WiFi recommendations

I am looking at getting a new Wifi solution for our new building.  I have looked at Meraki, Ruckus and Arruba, Sophos and even at a Cisco controller option.
I'm having a hard time deciding which solution is best for my environment.  We have two separate buildings, but will all be one system.  Hands down, the Meraki cloud has the best analystics and displays the data the best, my opinion, but it's not the cheapest.  Going from a controller based to cloud based design makes me uneasy, as if the internet goes down, then my entire wifi is down as well.  
By far I like the Meraki dashboard and the options available in their cloud.

We will need about 50 APs for both buildings.  I'm working with a vendor that said after we move forward with the purchase, they will perform a heatmap analysis, so we know where to place them, so that's good.

Any suggestions what to look out for, or any recommendations?  
Does anyone not like Meraki or any of the others I mentioned?
DanNetwork EngineerAsked:
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I would suggest looking at Ubiquiti as well.  Excellent and low cost.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
yea, I used Ubiquity, but it's not enterprise grade, and the management controller software was not that great. it is a lower cost option, but I need something rock solid though.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
The other thing I don't like about ubiquiti is that it only offers community support, I'm looking for a solution that I can call support if I can't figure something out quickly, as I can't be down very long until people notice and complain.
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Interesting... I'd be curious what issues you had with Ubiquiti.  That said, I have several colleagues who are far more enterprise and networking than I and their response to a question like this (albeit a couple years back) was that they all had issues.  Not usually the same issues, but if one work great in this way, the other didn't but worked notably better in another way.  And in those cases, I speak specifically about most of those items if not all.  I KNOW Aruba, Meraki, and Ruckus were used; not sure about Sophos and when I left that environment years ago, Cisco was in use.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I've called Ubiquiti support before... got through pretty quick and they walked me through an issue.  hmmm... maybe it was chat based... I do remember speaking to them and getting through pretty quickly. And they knew exactly what to do as well - it was excellent.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
Good to know.  so you're happy with their products?  How is the management controller?  I'm looking for a lot of real time bandwidth info and just good info into the state and health of the APs, and wifi network.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I've perpetually wished I had more time to play with it.  But most other consultants I know have been putting them in in environments up to a couple hundred people and loved them.  I've started putting them in a few places as well and if I have one complaint it's that half the metric features (and I'm not certain it's actually half... maybe 25% or even less) require one of their systems as a router.  Still you get LOTS of information far more than any device I've put in for clients for the purposes of Wireless access.  My advice to look at them was in part based on NUMEROUS personal recommendations made to me, some experience (but not by most people's definitions, lots) with them, and the cost factor.  They may NOT be ready for your size environment... but depending on the purposes of your wifi setup, they may be a good choice.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
I just had a vendor tell me how bad ubiquiti is, that it's a solution that requires a lot of hands on approach, and that they have a lot of issues, with firmware released constantly, causing bugs to be prevalent.
Jakob DigranesSenior ConsultantCommented:
This is the type of question - that will give you dozens of answers, all correct and none the same :-)

I've worked with mainly Aruba for the past 9 years, and Meru (now Fortinet) before that. And for most part - the setup and design is more critical to your wireless environment, than choice of vendor.

That said, Aruba cloud controller (Aruba Central) works even if internet is down, but you can't reconfigure or get monitoring data as long as cloud portal is down. But SSIDs will be broadcasted still.

you say Enterprise, how will you authenticate users and devices? Which band will you be looking at? Dual 2,4 and 5Ghz og dual 5Ghz radio? how about guest network? portal authentication ?
I
Benjamin Van DitmarsSr Network EngineerCommented:
Make a list of the functional requirements. and then look for a brand.
Cisco WLC always works you can even run the controller virtual.
HP Aruba also stable, but less settings than cisco.
Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
I just had a vendor tell me how bad ubiquiti is, that it's a solution that requires a lot of hands on approach, and that they have a lot of issues, with firmware released constantly, causing bugs to be prevalent.

If it's a vendor of wireless access points I don't know that I'd trust them.  If they don't sell Ubiquiti they could be trying to get you to buy something else more expensive/that they do sell.  I've heard of them for years and I finally started using them about a year ago.  No one ever commented on them being difficult or bad.  Indeed, the only comment relating to firmware I can recall is how great it is because when you download the updated controller software, it pushes out the update to all the devices and how fantastic this was.

Additionally, calling something buggy because it's fixed regularly is silly these days.  New hacks and vulnerabilities are discovered all the time with just about everything... do you want a vendor that patches every 4 months or one that does so quickly?  There are two ways to look at that.
masnrockCommented:
I would recommend you do a full site survey and consider your environment and budget. Ubiquiti can be a good (and lower cost) solution in many cases, but I've also dealt with quite a few instances where it wasn't because of factors like walls, etc. In those cases, I went the Ruckus route as it turned out that I would've had to roll out a much higher number of Ubiquiti APs to get the same quality of coverage. (Ironically, the implementation of fewer APs is a pitch that Ruckus does actually make. However, I did find it to be true in those instances.)

