Software

I’ve said it countless times and it applies just as much for an access point as it does for a motherboard or even a mouse. Software can make or break an otherwise amazing product. You might not think so and I’m even the type of person who prefers to avoid having to install software or an app whenever possible. But this is where EnGenius has stood out for me, especially with their cloud-enabled devices like the ECW260. These are enterprise-focused products, but they have a mix of cloud features that you might find more on home hardware that can make things simpler to set up and to manage over time. So the ECW260 does have a direct webpage that you can access when you go to its IP on your network but unlike with the EnGenius switches I have tested out, they haven’t packed this with advanced features that you won’t see on the cloud. You have a basic landing page that gets you the main information like your serial number, IP address, and the status of your local network, internet, and cloud connections.

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The second page up top gets you access to the network settings. So you can log into this and set a static IP or set up a proxy address. You can also upload firmware updates here as well. Firmware on the cloud side of things is more automated, but this is a good way to override things if needed. You can also reboot or do a full reset on the ECW260 as well up on the top edge. I was surprised that you don’t get at least basic SSID setup information here, but they really do want you to handle that all in the cloud software.

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So the EnGenius Cloud is the same setup that I took a look at on my ECW230 and ECS2512FP Switch reviews and that is because they want to tie everything all together. In our case for example I have the ECS2512FP handling the main backbone of our network to get a few important devices connected at 2.5G and 10G then branching down to a main switch and a POE switch for our cameras and formerly for APs as well. But we now have the ECW230 and ECW260 here for wireless and they are both hooked up to the ECS2512FP for POE and to get a 2.5G connection. Sticking with the same product line has the benefit of being able to control everything together in one interface. We are just one ECS1552P away from getting our entire network all together but that is an expensive upgrade right now. So the main landing page once you get signed in and assuming you have everything connected is going to look like this. You can see it lists off your devices which for us is the two APs and one switch and it has the number of clients connected to wireless. Your overall traffic is graphed out and you can see your top access point, top clients, and top SSIDs for those running more than one. You have notifications up at the top right and on the left, you have a menu to dive into your settings that can be expanded.

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The first part of the menu gets you a link to a list of your switches, then another for APs.This will list out all of the important information as well as the number of clients and even the uptime and firmware version. Here you can also add to your network using the add to inventory button though I think it is even easier with the mobile app which has all of the same settings but you can scan the QR code and instant add devices. You can switch from the list view to a map or a floor plan which can show you where each device is located if you set it up. The map can use google satellite images and you can drop your APs to their locations which is huge when you are dealing with outside access points like the ECW260 that I am taking a look at today.

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With this being an AP you don’t have to worry about having to deal with too many options. You basically have two pages where you can get into the details. The first is the radio page. This is where you can set radio frequency options for all of your APs. EnGenius has it split between inside and outside APs and this applies to any device you have attached to your cloud account and the “location” as you can set up and control multiple locations with different settings on one account. You can see that in the picture below I even have the outdoor APs turned off completely, don’t do that. It took me way too long to figure out why I couldn’t get the ECW260 up and running when I must have turned those options off months before. But this is a nice way to be able to lower the chances people can access your network when you are closed but there is a better way to handle that which I will show in a minute. You can play with how channels are picked and even turn on mesh if you want to expand your wireless network to places you can reach a cable.

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The other big page for access point settings is the SSID configuration page and this one has multiple sub pages in the tabs at the top. Here you can create multiple SSID networks and even go as far as to set a specific VLAN for each if you are running a VLAN to isolate things. This is great for splitting up a guest network and your main network or if you want to isolate some specific staff members or devices (like smart devices) without setting VLANs per port or per mac address which can both also be done. You have a whole page dedicated to setting bandwidth caps which can be per client or for the entire SSID which can be the entire SSID one can be nice if you are running a guest or customer network. The captive portal ties into that as well, you can have people sign off liability or log in using social media as well as other options. On the access control page, you can dive into block and VIP lists to shape who you want or don’t want on each SSID as well.

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There is also a schedule where you can set up your business hours and turn your wireless network on and off at those times. This is a nice security feature to keep from having someone leeching off of a guest network while you are gone or giving someone access to your network to try to access it overnight. The downside is that this is only going to turn off that specific SSID. That works well as a way to turn off a guest network without taking the boss offline or turning off a family/kids SSID for specific times. But I would love to see this expanded and have an option to turn off an entire radio on a schedule for a much more secure way to block access. Or for a large building, maybe just turn off all outside access point radios when you are closed.

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Another cool feature of the EnGenius Cloud that I wish worked a little better for me. You can look at a topology map of your network and as you guys know I am running the 2.5G/10G switch with the two APs hooked up and a few key devices and my other switches are hooked up to the backbone switch. Sadly even with the pro-level feature to turn on other devices, it isn’t picking up too much. We can see the internet coming in from our router to the switch, the two APs, one of the two switches, and that is it. It doesn’t pick up the other 4 devices I have hooked up to our switch and none of the wireless devices.

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You can also go to the full access point listing and click on details of each AP or be able to one-click reboot each device. The detail page lists mostly the same information you will find on the home page but only specific to that device. You can also see logs and client lists as well which give you details like the connection strengths which if you know where devices are you can map out and find some weak spots in your network for example. The only downside that I have run into which can be frustrating when you are diagnosing issues is that the logs here reset when the device resets. It seems to be the opposite of what you might need, but I can never see anything prior to the latest boot up.

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Here is a quick look at the android app, you have the same access as you do with the web cloud interface but on the go even away from the office (the cloud website can be accessed away from the network as well).

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