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Managing switches and APs from the cloud or locally: Know the differences

Local management of wired and WiFi networks

Currently, a large number of small and medium-sized companies decide on a local management solution for your computersIn other words, they manage locally both the manageable switches as well as the WiFi access points that provide connectivity to the Internet and the local network for both their workers and customers. The company that decides on a local management of this type of networks, is usually because they have an internal administration, that is, they have IT personnel to install, manage, administer and monitor all network devices and solve any possible problem that may arise. In addition, a very important detail is that it is necessary to have some knowledge of networks to correctly install the entire professional local network. Other characteristics of local management is that we want all the data to be kept locally in the company, and not to go to the public “cloud” in any way.

In the event that a problem occurs and the IT staff is not physically present In the company, it will be necessary to connect via VPN to the VPN server, which can be located in the router / firewall or in a dedicated server to perform this task. Once we are connected to the VPN server, access will be as if we were physically in the company, so we can enter via web or console the administration of the different devices that we have installed (Core, distribution and access manageable switches, as well as indoor or outdoor WiFi access points). The most normal thing is to have a network specifically dedicated to network management, here we could also place a server for the continuous monitoring of each and every one of the devices, in case of failure of any of these equipment, the administrator could be notified by email, notifications to Telegram or any other instant messaging app.

Generally local management has no associated costIn other words, we will buy the switches, WiFi access points and the hardware device for centralized management of the WiFi access points, and we will not have to pay absolutely anything to manage the different devices. The only thing that we will have to pay is the IT staff of the company, to make sure that everything is working correctly.

Some environments where local management is commonly used are small and medium-sized companies that have a single headquarters or physical location, for example, a restaurant, a hotel, a training center or a university etc.

Once we know the main characteristics of a local management of switches and WiFi access points in the company, we are going to see the strengths and weaknesses of this solution.

Strengths

  • All the information remains in the company itself, without having any data in the “cloud” of the manufacturer of the different devices.
  • We do not depend on an Internet connection permanently, if the Internet connection drops we can continue making changes locally and working on the network to exchange files without problems.
  • We do not depend on a third party, in this case, the manufacturer of the Cloud equipment, because, even if we have an SLA of 99.99%, the cloud can always fall at the worst moment.
  • Manageable switches from different manufacturers can be used without any problem, as they have local management and use IEEE standards, it will not be necessary for them to be from the same manufacturer.
  • The security of the entire network depends on ourselves and our knowledge, although the communication in the switches and APs can be via HTTPS to provide greater security.

Weak points

  • We cannot monitor the network remotely from a web platform or in a mobile app, unless we design it ourselves in the company.
  • We need to install a monitoring system for the switches and access points from scratch, so that it warns us in case there is some kind of problem.
  • We need to install a system for managing records (logs) for all equipment, in order to detect possible problems in time.
  • If we want to remotely access and manage something, we must connect via VPN to the company to perform maintenance.
  • We have to configure switch by switch with the same (or similar) configurations.
  • If we have centralized management of APs we will have to use a dedicated server or buy a hardware controller dedicated to centralized management.
  • The firmware update must be done individually, depending on the switch, we would have to download the firmware and upload it manually, to all the computers.
  • The firmware update in the APs is done centrally, but we have to upload the firmware to be deployed to the WiFi controller.

As you have seen, with local network management we have some very interested strengths, especially that we do not depend on a third party (the manufacturer) or on the Internet connection to make changes. However, we also have some weak points that Cloud solutions are capable of providing us.

Cloud management of wired and WiFi networks

In recent years, many companies are opting for the management of your switches and WiFi access points directly in the cloud from the manufacturer, that is, we have a management in the Cloud to manage and monitor all your devices, removing the IT administrators from this work, because the cloud solution itself will be in charge of monitoring and storing all the records generated by these devices , without the need for us to have to set up a monitoring system to check that everything is correct, nor a syslog server to store all the logs centrally.

