Standalone wireless access points are a burden to manage. Cisco has a wide suite of centralized wireless controllers available to centralize and manage your thousands of access points as one. In this article, we examine how WLAN management looks in the world of centralized control with Cisco controllers.
In the absence of WLAN controllers, configuring a new access point requires a few steps. First, you remove it from the box and connect it to your laptop's serial port. Next you login and paste in your standard configuration and set the IP, after allocating an IP address and creating the DNS and DHCP entries. Next, you decide where to plug it in and configure a switch port to connect the access point to. Finally, you can deploy the access point.
With centralized management, the only required step is the physical deployment. The access point will need to connect to a trunk port on your switch if you run more than one wireless network and wish for it to land on a specific virtual LAN (VLAN) once it hits the wire. Even without a special VLAN configuration, you will need to place the access point in the right VLAN to get DHCP and the next-server address of the wireless controller, where it fetches its configuration from. The port configurations can be done ahead of time, and pushed out to many switches at once; or they can even be automated. Suffice it to say, deploying new access points in this manner is most enjoyable.
It may seem a marginal benefit to save 20 minutes of configuration time to configure new access points, especially to smaller businesses. Larger infrastructures may have 100, 1,000, or even 10,000 access points to deploy and manage. With thousands of access points, it simply isn't possible to configure, let alone manage, such a large wireless network.
Not only do centralized wireless controllers ease the burden of deploying new access points, but they also greatly simplify the day to day management of them.
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