Below is a list of the basic hardware required for a business class WiFi network. Typically, these networks require management of many access points. This requires specialized equipment for management and security beyond what is needed in a typical residential/home network.
For more information about what is required for a wireless network, check out our WiFi Design Guide.
Wireless Access Point
An access point (AP) is a device that creates a wireless local area network (WLAN). Access points are essential components of a wireless network’s infrastructure. They project a Wi-Fi signal to a specific area, and therefore, are generally used in offices and large buildings. APs allow various devices, such as computers, smartphones, and tablets, to connect to WiFi.
On-Site and Cloud-Managed WLAN
Most larger wireless network deployments require a WLAN controller or Internet hosted wireless network management system to manage the access points.
Wireless LAN Controllers (WLC) are access point managers that that are mounted to a server rack and act as the brains of the wireless network setup. The controller tells each AP what settings to have at any given time so as not to disrupt the rest of the wireless infrastructure.
Cloud management systems are hosted at a data center and reduce or eliminate the need for on-premises management equipment. The exact architecture of how access points receive configuration and management information depends on the implemenatation of the access point manufacturer.
A network switch is a piece of equipment that connects all network devices together. Because they use PoE, new switches act as the power supply for connected devices.
Power over Ethernet
PoE allows a device to receive computer data and power at the same time by sending both over the same Ethernet cable. By using devices that support PoE, the need for electrical power at the exact location of the installed device is eliminated.
Firewalls help to protect networks from unauthorized access to or from a network. They can be hardware or software based.
WiFi Enabled Device
Like internet access, it is necessary to have some kind of device to connect to the WiFi once a new network has been implemented. This can be a laptop, smartphone, tablet, or any other WiFi enabled device.
Internet access before implementing a wireless network is not required but helpful. During implementation Internet access can be used to update equipment software and communicate with equipment makers to troubleshoot any issues. Slow the Internet backhaul/speeds result in end users thinking the WiFi is the bottleneck. Testing the Internet during implementation phase allows you to set expectations.