For this case, since we are replacing an existing SSID, I recreated what was already in place. That way any devices that were using the old wireless network will automatically join the new one. The wizard asked all the necessary questions and allowed me to have that up and running in minutes. With their new hardware up and running I powered off the old AP and validated connectivity throughout the office. I was very impressed with not only the ease of setup but the quality of connectivity as I moved throughout the office.
The new hardware was now fully in production and I was able to use it while performing the other maintenance that I had scheduled. My only issue was that I finished too soon. I was about 30 minutes ahead of schedule and had to wait a bit before my other maintenance window started.
If complexity and cost are making wireless an afterthought, I strongly recommend a solution utilizing Aruba InstantOn.