The VAR Guy Review: Netgear Wireless Management System
Netgear was kind enough to send me their ProSafe WMS5316 Wireless Management System (Router) and ProSafe WNDAP350 Access Points for review. Any SMB or even branch office might be interested in this feature-packed solution. Read on about my three months with Netgear.
Full disclosure: I tested Netgear’s system out in my home, not an office environment. I didn’t tax the system to the theoretical limit of 200+ users, because frankly, I don’t have that many friends. But I was able to get a real grasp on my network usage, the reliability of the product, and the quality of features it contained. I could start by saying what I consider is the biggest compliment to the hardware. After setup, I didn’t have to do anything. I never had to reboot the router or access point. In fact, I spent less time configuring and tweaking this entire setup than I have with dinky home-networking wireless solutions. It was very much “set it and forget it.” It played nice with EVERY device in my house. iPad, iPhone, Apple TV (original), MacBook, HTPC with a ZyXEL wireless N adapter and my PS3 streaming HD Netflix. So bottom line: I liked it. I liked it a lot. And now I have to send it back.
A Closer Look
But enough about fun; here are the features you care about.
The ProSafe WMS5316 Wireless Management System (for up to 16APs) is essentially a giant (loud) router, with four ports for connecting wireless access points, LAN devices or daisy-chaining it to an existing network. (Netgear sent me two ProSafe WNDAP350 APs to test out, each of them provided Wireless NA and NG at 5GHz and 2.4GHz respectively, enabling a wide range of devices to connect.) Instead of configuring each access point manually, you can manage all of your access points (and discover ‘rouge’ ones) all from logging into the singular router console. You can tell the router to configure the APs for identical specs and encryption, or you can setup each AP for its own special networks. You can also have an entire set list of ‘profiles’ to deploy, depending on how often you need to switch the security level in your environment.
Imagine a doctor’s office with a guest WiFi network in the waiting room, and a business related wifi floating around, too. Now, I hear you back there — yes, you can do this with just one wireless router, but Netgear’s multi-AP solution allows for a lot more granular control of what goes on when a user is connected to that specific access point. In essence, you can treat each AP as its own little network, instead of a doorway to the big one it’s actually connected to.
The Netgear Router also (like mentioned) can detect rogue access points. This essentially means that ANY device connected to the network that is broadcasting a wireless AP that isn’t under management by the Netgear Router is instantly detected. (This little tool would’ve been helpful to stop someone like me from abusing Fordham University’s networks…) The Router detected my home FiOS wireless router, noted the access point name and a few other details regarding the status of that access point.
It’s a great way to make sure no device on the system is broadcasting its own network (either on purpose or due to malware), leaving leaks in your otherwise secure network.
Here’s my only complaint: The initial setup of my APs with the router was not ‘auto-detected’ as the router was supposed to do. This was due to some newer APs that Netgear set me, with newer MAC Address / OUI then the router was expected to detect. The problem was fixed by adding the first 3 pairs of the OUI into the router manually. It then saw both access points right away (since they shared the 3 base pairs.)
The Netgear Router is compatible with a handful of other wireless access points (which you can find online) for either expandability, or integration with existing Netgear equipment you might have.
Let’s not forget all the other features you’d expect from this solution, including filtering and viewing network traffic in a nice graph form. Note my traffic spike, which may or may not have something to do with torrents…
It’s hard to encapsulate everything that this system can provide for a SMB without writing 2,000 words, but in my honest opinion, Netgear’s Router is a reliable system packed with all the features an SMB would need to cut the wire and just go wireless across the entire company. Considering all the streaming, online video games, and downloading I put this equipment through, it never once coughed or sputtered. I think it’ll provide the same reliability for your SMB too.
Ah, and the price tag?
- ProSafe WMS5316: $910
- ProSafe WNDAp350 AP: MSRP $429
I think an SMB can fit this in their budget nicely. Let us know what you think about Netgear’s product line and how reliable their products have been for you.