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WatchGuard Wireless, AP320 Access Points Review

Thursday, June 15, 2017 - by Keith A. Smith

I’m a big fan of WatchGuard, and I’ve been using their appliances for some time now. Some other people I know have had concerns about the quality of the firmware or WatchGuard Fireware OS, and I can say that this was an issue in the earlier versions (pre-2014) when the UI was flash based. Since 2014 the UI has significantly improved, I generally get the kit with five years’ live security, knowing at the end of that five years, the kit is probably going to be obsolete and a refresh will be required anyway.

I had never used the WatchGuard Ap's before this deployment, after doing some research I saw that they integrate very tightly with the firewalls and the Dimension products, so I decided to give them a shot.  I think personally the units look great, they’re very discreet and very powerful.




They have 2 Radio’s (5GHz and 2.4GHz), 6 antennas, Up to 1.3 Gbps for 11ac Up to 450 Mbps for 11n, up to 8 SSID’s per radio, PoE, support for all the wireless standards (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac) and Fast Roaming and Band Steering.


The Wi-Fi AP's also comes boxed with a ceiling mount kit and even more useful an T-rail ceiling mounting kit which is nice for most commercial offices.



In my case, I had to "macgyver" a mounting solution for our AP’s using L shelf brackets + chrome head screws + automotive fasteners that I purchased from a local ACE hardware store shown below since none of our locations have T-rail ceiling or anything close to it.

 
                       

The Wi-Fi AP's also run PoE and I’m currently using a few HP 3500 Series PoE switches to provide power to them. By using PoE to power, the Access Points which great because I can also reboot any AP by turning off the PoE for that port should any of the AP's have issues down the line.

I have configured a few VLAN’s with each AP320 broadcasting wireless networks. I currently have the AP320’s set to auto regarding the channels and so it does a lot of the work in working out which channel to run on for me to ease wireless congestion. They were very easy to deploy, and wireless SSID configuration was deployed very quickly thanks to the firewall acting as the wireless controller. I've also found the updates for the AP's to be basic and can be done from the firewall (acting as the wireless controller) in a few clicks.

When you have multiple WatchGuard firewalls and WatchGuard access points it's best to use the WatchGuard System Manager  for managing all of this. The monitoring of this is also great, I can see at any point any wireless device, which AP it is connected to, the traffic volume and also its signal strength etc.

One of the issues that I ran into was a few of the AP’s rebooting during of the work hours, which as you can imagine was somewhat annoying. Initially, I though this issue was caused by HP 3500 PoE switches, but after directly connecting in a 12v 1.25A PSU it kept happening. The HP switch firmware did have a defect (PoE CR_0000207335) in the version that was running on the switches at the time of the AP deployment, however I was able to resolve that by contacting HPE support and applying the supplied software update. After the software updates for the HP PoE switches had been applied, I opened a case with WatchGuard support about the AP320's randomly crashing and restarting. I had all the latest firmware installed for the AP's at the time I  submitted the fault reports to WatchGuard, after the support person investigated the fault reports they agreed was a newly discovered bug (bug "AP-17"), which as of right now is still being worked on.

Technical Details
This bug
(bug "AP-17") is related to the DFS channels being used and the scan interval. At this time the bug isn't resolved, but the workaround to this was to set the wireless scan interval to 24 hours in the Gateway Wireless Controller Settings. Here is a link on how to do this http://www.watchguard.com/help/docs/fireware/11/en-US/Content/en-US/wireless/ap_global_settings_c.html

You can also configure the channels manually to further reduce this issue. Be sure to select non-DFS channels. DFS channels are 50 through 144.


All in all, I’m very happy with the AP’s and the support has always been great from WatchGuard which is one of the many reasons I like company. Once the bug above is resolved, I will call this a successful deployment. I found the WatchGuard AP's to be easily scalable and easy to manage, these devices are built with quality can fit any long-term wireless solution.



-End


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