Ubiquiti is now a true enterprise solution

The iconic Ubiquiti circular access point, now known as the Flagship access point, now graces the ceilings of multiple homes, small businesses and churches. Ubiquiti has been slowly expanding into increasingly bigger and bigger markets, and its no longer uncommon to see their WiFi, cameras and even phones out in the wild. But critics will tell you that while Ubiquiti is nice for these small applications, the company’s products are simply not ready for a truly enterprise environment.

Someone should tell that to the Lakeland School District in LaGrange, Indiana. The network administrator there, along with his small staff of IT and database professionals, now maintains 5 schools in the county completely on Ubiquiti products. Over the past five years, they have slowly replaced the network switches, Wi-Fi, security cameras and door access systems at each school with Ubiquiti hardware. This has significantly reduced their year over year costs by eliminating the expensive hardware licensing fees, known as “Hardware as a Service,” that other companies charge for the privilege of using their hardware that was already purchased. Lakeland IT personnel jokingly refer to this as “Hostage as a Service,” noting that if you stop paying the expensive fees (in the thousands of dollars per year), your fancy hardware turns into a nice looking brick.

The setup at Lakeland is impressive. The schools are connected either via fiber or through UISP wireless links, including the Wave and AirFiber systems. Lakeland uses Unifi Identity Enterprise so that employees can access different buildings using the same credentials. Most schools have WiFi-7 access points or are scheduled for a refresh in the near future. The Protect cameras can now view multiple buildings in a consolidated fashion using the new Vantage Point system.

Lakeland is now partnering with wifi-U to try and host a Ubiquiti training class at least once a year, if not more, to ensure it keeps its employees fully trained on the latest technology that Ubiquiti offers. wifi-U sent its most handsome and dashing instructor, Ryan Haag, out recently to provide full stack training on both Unifi Wireless and Ubiquiti Broadband equipment lines.

If a large school district, spanning multiple buildings and hundreds of employees, can use Ubiquiti for all its needs, why can’t you?

If you’re interested in replacing your existing hardware an no longer being a hostage to greedy equipment manufacturers that charge you licensing fees every year, but need help getting started, give us a call here at wifi-U!

Author: Ryan Haag

UMR to the Rescue

When you travel, Unifi Mobile Router is the best gift you can give yourself. Small but mighty covers you, no matter if you are by the beach, on the road or in the mountains of Alaska, (if AT&T covers the area).

Thanks to my new UMR I can say goodbye to slow Wi-Fi in hotel rooms, connection drop in the middle of a project, and enjoy a movie after I’m done working.

But that’s not all, you can use it in your car and enjoy good quality Wi-Fi for your laptop, tablet, etc. As long as you are not the driver!

Unexpectedly easy to install, UMR is the perfect addition to my “must have” for travel around America.

Author: Cora Martin

Passive Aggressive PoE

There I was, troubleshooting a non-working Ubiquiti G3 Flex camera at a warehouse. It was frustrating. I pulled the camera out and plugged it directly into the switch, and the camera powered on with no issue. I then put a pin tester on the wire, which tested OK as well. I plugged the camera back in, and it powered up with no issue…but I had done this last week as well, and I didn’t want the camera to fail after a week.

Then I put my Fluke Ethernet tester on the wire, and it came up with “Passive PoE.”

Well well well.

Most people are familiar with Power over Ethernet (PoE), which allows you to power devices using an ethernet cable directly from a network switch. PoE has been around for a while, with the 802.3af arriving as early as 2003, and the 802.3at (called PoE+) in 2009 and 802.3bt (called PoE++) in 2018. Ethernet power makes installing security cameras, wireless access points and even larger displays easy, with no need to hire an electrician. But before these standards existed, there were non-standard PoE switches that provided Passive PoE. Passive PoE provided either 24V or 48V across 4 or 8 wires, and is still used on the UISP hardware line. It’s easy and cheap to run, because it provides the voltage without regard to the downstream equipment.

So how did Passive PoE wind up on my ethernet? Clearly I didn’t want it there, and it was causing the camera to trip off.

The problem comes from physics, specifically from electromagnetic induction. As an electrical signal moves in a wire, it induces a magnetic field. That magnetic field can induce an electric field in a nearby wire, causing interference. Normally this isn’t an issue, since the wires in CAT-6 cabling have a small plastic divider called a spline that prevents alien crosstalk. But when cables are bundled close to each other, the magnetic field from one cable can affect nearby cables. This is made worse when you have multiple PoE devices that are pulling more electricity.

