Upgrading the home wifi network – Part 2

This article is part two of my home wifi network upgrade. It comes in much later than I expected due to a massive interruption in my home life. Shortly after I wrote the prior article, my mother became ill. It didn’t seem like much at the time just a simple cold or flu bug. However, that turned out to not be the case. The short version of the long story is she passed away from pulmonary fibrosis which is a complication of rheumatoid arthritis and taking Methotrexate.

My mother lived with us, and so it has been a challenging time, but we live with a strong faith in Jesus and believe we’ll be reunited someday.

So with that out of the way I wanted to comment on two small things I ran into when working with the Ubiquiti equipment. The first as I was configuring the UniFi Security Gateway and Unifi AP AC LR unit I was struggling with getting an IP address for the access point. I had internet connectivity via the WAN port from my cable modem on WAN 1 of the USG. LAN 1 was plugged into a dumb switch, and I could browse the internet from hardwired machines with no issue, but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get an IP address for the access point which was plugged into WAN 2/LAN 2 of the USG. I was expecting it to pick up a DHCP address like the hardwired machines.

I spent about an hour fiddling with it trying to make it work. Finally, I resorted to looking at the quick start guide, and there in tiny little print, I had missed the notation that said LAN 1 defaults to DHCP on but nothing about LAN 2. I moved the AP connection to a port on the switch and low and behold it quickly grabbed an IP. So just keep that in mind when you’re first configuring the USG, there is no DHCP out of the box on LAN 2.

The second small issue I ran into was with the Unifi Network Controller software. I did not catch that to use the software effectively it always needs to be running. So I first deployed it on a Windows 10 VM that runs on my laptop via VMware Fusion. This machine isn’t running all the time, and I realized right away that was a problem. So it was a matter of switching over to my homelab and finding a suitable Windows machine to install the software. It’s running happily on a Windows 2013 server that used to run VMware Update Manager but was decommissioned with the move to vSphere 6.5.

Since then I have added a second wireless access point to provide better coverage of the second floor of the house, and things are running very smoothly. I’m pleased with the setup.

Upgrading the home wifi network – Part 1

Recently my wife left her full-time corporate job to pursue her passion for coaching and developing people in the workforce. Now we are both working out of the house the majority of the time, and my current network infrastructure just wasn’t cutting it. The wifi network was the primary culprit, with our offices on either side of the house and the main wifi access point being in my room the signal was iffy at best for her. I tried putting in a range extender and while that made connectivity easier for her it did nothing to increase the performance in her office. It was clear to me that it was time for an upgrade.

Since I was going down this path, I wanted to make sure I put the money where I could get the best bang for my buck. My wife always says “we’re not wealthy enough to buy cheap things” and that’s a philosophy that has stuck with me. I started to come up with a list of requirements, and these were what I determined to be the most important:

  • Strength and performance of wifi
  • Ability to monitor performance
  • VPN and network segmentation capabilities
  • Expandability
  • Integration with VMware vRealize Log Insight

After speaking with my co-workers, I decided to invest in network gear from Ubiquiti Networks. As it so happens within a day or two, I received an email from Newegg.com offering a discount on the Ubiquiti UniFi© Security Gateway (USG for short) which is a small form factor enterprise gateway router managed by their Unifi Network Management Controller software. The USG offers advanced firewalling, VLAN, VPN, and Radius Server capabilities which fits the bill to replace my existing consumer-grade firewall which I’ll eventually repurpose in a remote location. Now I needed to choose a wireless access point or points for the house.

My co-workers raved about the capabilities of the UniFi© AP AC LR wireless access point. They told me that this access point was able to blanket their entire house in solid wifi coverage. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical at this and seriously debated about purchasing two access points just to make sure I had the coverage I decided. Finally, wisdom prevailed and I purchased one knowing that should I need more coverage I could simply order a second access point.

Stay tuned for part II where I’ll cover some of the small challenges I uncovered in this adventure.