Easy Wi-Fi Deployment with SteelConnect


Wi-Fi is ubiquitous today, so much that one almost takes it for granted at many places. It is, perhaps, not too much of an exaggeration when some consider Wi-Fi to be at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

With the explosion of mobile devices in the last few years, and Wi-Fi emerging as the adopted ‘free’ technology, it is no surprise then that it has become a core component of every organization’s LAN. IT staff in organizations have to often deal with not just configuring the wired LAN, but also the wireless LAN today. As if Wi-Fi design and deployment by itself is not tricky enough, configuring an organization’s network to have unified and consistent access control policies across its wired and wireless segments spanning multiple sites can often be a network admin’s nightmare.

Not with Riverbed SteelConnect. SteelConnect’s unified management interface enables configuration of not just the WAN, but also the LAN segments of the network- both wired and wireless. SteelConnect offers a line of Wi-Fi access points that support zero touch provisioning and enforcement of global access control policies. These come in three models designed for small and medium sized to large businesses. Each of these access points is DBDC (dual-band dual-concurrent) capable, supports MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and 802.11n/ac capable.

Traditionally, at a high level, there are two ways to create and broadcast SSIDs from access points depending on the size of the Wi-Fi network deployment.

First, for smaller deployments, such as residential/ small businesses, the process entails logging into the individual device via the Ethernet LAN port and configuring it from its web console. This is cumbersome and not scalable to most enterprises’ needs.

Second, for larger deployments such as mid-to-large sized organizations, the Wi-Fi deployment typically entails an (often expensive) enterprise Wi-Fi solution that comprises a central controller to push configuration files to all access points in the network. Often times, these controllers are not cloud-managed and only configure the access points within the physical site (LAN) of the organization. This is a standalone Wi-Fi-only solution, which does not scale well, or quickly becomes very complex with multiple physical sites.

SteelConnect, on the other hand, integrates tools for a comprehensive network configuration of the WAN and the LAN, including Wi-Fi, even in cases of large global organizations with multiple distributed physical sites. SteelConnect Manager also includes a planner tool for Wi-Fi design and deployment from the same cloud console with an intuitive graphical user interface. This dramatically simplifies and streamlines the network configuration process, particularly for Wi-Fi deployments.

SteelConnect Manager lets you configure all SSIDs for all sites centrally from a single page. These wireless networks can be ‘Open’ or secure. WPA2 Personal as well as WPA2 Enterprise (along with Compatibility modes for WPA) security mechanisms are supported. You can configure RADIUS for WPA2 Enterprise authentication. Often times, this is Microsoft NPS (Network Policy Server) which integrates directly with Active Directory for user authentication.

Once the SSIDs are created, you can flexibly broadcast them on a site-by-site basis. Every broadcast can set additional, advanced Wi-Fi options as well as a captive portal. While broadcasting the SSIDs at a site, you can choose the wired network LAN to map to when clients connect to the wireless network.

Channel selection and bandwidth assignments are automated (using global network defaults) by SteelConnect. Of course, based on your organization’s needs, you may choose to customize these settings on per-access point basis. All this can be designed even before you actually have the physical appliance in your hands. With SteelConnect, the entire network can be designed before deploying the first piece of hardware. ‘Shadow appliances’—cardboard cutouts of appliances that can be used to design the network from ground up—can be dropped at configured sites on the dashboard map, and individually customized if needed. Once you have the physical device, enter its serial number on the SteelConnect Manager cloud console, and connect it to the cloud, the device is fully functional in a matter of minutes. No additional effort is required. SteelConnect does all the heavy lifting.  

SteelConnect comes with integrated tools that simplify and streamline the process of configuring your organization’s LAN and WAN using an intuitive graphical user interface. Here’s a quick demo on how to get started with your Wi-Fi configuration. Stay tuned for more blogs on other cool features from SteelConnect that empower you to configure your wireless LAN and WAN quickly and seamlessly. Learn more about SteelConnect and be a part of our Early Access Program.

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