When to upgrade your wireless?

I searched the forum and found that there were a few discussions about what to upgrade your wireless to but not so much on “When and Why” of upgrading your wireless.

Some background on us. We went to Ruckus right when they came out with the ZD1100 (not sure when that was) and went with 7363’s (Wireless N band) at our two largest campuses and UniFi at our smaller campuses. Later we added some R300 and R500’s to the system as demands increased and a backup ZD1100. Ever since we went to Ruckus I’ve had almost zero complaints about wireless. Our staff uses wireless only since everyone is on Mac Books and it works for their needs. On a weekend we don’t have huge density or bandwidth requirements as I think most of our people just use their phones with 4G and we don’t push anything from the stage that says “Open this app…” so those demand are pretty low. We also don’t host any conferences really (and the small ones we’ve done have been fine with what we have). So, the only reason I can see to upgrade is that our equipment is EOL and not supported but we do have a backup hot-spare controller.

So, the main question is “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Or are the other questions to be asked?

What are your thoughts? I’m thinking of going to vSZ-E and keeping the R300 and R500 and replacing the rest but I’m wondering when to make that move since everything works and is paid for.

Sounds like you’ve already considered the more common reasons to upgrade, like hardware failures or features and capacity that are no longer meeting your needs.

I think one thing I’d consider is that EOL hardware which won’t be getting firmware updates will slowly accumulate security vulnerabilities that won’t be fixed. “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” is generally great advice, as long has you have a sufficiently expansive definition of broke.

As an example, if you look at the changelog for the most recent Ubiquiti UniFi firmware, three of the last four firmware updates have included security fixes. At my church, we’re saving up money in a prepaid account for the next few years so that when our switches and firewall hit EOS we’re financially prepared to upgrade them to something more secure.

Great points Joe. We too are starting to structure out budgets for planned replacements. The point about the security and probably stability updates is valid. I think we’ll be updating one of our campuses this year and budget for the other next year. We have the money budgeted now so I may as well spend it now, who knows if it will be there the next year. It is hard for me to spend the money though when something is working so well still. I’m hopeful the new Ruckus controller and AP’s will be as good for us as the old stuff has.

I think you will be pleased. We just finished the replacement at our hospital - replaced 200 Aruba APs with 91 Ruckus R710s. After every other wireless install, change, upgrade, etc. that we have done in my 3 years here there has been days sometimes weeks of complaining until everything is either worked out or the users get tired of complaining. I’m happy to say after the Ruckus install we have had ZERO complaints. Same story at the offsite locations. We had a 2 story building with 12 Aruba devices, replaced with 4 Ruckus R610s and ZERO complaints. I could go on and on.

One more thing to consider. We have R310s for users to take home with them so that when they go home they just open their notebook and connect to the internal network. With the Ruckus every user has reported more stability and much faster speeds from home. Using this method we are able to fully manage the users machines when they are home and the user doesn’t have issues with VPN, tokens, etc.

Joe makes excellent points. To add a non-situational response for other readers, I do want to emphasize performance as a consideration, especially if guests are a major part of the network. I would also add future planning, and better management to the list. Many churches want to engage with mobile connectivity, so the performance gains and overall throughput of more modern radios can make a significant impact for guests. There have also been improvements to traffic shaping and guest authentication to help keep the guest space secure without stealing a lot of bandwidth from the staff. The older Ruckus did some of this too, but not to the level newer systems can.

Regarding future planning, if your church is pushing mobile giving or anticipating multi-media presentations in Sunday School classes, the guest experience will become more of a factor. As we all know, high-tech society is pushing more toward mobility, so WiFi needs to perform securely and reliably. If credit cards are being taken on campus, PCI compliance standards are also a factor in the security demands.

When we recently reviewed our options for WiFi, I also considered manageability. I wanted to be able to go to my son’s soccer game and not need a VPN connection from my laptop to deal with an emergency on a Wednesday night. I’m also a huge fan of multi-taskers, so I looked outside the scope of WiFi to see what other devices vendors would help me manage in the same dashboard. There are a few that do a lot more than simply manage WAPs. Aruba, for example, will comprehensively manage all HP/Aruba network devices. Ultimately I ended up dropping our Ruckus and switching to Cisco Meraki because it had better out of the box features for managing more of our network, guests, and devices.


How do you send an R310 home for an enduser to use ? Curious as to what must be done for the AP to phone home

Update, So we went with the Virtual Smart Zone, 7 R510’s, 2 R710’s. We just got them installed today and they’ve been working great. I did a site survey of levels and speeds before the upgrade but didn’t have time to do the post install tests yet. I’m hoping to tomorrow but my initial findings are that they are much faster and at greater distance then the old ZF7363’s and R500’s. I’m getting ready to place the order for our other campus now. It’s going to take some time to get used to the vSZ interface as compared to the ZD1100 that we’ve had for many years. I think we’ll be donating our old system to a local church that doesn’t have much for IT or network. I’m sure they’ll get a few more years of use out of it.

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