IgniteNet SunSpot SS-AC1200, SkyFire SF-AC1200-UK, Cloud Controller review
IgniteNet provides cloud-managed access points at extremely competitive prices
IgniteNet's range of indoor and outdoor wireless access points can be managed via a single cloud-based interface or operated as stand-alone units. They're built for business users who wish to securely extend their wireless networks across one or more worksites and are priced extremely competitively for their feature set.
We tested the IgniteNetS SunSpot SS-AC1200 and the weather-resistant IgniteNet SkyFire SF-AC12000-UK, which each cost £115 (ex VAT). This is far cheaper than most managed access point solutions, such as those from rivals Ruckus, Ubiquiti and Zyxel, but bear in mind that IgniteNet's access point management gateway is only available as a cloud-based service and that you'll need to pay an annual subscription of $99 (£75) if you want to control more than two devices this way.
That's not very expensive and the access points still work and can be fully controlled via your local network, even without the cloud management interface. However, if you want full multi-unit online control and monitoring, then you're dependent on IgniteNet's continued support and your regular subscription.
IgniteNet's access points can each handle up to 64 clients via an encrypted connection and up to 128 without, and each manageable site can have up to 500 access points.
IgniteNet's SunSpot SS-AC1200 802.11ac simultaneous dual-band wireless access point is equipped with both 5GHz and 2.4GHz radios with a theoretical maximum 2.4GHz throughput of 300Mbit/s and 5GHz throughput of 866Mbit/s. The SS-AC1200 has two 2.4GHz antennas and two 5GHz antennas. These are all internal, and the unit lacks support for optional external antennas.
It comes with a neatly designed plastic ceiling-mount, which allows the access point to be easily slid into place on suspended ceiling rails, as well as the expected wall-mount points. It runs off a standard power adaptor but also supports Power over Ethernet (PoE), allowing you to dispense with extra power cabling if your network supports the standard.
It can take PoE via its Gigabit WAN port, which is also what you'll use to connect it to your network. Beyond that, the access point is equipped with a pair of 10/100 Fast Ethernet LAN ports, which you can use to connect other devices to your network is necessary. It's also equipped with a USB port, which is intended to supply 5V power, for example to IP cameras. A plastic lip above the ports helps to protect your cables from being accidentally unplugged, but also makes it hard to unclip Ethernet cables.
Status lights and a recessed reset switch are alongside the ports, and the front of the unit bears the IgniteNet logo surrounded by a glowing LED strip that changes colour to indicate cloud management connection status. The SunSpot actually has most of the features of a fully-fledged router, with NAT, a DHCP server and a basic firewall, so if necessary you can just directly connect a WAN interface.
We tested the access point's wireless using our reference TrendNet TWD-804UB AC600 wireless adapter – not the fastest on the market by any means, but with capabilities and throughput that are typical of standard laptop and tablet 802.11ac performance.
We were pleased with the AP's performance on both bands: we got 2.4GHz speeds of 49.29Mbit/s at 5m, 50.37Mbit/s at 10m and 47.52Mbit/s at 25m. On the 5GHz band, we saw speeds of up to 181.75Mbit/s at 5m, 93.21Mbit/s at 10 and 44.59Mbit/s at 25m. However, 5GHz signal strength was somewhat variable at our further 25 metre test distance.
The SkyFire SF-AC1200-UK is a simultaneous dual-band 802.11ac wireless access point, certified IP55 again intrusion and moisture, which means that it can withstand both water spray (but not concentrated jets) and entry by solid items larger than 1mm (but not resist fine dust particles). It's suitable to mount where it might get splashed by rain, but don't expect it to stand up to immersion or regular prolonged downpours. We recommend mounting it in sheltered outdoor locations, such as beneath the eaves of a building.
The unit's generally built to be resistant to precipitation, heat, cold and humidity: it's solidly made, with a metal backplate, mostly-metal chassis and plastic fascia and port covers. It's designed to be mounted upright and comes with a pair of metal cable ties to secure it to a post or similar upright.
On the front, beneath a plastic cover bearing the IgniteNet logo, you'll find a pair of connectors for optional external 2.4GHz antennas - the access point has both 2.4GH and 5GHz radios, but only has internal antennas for the 5GHz radio. The same panel houses a recessed reset switch, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a 10/100 Ethernet port. The SF-AC-1200-UK takes Power over Ethernet (PoE) via the Gigabit port and can supply PoE Out via its 10/100 port.
If you don't have a full PoE network, the SkyFire comes with a passive PoE injector that you can use to power it, although it's worth noting that the injector itself isn't a particularly weatherproof item, so shouldn't be mounted anywhere that's exposed to the elements. However, it's great to see injectors supplied as standard.