My cable, bundled next to others, was getting an induced voltage that my Fluke detected as passive PoE, which was causing the camera to eventually shut down.

The solution is to use shielded cable. Shielded cables can be STP, where the foil is shielding the entire cable, or FTP, where the foil shields each pair. This metal shielding makes the cable larger, but it eliminates the crosstalk and induction problems in large cable bundles. Even better, this shielding helps dissipate heat when the cables are running large loads. While your average WAP won’t likely heat up a cable too much, the PoE++ standard allows up to 90 watts of power, and can send up to 1.25 amps down a line. That amperage is above the let-go level, meaning if you grasped a wire with that much amperage your muscles might not be able to release it. Thankfully the switch would like shutdown quickly, but it would not be a fun experience!

If you’ve got large cable bundles with lots of PoE devices, its best to start using CAT-6A shielded cable to prevent the induction problems in your wiring.

Author: Ryan Haag

At wifi-U, we love our WISPs and our Church IT volunteers!
We recently completed a Ubiquiti Wireless Administrator class with members from Crows Nest IT Support and Liberty Live Church in Rockville, MD. Despite some networking difficulties due to the Marriott disabling its ethernet connections, Ryan Haag, our dashingly handsome and brilliant trainer, managed to bring in Internet using a Ubiquiti Mobility Router. Ryan brought our students up to speed on all the new equipment Ubiquiti has to offer and the best way to configure large wireless LANs. Our students had a blast and spent much of their time configuring actual equipment in the classroom.
If you’re ready to get the most out of your Ubiquiti installation, sign up for one of our upcoming classes, or reach out to schedule a class at your location! Leaving your WiFi in “Auto” is like driving a sports car in second gear…don’t be that guy, let us help you make the most of your WiFi.
Crowsnest IT Support serves businesses and their needs in Altoona, State College, Bedford, Johnstown, and Huntingdon areas. You can learn more about them here: About Us | Crowsnest IT Support | Altoona | State College | Bedford | Johnstown Pa – Crowsnest IT Support
Liberty Live Church ministers to the Hampton Roads area in one of many churches. You can learn more about them here: About | Liberty Live Church
I’m teaching the switching/routing class today, then heading home. If you need to call me, I’m a captive audience in my car likely starting at 4:30 onwards.

Author: Ryan Haag
Filtering out the Cacophony of WiFi Networks in Crowded Retail Spaces
In the bustling corridors of a busy retail environment, the struggle for capturing customer attention is mirrored in an often-overlooked aspect of business operations: WiFi network design. As each store sets up its own internet connection with unique equipment and configurations, the airwaves become akin to a crowded marketplace where everyone is shouting to be heard. This results in a cacophony of conflicting networks, creating a dense forest of digital noise that can disrupt your business’s connectivity and customer satisfaction.

Understanding the Wireless Battlefield

Imagine your retail space as a storefront on a busy street. Each neighboring store is competing for the same foot traffic, using flashy signs and loud promotions. In the digital equivalent, every wireless router is broadcasting its presence, akin to these signs, vying for the attention of wireless devices. This can lead to “co-channel interference” and “adjacent channel interference,” which occur when multiple networks overlap and interfere with each other, much like overlapping marketing messages can confuse potential customers.
The Importance of Streamlined WiFi Design
To mitigate these issues, consider the following best practices:
  1. Small WiFi Cell Sizes: Just as you wouldn’t want a single salesperson shouting across a crowded room, keep your WiFi “shouting” range small. This means setting up your network to cover just your area effectively without spilling over too much into neighboring spaces.
  1. Lowering Power and Disabling 2.4 GHz: Most WiFi networks operate on two frequency bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 2.4 GHz band is like a crowded lower-frequency AM radio band that can travel further and penetrate walls better but is more susceptible to interference. By disabling this band and reducing the broadcast power of the 5 GHz band, you focus on creating a clear, strong signal that serves your space without adding to the cacophony.
  1. Creating a Single SSID: SSID stands for Service Set Identifier, which is essentially the name of your WiFi network visible to users. Think of it as your store sign. Just as having multiple signs in different colors and fonts can be confusing, having multiple SSIDs can create unnecessary complexity. Stick to one or, at most, two SSIDs for your network to keep things simple and efficient.
  1. Planning with Neighbors: Collaboration can turn a competitive environment into a cooperative one. By coordinating with neighboring stores on which WiFi channels to use (think of channels as lanes on a highway), you can minimize interference, much like coordinated traffic signals reduce road congestion.
  1. Negotiating for Shared High-Speed Internet: In smaller malls or retail spaces, consider the possibility of negotiating for a high-speed fiber internet connection shared across the entire mall. This shared network, managed by a professional network administrator, can provide consistent, high-quality internet access, much like a well-managed shopping center draws more customers by offering a uniformly pleasant experience.