The company that decides to manage its network in the Cloud is because delegates all its management to an integrating companyIn other words, it does not have an internal IT department. However, there may be companies that do have an IT department and that decide on a cloud management of switches and WiFi access points for all its possibilities. In this case, it is not necessary to have as much knowledge of networks as in local management, however, it is necessary to know good practices when configuring switches and APs from the Cloud. Another aspect that we must highlight is the ease of managing multiple locations centrally, that is, if we have a business with several offices physically located in different places, the administration and monitoring of both locations is much easier than doing it with local management.

In the event that a problem occurs and the IT staff is not physically present In the company, they will only have to access via the web the control panel of their entire network of switches and APs and intervene, see what has happened and how it can be solved, in addition, they can also do it through the official application in the smartphone, something really useful because it has the same administration and configuration options as if we entered via the web. In the case of cloud management, it is not necessary to have VPN servers and later connect team by team manually, we have everything in a cloud platform from which we can specifically configure a specific switch or AP, to then apply changes and the device downloads the new configuration. Although management is now carried out in the cloud, it is still highly recommended to reserve a specific network for the management of the different devices, that is, to segment the network into VLANs and for the equipment management traffic to flow through a specific subnet.

Of course, in the case of cloud management, any problem we have It will notify us automatically by email and even with a Push notification In the official app, it is no longer necessary to perform an advanced configuration of the mail server with SMTP, but the cloud service itself will send us notifications without having to configure anything, the sending email address will be the registration one, without need to take any further action.

Regarding the costs associated with cloud management, here comes one of the most important aspects. Manufacturers like Aruba, with their Aruba Instant On solution, provide totally free cloud management, at no additional cost and forever. EnGenius Cloud is also currently totally free, however, it will soon incorporate new features that will only be available in the paid “Premium” version, so we will have to see what options we have for free and which ones are paid. Other manufacturers such as D-Link with its Nuclias Cloud is paid, however, for the purchase of any switch or AP they give us a free cloud management for 5 years, then we have to pay € 36 / year for each AP and 14 € / year for each switch we have on the network. Finally, NETGEAR with its Insight is also paid, they give away 1 year of management and later we will have to pay € 10 / year for each device we have on the network, this is the “cheap” version and the totally necessary one, if we want more options we will have to buy the version of € 25 / year for each device. Therefore, with management in the Cloud, we will not only have to buy the switches and APs, but we will also have to pay to use the management in the cloud. Depending on the manufacturer, it will be completely free or you will have to pay up to € 36 / year for each AP.

Some environments where cloud management is commonly used are small and medium-sized companies that have several locations, to have all the centralized management in a single point, in addition, they usually do not have an IT department, but rather delegate their administration to another company.

Once we know the main characteristics of a management in the Cloud of the switches and WiFi access points in the company, we are going to see the strengths and weaknesses of this solution.

Strengths

  • Installation and start-up of the network is much easier, we only have to register the serial number of the device in the cloud to link it, or scan a QR code with our smartphone.
  • Centralized management of switches and WiFi access points, all from a control panel via the web or from an app for smartphones.
  • We can manage the network of several sites with the same account, easily and quickly, without using VPN to connect to the company.
  • Monitoring system integrated into the solution, we will not have to configure a monitoring system for switches and APs.
  • System of registry integrated in the cloud, we will not have to install the typical Syslog server to store all the records of switches and APs.
  • The security of the entire network depends on the configuration made, and the security of our cloud provider.
  • All communications are mandatory over HTTPS, there is no option to use HTTP.
  • Automatic firmware updates, allow us to schedule the updates at the time we want.

Weak points

  • We depend on a permanent Internet connection to manage, monitor and store all equipment logs.
  • We also depend on a third party, if the manufacturer’s Cloud platform goes down, we will not be able to make new modifications, but we can keep existing ones.
  • Switches from other manufacturers cannot be used, everything must be from the same manufacturer and must also be from the manufacturer’s “Cloud” family.
  • If they violate our credentials in the Cloud, they will take complete control of the network.

As you have seen, with network management in the Cloud we have a large number of strengths, above all we value the issue of monitoring and storing all records, as well as the possibility of managing the network anywhere without VPN and from the app of our smartphone. The most negative part is that we will depend on an Internet connection for any action we take, even if we are within the local network itself.

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