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In a small office with 5-10 WAPs, do you create distinct SSIDs for each WAP, or do you name each one the same?

Recently I have been deploying multiple WAPs configured with the same SSID and password, and leaving it to the client computer to decide which WAP provides the best coverage, and have had good luck with this.

How can I deploy multiple APs in the same office without a centralized WLC?

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  • I'm sorry but discussion questions are off-topic... I'm editing the question to reduce the scope – Mike Pennington Jun 17 '13 at 22:28
  • What problem are you really trying to solve with this question? Is status quo is working for you? – Mike Pennington Jun 17 '13 at 23:01
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You certainly can do without a controller. A number of vendors either provide management software with the purchase of the AP or have products that are designed to run without one. You can choose from Cisco, Aruba, Aerohive, Meraki (now Cisco), Ubiquiti and quite a few others (supposedly Meru has a solution soon to launch as well) for solutions that work without a controller.

As for single SSID or multiple, that is really up to a design choice, but generally speaking you would want to only provide one for roaming if you do mobile computing. Wireless clients have been getting better about making good choices when presented with multiple wireless access points, with some notable exceptions (Apple devices seem to still have some issues periodically).

If mobility isn't a concern and you are largely dealing with nomadic (i.e. they may move, but are used almost entirely in one position)or stationary clients, then you can balance your clients in several ways with unique SSIDs. However managing the clients and educating users can be troublesome if you don't put some thought into it.

Controllers largely help with the management, reporting and coordination (and sometimes troubleshooting) of the wireless network. While they are nice to have, they are by no means essential for general wireless. If you are looking to do something more complex or that requires a higher class of service (such as wireless-VoIP), then you should look into a controller based solution.

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My company won't put up the money for WLCs. So we run all autonomous APs. Haven't had any issues. We use 1-10 APs per site, same SSIDs (4-6 per site, all APs run all the SSIDs for the site). Users haven't had any issues roaming between them.

I'm sure there are reasons for using a WLC (rogue AP detection, frequency selection, better mesh/roaming), but as long as things work for us, management won't give me the budget to implement them. The only bullet point I could use was managing so many APs globally used to be a pain but I resolved that with autobooting them off a TFTP config that I update. Single config for all APs.

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  • User roaming works for me too. – Blake Jun 17 '13 at 22:38
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In this case I'd suggest to use the same SSID - easier to provision, simplier for users. Just pay attention to frequencies you configure. Ideally try to use non-overlapping. You can try to use vistumbler to check for wireless signals and channels best suitable for situation. Most devices nowadays can handle roaming pretty well without need for controller. But you can also take a look at Cisco AP541n APs, which can form cluster up to 10 APs with single configuration and frequency management.

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