Implementing the Strategy

Start by conducting a WiFi scan with a tool like WiFi Man from Ubiquiti (more useful if you are on a Ubiquiti network) or WiFi Explorer which will run on macOS or Windows, to identify which channels are most congested and adjust your wireless access point network settings accordingly. Engage a professional if necessary to ensure that your network is optimized for both performance and minimal interference, and when you engage a professional ask to see proof of their certifications. If they are not certified by the manufacturer to install the equipment, OR certified by WiFi Alliance which isn’t tied to a manufacturer, then don’t let them touch your network.
The main body that certifies Wi-Fi professionals without being tied to a specific manufacturer is the Wi-Fi Alliance. They are a global non-profit organization that promotes Wi-Fi technology and certifies Wi-Fi products to ensure they meet standards of interoperability. Additionally, for professionals working specifically in network design and analysis, the Certified Wireless Network Professionals (CWNP) organization offers vendor-neutral certifications such as Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA), Certified Wireless Design Professional (CWDP), and others that focus on in-depth knowledge of wireless network technology, security, and troubleshooting.
By viewing your WiFi network through the lens of retail competition, you can better understand and implement strategies that enhance your digital presence. Just as a well-organized store attracts more customers, a well-designed WiFi network ensures better connectivity, leading to greater customer satisfaction, but more importantly leading to smoother operations in your retail space which means less frustrated employees who can sell more effectively.
Taking control of your WiFi environment not only improves your operational efficiency but also enhances the overall shopping experience. Making smart, informed decisions about your wireless networks is as crucial as any other business strategy aimed at winning customers. This is just one way you can decide to be different, distinguish your business among your competition, and win more customers in the process.
Author: Sean Colin
Ryan Saves Canada
WiFi-U is proud to work with our Canadian partner TDL Gentek to provide the Ubiquiti Wireless Admin (UWA) and Ubiquiti Broadband Wireless Admin (UBWA) courses in Moncton, Canada. Cross-border coordination is very difficult, but TDL Gentek hooked us up with Ubiquiti equipment and shipped it straight to Harvest House Atlantic (HHA), our training host. We then sent Ryan Haag, our devilishly handsome trainer to brave the Canadian moose and maple syrup to teach our classes at HHA.
Harvest House Atlantic has spent over 25 years helping Canadians dealing with homelessness, drug addiction and mental health issues get a hot meal, live in affordable housing and break free from the chains of addiction. The Director of Operations and IT was one of our students, and during class Ryan covered the various ways Ubiquiti equipment could save HHA money:
– With ISP Design Center, Ryan demonstrated how HHA could link 8 buildings together with a single UISP Wave AP, making it easier to supply WiFi in HHA’s affordable housing units.
– In the UWA class, Ryan covered WLAN design for older buildings and safe guest WiFi practices, perfect for HHA’s housing units.
– Ryan demonstrated how shifting to Unifi Talk would save Harvest House over $500/month while supplying better phone service than before.
Author: Ryan Haag
Wi-Fi Calculator from Ubiquiti

Check out this new tool from Ubiquiti that can help you see the effects on throughput for different devices. It’s at http://wifi.ui.com

How it works. There are five variables on the tool that will let you see what the expected throughput is for a client device.

First, you can change Access Points and leave everything else static. At the high end you can use the U7 Pro and see that you can get up to 2.16 Gbps. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Swiss Army Knife coming in at 300Mbps.

Second, you can see what effect channel usage would have on throughput. For example, I can set the AP to U7 and use a Wi-Fi 6 adapter and with zero channel usage I can see that I can get 1.8Gbps.

But with 20% Channel Utilization the throughput drops to 900Mbps.

