Cisco Aironet 1231 (AIR-LAP1231G-E-K9) 802.11b/g Wireless Access Point
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Cisco Aironet 1231 (AIR-LAP1231G-E-K9) 802.11b/g Wireless Access Point

  • Additional Features: DHCP Server
  • WLAN Standards: IEEE 802.11g/b
  • Type: Wireless Access Point
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Industrial-strength wireless, not for the faint of heart

bysolind Jun 23, 2006
Pros Highest available radio quality, range and security.
Cons You really need to know what you're doing to set it up with security.
Recommended it? Yes
The Bottom Line:  Top-of-the-line wireless access point, geared towards enterprise (not consumer) use.
I searched high and low for a wireless access point with the range and sensitivity to reach every corner of my 175 year old home. That's a tall order, considering that it's about 3500 square feet of living space, on three stories, in a brick structure (with the occasional internal load-bearing brick wall).

After originally experimenting with 802.11a, it became clear that the part of the radio spectrum that protocol uses is inherently bad at penetrating walls and floors. Then 802.11g came into widespread use, promising the range of 802.11b, but with significantly more bandwidth. Unfortunately, I discovered that putting a big antenna on a consumer-grade access point just wasn't going to fit the bill; the quality of the device's radio reciever is an important factor.

I didn't want to deploy additional access points and have to manage multiple wireless networks, so I decided to see for myself why the Cisco Aironet cost roughly five times more than the WAP I was replacing.

Frankly, this thing is awesome. With the standard 2.2 dB omni (rubber duck) antennae, I could surf the Internet from my basement with the Aironet sitting in my third floor office. I had a dark spot behind an internal brick wall on the first floor so I invested in a pair of aftermarket high-gain 2.4 GHz antennae; see I'll add that I have never had to reboot the Aironet like I did with my other access points; it's rock solid and can run continuously for months, maybe even years.

Unfortunately, all this comes at a cost that's not just financial. While you can get it working with no security whatsoever (which only a fool would do) quite easily, you really need to be something of a techie to set up any sort of security. Unlike consumer device manufacturers, the folks at Cisco assumed that only a company with a qualified IT staff would shell out for this device. For example, I once had to configure a TFTP server to upgrade the Aironet's firmware. In order to set the clock, I have to telnet to the device and use an IOS command that's documented nowhere in the manual. If these sorts of things frighten you, then you should stick with the consumer devices.

On the flip side, however, no other device offers the breadth and depth of wireless features afforded by the Aironet. You can configure virtual wireless LANs, QoS policies, AES wireless encryption, Radius server integration, management via SNMP ... and a whole host of other things that I will also never use. It is clearly an enterprise-strength product.

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