A wireless access point (WAP) is a network device that allows wireless enabled devices to connect to a network. They are directly connected to the router or network switch that is providing your internet connection. When multiple APs are connected, they create a web of wireless connectivity across the desired coverage area, usually a building or campus, allowing users to remain connected while they move about the space. The WAP broadcasts the network name (the SSID) and provides encryption services to protect the network form unauthorized access. There are multiple types of WAPs on the market with different features and capabilities.
Common Types of Wireless Access Points
The type of WAP that is best for your deployment depends on the size of the area of coverage, quantity of users, and level of control required by management. Here are some of the most common types:
Controller-Based Access Points: These WAPs are most used in large deployments where multiple access points are required. They are managed by a centralized controller which oversees configurations, monitoring, and maintenance of all WAPs on the network. This reduces the amount of manual input required by IT teams.
Standalone Access Points: This type of WAP is used in a small business or branch office where a single access point can provide adequate coverage. They are easy to install, configure, and can generally be managed by a simple web-based interface.
Mesh Access Points: Mesh access points are designed to work together to create a mesh network, meaning a large area with wireless connectivity. Each access point communicates with nearby access points to create a seamless and adaptable wireless environment. These are commonly seen in large office buildings or campuses where users are mobile within the environment.
Cloud-Managed Access Points: These WAPs are managed through a cloud-based dashboard which means they can be managed remotely. These APs are commonly used by businesses with a centrally located IT team managing multiple locations or satellite offices.
Outdoor Access Points: As the name suggests, outdoor access points are designed to be placed outdoors. They can withstand harsh weather conditions and offer wide ranges of coverage. These are commonly used in parks, campuses, and outdoor stadiums.
As we mentioned before, the type of AP that will suit your business best depends on your unique needs. In many cases, a combination of AP types will be used to offer the best and most stable coverage.
How Wireless Access Points Work
Wireless access points are essential for providing flexible internet connectivity in offices and public spaces. We briefly explained how access points work, but here we will lay it out step by step:
- A wireless access point is connected to the wired network (the switch or router) with an ethernet cable.
- The wireless access point then converts the wired network data into a wireless signal and broadcasts it over its coverage area.
- Wireless enabled devices (phones, tablets, computers, printers, etc.…) can detect this wireless signal and connect to the wireless access point.
- Once the wireless enabled device is connected to the access point, it can access the wired network which is connected to the internet.
- The wireless access point can also provide other features depending on the type such as encryption and authentication to prevent unauthorized access.
In simplified terms, the wireless access point is a bridge between your wireless enabled device and the wired network allowing you to connect to the internet without a cable attached to your device. Any internet connectivity requires cabling and hardware behind the scenes, wireless access points allow you to connect within an area of coverage.
Wireless Access Point Manufacturers
There are quite a few WAP manufacturers on the market today and they offer a variety of features, prices, and complexities. At Matrix-NDI we partner with Extreme Networks, Aruba Networks, Cisco, and Meraki (a subsidiary of Cisco). We find that access points from these top-of-the-line manufacturers are robust, intuitive, and scalable. We have decades of experience utilizing them for wireless deployments for our customers all over the United States.
Have you been planning a wireless network upgrade or new wireless network deployment? Do you have multiple locations across a large geographical location? We’ve got you. That is our bread and butter. Reach out to us at ContactUs@matrix-ndi.com or call 763-475-5500 to start the planning and design process.