I can also see the effect of Channel Width, different client devices, and the effect of distance away from the AP. Look what happens to throughput when I move away from the AP. I move from 900Mbps to 540Mbps at a mere 10 meters away from the AP.

It’s a good lesson to see what happens with different channel widths and distances, and what effect different APs have on throughput. Give it a spin if you are interested in understanding how APs work.

Author: Eric Weber

TLDR: Like the camera, hate the installation hardware

Coming out of the box, the G5 Turret looks nice. I like the form factor and how small it is compared to a bullet camera. This is definitely a good form factor for Ubiquiti, and I can see this being used in a lot of areas.

I decided to install it outside my front porch, to replace a G4 bullet that didn’t quite have the field of view I wanted. The camera would be under an eave, about 8 feet off the ground, facing north.

First problem: cheap screws. This is an outdoor rated camera, and I can see homeowners installing this in much the same way I am. Most people have aluminum flashing on their homes, and the screws that come with this are woefully insufficient.

They don’t fit a standard #2 Phillips Driver

See how little the #2 driver penetrates the screw? Now, compare this to a self-tapping screw I normally use to install outdoor items:

Notice how this screw has a WAYY better fit then the screw Ubiquiti used. This makes it far less likely to strip. Stripped screws make me swear a lot. Nobody needs to hear the swear words I make up when standing at the top of a ladder with a storm approaching trying to get this camera installed expeditiously. Use better screws.

Second problem: the installation ring. Someone made the smart move and allowed an access hatch for the camera’s cord so it can be mounted flush to a surface. Good move! The BAD part is this is on the piece that detaches from the camera. When you install it, you have to use one hand to hold circular piece to the side of your house, a second hand to hold the drill and put in the screw, and a third hand to hold the camera so it doesn’t bounce around.

I don’t have three hands…we don’t have that much radiation present here to cause that. I improvised by putting in one screw, then putting the camera cord in the slot, holding the ring against the house and then installing the other screws. Since I used self tapping screws, this isn’t a huge problem, but if you used the crappy screws provided…you would invent more swear words.

A better way to do this would be to have the slot on the camera body. That way, you can install the camera ring using your God-given two hands, then set down your drill and pop the camera on. Doesn’t require a third hand, and if you have a hard time with the screws, you don’t risk dropping the camera.

The other problem: the pre-built cord. This is a good and bad, depending on the use case:

  • If I was installing this in a new location, I like this cord because its long enough to push through a standard wall. I can then connect/disconnect the camera on the inside without messing with anything on the outside.
  • If I am installing this as a renovation, I DON’T like this. Look at the picture above: I already have a cord. Now I have to hide this extra long cord in the vinyl siding somewhere. Not quite swearing level, but still a pain.
  • Also, what if you have thick walls? I installed cameras on a church where I had to use a 36″ drill bit to get through the wall. This camera would require me to drill a wider hole to fit the ethernet connector. Might be a deal breaker.

I think overall you’re better off without the cord. Any installer worth their salt can make a short cord. Even better, replacing the cord with just a port (like every other Ubiquiti camera) makes it way easier to rotate the camera, which is a huge advantage over other camera form factors. In fact, if you cut the cord, you could leave the slot for the ethernet cord on the ring that detaches from the camera and install it pretty easily.

See that frown? That’s how I felt installing this camera.

Onto camera performance. It’s a bit of a mixed bag.

  • I like the wide angle! I can capture the walkup to my home very easily. In a plant or assembly line, this wide angle is perfect.
  • It was easy to adjust. Might want to say on the box/instructions that the blue LED marks the top of the camera.
  • Forego the Ubiquiti logos? Mine are sideways. Probably no way to keep them right side up unless you send Ubiquiti stickers.
  • The quality of the video recording is OK. There is a HUGE difference between 30 FPS and the 50 FPS from a G4 Pro. 30 FPS is good enough for most things though.
  • Microphone is OK, somewhat muted, but not a deal breaker.
  • The camera has a hard time detecting kids. I had my son drive his jeep around a bit to trigger the camera. I ended up turning on motion detections just to get it to trigger. If he was close to the camera it would pick him up as a person, but farther away and the camera couldn’t pick him up.

You can see the difference between a G4 Bullet, G4 Doorbell, G5 Turret and G4 Pro in the attached videos of my son. I also attached the standard “hand wave” videos for a G4 Bullet, G5 Turret, AI Bullet and G4 Pro, all about the same height and distance.

