What to consider when choosing APs for your enterprise network—and some of the top products on the market
Access points are one of the most critical factors in creating a high-quality enterprise wireless network. The right hardware lays the foundation on which you can build a strong and scalable system.
An access point is a device that creates a wireless local area network (WLAN) in a designated area. It plugs into a network switch, router, or hub to send out a wireless signal, allowing devices to connect. Access points are usually employed in larger spaces like offices or warehouses where a wireless router and range extenders won’t suffice.
The obvious benefits of wireless access points for enterprises are that they can handle more connections per device and allow users to roam freely throughout the space without losing signal. But the right access point will depend on the features and capabilities that suit your enterprise Wi-Fi needs.
Here are some of the things to consider when choosing access points, plus some of the top products on the market.
What to consider when choosing access points
- Range: How large is the space you need to cover? If you're creating a 30-person office network, you will need far fewer APs than if you're devising one for a large warehouse. If expansion is in the near future, you may want to choose an AP with an extensive range to prepare for growth.
- Speed is an absolute necessity for enterprise networks, so access points should support 802.11ac, which can reach up to 1200 Mbps. During the next major network upgrade, APs will likely be replaced with those that support 802.11ax to deliver up to 2 Gbps speeds.
- Power over Ethernet (PoE): PoE-enabled devices allow electrical currents to pass through the same ethernet cable as the data, eliminating the need for an additional power cable to access points. PoE makes networks easier and less expensive to install. It also makes network design more flexible and safer, because AP placement isn’t reliant on the location of power sources.
- Multiple user, multiple input, multiple output (MU-MIMO): Under the 802.11 standard, users accessing a network are served on a first-come, first-served basis. This isn’t a big deal in small businesses and homes, but congestion can really add up in large enterprises. MU-MIMO allows access points to circumvent this headache by simultaneously delivering data streams to multiple users at one time. Access points come in 2x2, 3x3, or 4x4 MU-MIMO configurations, which refer to the number of streams the point can deliver. This feature is limited by space, and it only supports downlink connections, but improvements are expected soon.
- Management: Access points with cloud-based management features are a must for large enterprises. This remote capability includes being able to control device access and bandwidth and monitor the overall network for performance and security issues.
5 access points for enterprise networks
Good for large enterprises: Linksys Business LAPAC1200C AC1200 Dual-Band Cloud Wireless Access Point
This access point includes the license to the Linksys Cloud Manager, which lets you manage your networks and see real-time data on all access points. This system is ideal for enterprises with multiple networks across several locations, and it has the potential to scale up to thousands of APs. Zero-touch provisioning allows for rapid deployment as APs automatically connect and configure when turned on.
The Linksys access point features dual-band wireless with speeds totaling up to 1.17 Gbps that support large enterprise activities. It also comes with a Captive Portal feature so you can customize and separate guest Wi-Fi access. This AP is PoE-enabled and comes equipped with business security features.
Good for long range: Ubiquiti UniFi UAP AC Long Range Access Point
The Ubiquity access point is ideal for long-range deployments with a range of up to 600 ft. It offers dual-band operation as well as 2x2 and 3x3 MIMO. The innovative antenna design creates a symmetrical-link coverage area, which has better signal and reception performance for distant users.
This access point comes with the UniFi Controller, which provides spectral analysis, band steering, and airtime fairness. It allows for unlimited scalability, manageable through one controller. Network managers can update APs from anywhere in the field at any time. The Ubiquiti AP is PoE-capable and has speeds up to 450 Mbps (2.4 GHz) and 867 Mbps (5 GHz).
Good for affordability: TP-Link Omada EAP225 Gigabit Ceiling Mount Access Point
The EAP225 is an affordable business-class solution with 802.11ac and MU-MIMO technology, as well as PoE capabilities. Omada Controller software gives users complete control and visibility over hundreds of APs from one centralized location.
This AP offers simultaneous speeds of 450 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps on 5 GHz, plus band steering to provide faster connections to dual-band devices. Similar to the Linksys AP above, the EAP225 offers a captive portal to provide secure and convenient guest authentication. Beamforming technology concentrates the signal where it’s needed most, giving you a reliable and flexible network.
Good mesh solution: DrayTek VigorAP 903 Wi-Fi PoE Access Point
Rather than using an ethernet connection, mesh network solutions connect to an existing AP and use it as its uplink. One AP serves as the controller and can connect to eight other APs to form a wireless mesh. This allows users to expand the network in minutes without significant deployment efforts.
The Draytek AP can also be used as a traditional access point, so it has flexibility for your enterprise needs. It delivers speeds of 400 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps at 5 GHz. In addition to PoE, the Draytek also offers band steering, airtime fairness, assisted Wi-Fi roaming, and central AP management through the Draytek router.
Good for small to mid-sized businesses: Netgear WAC510 Wireless Business Access Point
Netgear is a well-known player in the network world, and the WAC510 AP is an excellent option for small to mid-sized businesses looking for high-quality equipment. This AP comes with NETGEAR Insight remote monitoring and device management and a captive portal for guest access.
The Netgear AP delivers speeds of 400 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps at 5 GHz with MU-MIMO and PoE capabilities. Security features include WPA, WPA2, and rogue AP detection. This AP is designed for high-performance Wi-Fi with high client density, making it ideal for smaller offices, retail spaces, and restaurants.
Optimize your performance with network monitoring
Choosing the right AP will depend on your business needs and plans for growth. Nevertheless, network monitoring solutions are a necessity for enterprises of any size. 7SIGNAL's cloud-based tools Mobile Eye® and Sapphire Eye® measure Wi-Fi performance from the end-user’s perspective, identifying problems early to maximize uptime, device connectivity, and network ROI.
Contact us today to find a monitoring solution that fits your enterprise needs.
7SIGNAL® is a leader in Wireless Experience Monitoring. The 7SIGNAL platform is a cloud-based Wi-Fi performance management solution that continuously monitors the wireless network for performance issues—maximizing network uptime, device connectivity, remote worker productivity, and network ROI. The platform was designed to support the Wi-Fi management needs of the world’s largest organizations, educational institutions, hospitals, and government agencies. 7SIGNAL continuously monitors the connectivity of over 5 million global devices. Learn more at www.7signal.com.