While there are a number variants of the SkyFire, this model is equipped with two 2×2 MIMO radios, one 2.4GHz and one 5GHz, with an internal 5GHz antenna power of 18dBi. Like the SunSpot, the SkyFire can work either as a stand-alone wireless access point or as part of a managed network of IgniteNet access points, and has basic router capabilities as well as serving as an access point.
Other versions of the SkyFire are equipped with both sets of integrated antennas, but this model number is primarily designed for point-to-point 5GHz networking at range. Even our typically modest USB wireless adaptor saw speeds of 181.75Mbit/s at 10m and 93.21Mbit/s at 25m.
Access Point Management
You can configure IgniteNet's access points as either stand-alone units, which must each be managed individually, or as part of the IgniteNet cloud management system. When you first connect to an access point, an initial setup wizard prompts you to choose how you'd like to use your device. Should you change your mind later ,you can activate and deactivate this option via the device's System Settings screen.
The access points' local web interface gives you a clear dashboard where you can view the status of your AP's network status, wireless status and traffic going across each of your wireless radios and Ethernet ports. A network tab allows you to configure the access point's connection to your primary router; define the behaviour of each Ethernet port, for example by automatically sending any connection to a port to the guest network rather than your main network; configure wireless hotspot leases and also includes a range of features you'd expect from a standard router, including a firewall.
Your Wireless options give you control of the each wireless radio's settings, from SSIDs, channels and bands to network behaviour such as automatically directing users to a guest network. VLANs can also be configured here, as can options such as bonding both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks into single SSID and leaving it to the access point to automatically determine which band client devices should be connected to.
By default, the access points' 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks are both open, so you'll want to add a password to those promptly if you'll be using them in stand-alone mode. You can also set up guest networks with restricted access, just as you can via the cloud management suite.
In the Clouds
If you want to take advantage of the access points' cloud management capabilities, you'll first have to sign up for an IgniteNet Cloud account at https://cloud.ignitenet.com/welcome/login. You'll be directed there via the user interface if you opt for cloud management, although we'd have liked to have seen more information about it in the standard quickstart guides.
Once you've created an account, you'll be prompted to name your first cloud. IgniteNet provides a free Trial tier that allows you to manage up to two access points for free, with the only other limitation being that data is stored for two weeks rather than the 30 days of paid-for plans.
However, if your enterprise opts for cloud control of a large number of IgniteNet devices across one or more sites, you'll probably want to upgrade to the $99 (£75) a year Core Cloud tier, which supports an unlimited number of devices across an unlimited number of sites, although all IgniteNet cloud tiers are limited to a maximum of 500 devices per site. Larger enterprises may instead want to opt for the $5,000 Virtual Private Cloud, which provides the same features but also gets you a custom domain, design and branding.
The first step in setting up your cloud managed infrastructure is to create a site. Helpful options allow you to have IgniteNet automatically update the firmware of any device registered with the site's cloud, set an email contact and time thresholds for alerts, after which the specified contact will be warned that one of the access points is offline.
You can also configure a single password that can be used to log into any of the access points locally, set their wireless password and SSID, and set up a guest network that'll only have access to the internet, rather than the rest of your network. All of this is made easy by simple forms that prompt you to make relevant choices.
The next step to add your devices. You can choose to retain their current local configuration settings or have the site-wide settings applied to all devices in Enterprise mode, which we recommend for most businesses. If necessary, individual access points can be configured with their own unique settings via the cloud interface.
You'll need to type in each device's name and MAC address - easily located on the access points themselves - to add it. While this is simple enough, it's easy to make errors while typing in long strings and the process is likely to become tedious if you have multiple access points to add.
With your devices added, the IgniteNet cloud becomes an extremely useful monitoring tool, giving you an at-a-glace dashboard that lets you quickly check the status of devices and warns you of any malfunctions, detailed alert monitoring, individual device management and monitoring, and full control over your wireless networks.
As well as providing wireless networks in router or bridge mode, you can also fully isolate networks on their own subnets, which we recommend for guest networks in particular. Assuming you have a RADIUS server to handle authentication, or subscribe to a compatible out-of-the-box hotspot service such as HotSpotSystem, the IgniteNet system can also act as a wireless hotspot provider, ideal for public areas such as coffee shops and hotels.
IgniteNet's wireless access points are capable, powerful, solidly built and remarkably cheap for business grade hardware. Both cloud and local management interfaces are well designed, with a surprisingly comprehensive range of features.
The cloud-based nature of the management console means that, if you want to monitor and control multiple access points, then a subscription to the IgniteNet Cloud Controller service and a permanent, reliable internet connection will be required at all times. Fortunately, in case of outages, the network doesn't lose previously configured settings and you can always manage units individually in an emergency.
While cloud management won't suit everyone, IgniteNet's management interface is among the best we've used and the company's access point hardware is great value.
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