Overall, good camera with a lot of use cases, but the following would have to be addressed:

  • Recommend an ethernet port instead of the cord.
  • If you don’t remove the cord, put the slot for the ethernet on the camera itself, or some way to make it easier to mount on the side of a building.
  • Get better screws that are self-tapping, so you can drill into aluminum siding/flashing.
  • Figure out how to detect children better. Especially in residential or child care settings, this is a must.

Author: Ryan Haag

UMR In-Depth Review

The Unifi Mobility Router is a very undersold, yet very useful, piece of equipment. If Ubiquiti negotiated a better deal from AT&T, it would be a game changing device.

I picked up a UMR on a whim because I’m a Unifi addict and I have to try something new.

Elmo gets it. Sometimes you just need the hit of opening a new Ubiquiti product.

Anyway, I wanted to use it when I taught Ubiquiti classes, as the ethernet ports in the hotels we teach at often don’t work or the guest network doesn’t like wired connections, so it’s hard to get a reliable WAN connection for the router the students are setting up. I quickly realized that some students would stream a ton of media “just because,” so after using up my data in one day, I decided that wasn’t going to work. I went to AT&T’s website, but I couldn’t find a useful unlimited data plan. After trying in vain, I put the UMR on a shelf, never to see the light of day.

Then my wife complained that the WiFi at our kid’s ballet studio was terrible. I gave her the UMR, plugged it into the USB port in our car, and voila! Her work laptop had a solid internet connection. She didn’t use a lot of data, so the UMR became hers for a few months with a 5 GB/month plan.

After a few updates and a few months later, I checked out the UMR interface and realized Ubiquiti had packed this little guy with a lot more capability. I also decided to shift my AT&T phones to a business plan instead of the residential plan…and that’s when I struck gold.

AT&T Business Plans will let you have a tablet SIM that has unlimited data. The cost varies depending on the kind of business plan you get. So I shifted all of my phones and three Ubiquiti devices (two UMRs and the LTE Backup Pro) to AT&T Business. The unlimited data tablet plan was ~$50/month and two 15GB/month plans each cost $20/month. Not bad, and definitely cheaper than the plans Ubiquiti offers with the devices. I also think the AT&T gal at the store wasn’t as familiar with promotions, so once I get my first bill I plan to call them to find a better fit.

I used WiFiMan to speed test my UMR. I can consistently get around 25-30 MBps down, which is good enough to stream some YouTube or conduct a Zoom call.

But there was more!                                                                                                                       

I discovered you can setup WireGuard VPN. So I created a WireGuard VPN on my home UdM Pro router, then created a client and uploaded the file in the UMR. One click later and my UMR now automatically VPNs to home, allowing me to access my NAS while on the go. Even better, this means my wife can access the NAS through the mapped drives on her laptop, so she doesn’t have to do anything different.                                                                                                                                                                                             

The connection is way more stable than the 5G on my phone when I’m driving in farm country. I’ve noticed a huge difference when I use my phone on a Zoom call and I’m out in the country. The connection is far more stable and I don’t drop calls like I did before.

PoE passthrough was another cool feature. I powered the UMR with a PoE+ adapter, then turned on PoE passthrough and hooked up a Ubiquiti Touch Phone that was set to Teleport home. Phone worked without any issue. This was really useful when I wanted to demonstrate how a Ubiquiti phone worked for a client.

Now, I didn’t like a few things. Ubiquiti charging for “Mobility Cloud” features is kinda lame, and if you don’t pay the $2/month, you lose the VPN access. The AT&T plans they have are garbage compared to what you get through AT&T business. The best thing Ubiquiti could do would be to negotiate a 5, 20 and unlimited data plan that includes “mobility cloud” and is on-par with AT&T business. If the unlimited was reasonably priced, this could easily replace the T-Mobile 5G routers that are popping up in the rural parts of America. Those routers suck, you can’t disable the onboard WiFi and they don’t get great signal in my experience.

The UMR doesn’t currently have Teleport, although WireGuard seems just fine for what I need.

There are cheaper devices that turn LTE into corded internet, but combined with the VPN and PoE Passthrough, the UMR is well worth the $200 investment. If Ubiquiti negotiated a better deal with AT&T, they would have a great travel/RV/rural router that would easily beat other competitors.

Author: Ryan Haag