I've worked with Meru (Fortinet), Ruckus, Cisco (but not Meraki), and Ubiquiti. Of the 4, I ended up liking Ubiquiti and Ruckus the most. To be fair, the case where I worked with Meru equipment was a cleaning up a badly done install by another company. The install was in a hotel, and they skipped installing access points on an entire floor. There were all sorts of issues with coverage inside a number of rooms because they never accounted for making use of non-overlapping channels. Making matters worse, the controller was going EOL while I was getting things cleaned up, so I had to replace that also. Cisco can be pricey, but generally works pretty well also. I've heard good things about Aruba and Xirrus, but I've personally never worked with either one.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
So many things to consider.

I had one vendor recommend 82 APs.  Then another suggested 46 using heat map software.  So I'm kind of stuck of who am I am going to believe. I want to go wtih the one that recommended 46 as its cheaper, less APs, but I just wand to make sure its solid.
 
I used 2 ubiquiti APs at my previous church, and it did require some "hands on" if I may say until they were configured correctly, I even had to chat with support about an issue.  Then about 2 years later, one of the APs died.  Their dashboard is not bad, but I'm just trying to think if the ubiquiti is like $100 or $150 less than the Sophos or Meraki, would it just make sense to spend the money and get something that even comes with phone support?  

I did a demo with Arruba and wasn't very fond of the airwaves controller software.  I think I narrowed it down to either Sophos or Meraki.
I currently am using a Sophos Firewall, so the Sophos APs would just integrate into my network, probably the easiest to configure, but I do like the Meraki dashboard and the way it displays the data.

Currently, almost all the APs are only 2.4Ghz.  Thew new ones will do both, 2.4 and 5 ghz.   I currently have 3 networks, one for guest, and one for the LAN, or that is bridged to my LAN.  The guest uses WPA2 auth.  The LAN wifi uses radius for authentication, as the users need to log in using their domain credentials.  I'm currently not using a portal for guest authentication, I just have a password using wpa2, and then my firewall rules doesn't allow that traffic to cross over to my LAN.
masnrockCommented:
I had one vendor recommend 82 APs.  Then another suggested 46 using heat map software.
One used heat map software, what did the other use to determine their number? This is why I pointed out the flaws I've found in using Ubiquiti APs. If you have a lot of walls, especially those within an old building, the value proposition starts decreasing because of the increase in the number of APs required to cover the same area.

I want to go wtih the one that recommended 46 as its cheaper, less APs, but I just wand to make sure its solid.
Maybe you can get a test unit of each and do your own tests in parts of the building? You can't always take the vendor's word for it.

.. but I'm just trying to think if the ubiquiti is like $100 or $150 less than the Sophos or Meraki, would it just make sense to spend the money and get something that even comes with phone support?
At the end of the day, this is up to you. $100-$150 per access point does add up, but does it mean anything if you have lots of issues? Consider the tradeoffs.

I currently am using a Sophos Firewall, so the Sophos APs would just integrate into my network, probably the easiest to configure, but I do like the Meraki dashboard and the way it displays the data.
You mention things that you like, but you haven't mentioned which actually works better. You're going to need to go back towards that first.
DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
masnrock:

I just got a quote for the UAP-AC-SHD-US, and it's $414.00, which is more than I was expecting.  At this price, I rather pay $100 more and go with the Meraki, as I discovered if I want to pay for phone support, it's $100 per AP, which puts me at the same price as the Meraki.

I don't really know what works better, that's what I'm researching now.  My current APs don't have all the bells and whistles, and they are only 2.5Ghz, and N only, so it would be a big upgrade going to these new models.

Looks like Ubiquiti is out, as it's practically the same price as Meraki or Sophos.
masnrockCommented:
I just got a quote for the UAP-AC-SHD-US, and it's $414.00, which is more than I was expecting.  At this price, I rather pay $100 more and go with the Meraki, as I discovered if I want to pay for phone support, it's $100 per AP, which puts me at the same price as the Meraki.
Is it safe to assume that you are comparing apples to apples with the models you picked from each brand? (I'm not saying you aren't, but I think that would be a fair comparison point to account for any applicable support costs with all of them)

I don't really know what works better, that's what I'm researching now.  My current APs don't have all the bells and whistles, and they are only 2.5Ghz, and N only, so it would be a big upgrade going to these new models.
Try to arrange to get some hardware to test yourself, and then work from there.

Looks like Ubiquiti is out, as it's practically the same price as Meraki or Sophos.
Goes back to the first part of my comment. But personally, I wouldn't use this as the sole reasoning to eliminate a product unless you knew for certain it was a much lower quality. Let the testing sort that stuff out. Set your criteria, and basically look at all of those things in the process.

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DanNetwork EngineerAuthor Commented:
Thanks everyone for your input, greatly appreciate it.
Benjamin Van DitmarsSr Network EngineerCommented:
Youre welcome :)
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