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Municipal IT staffs have a challenging job. They must find ways to offer the mobility and technology tools workers expect today, yet deliver the services at the lowest possible cost.
Frank Gentile, IT director for the city of Danbury, Conn., says the cloud-based system from Aerohive Networks helps support more mobile workers. “Each access point handles 15 to 20 connections, which lets us make more use of smart devices,” he says. “If we want to give iPads to the fire marshals, it’s now easier for us to do that.”
Danbury spent less than $16,000 to retrofit the wireless network in most of city hall and more than half of the police department. Because management is performed in the cloud, the city doesn’t need controllers for each facility. And Gentile says that by making more use of wireless connections, the city saves thousands of dollars in CAT 5e wiring costs.
“All the intelligence resides in the access points. If one AP goes down, I don’t lose coverage on the network,” Gentile says. “It’s also easy for me to expand — all I have to do is attach the AP to the Internet connection in a facility and we’re up and running.”
Bob Laliberte, a former analyst for the Enterprise Strategy Group, says the cloud-based wireless systems from manufacturers such as Aerohive Networks and Cisco Meraki offer a strong value proposition.
“These controllerless APs are easy to deploy and manage and are far less expensive than controller-based systems,” Laliberte says. “Organizations looking to upgrade to 802.11ac access points might find that this is a good time to think about going to a cloud-based Wi-Fi system.”
Carteret County, N.C., rolled out about 60 Cisco Meraki APs across 22 sites over the past two years.
Ray Hall, IT director for the county, appreciates being able to use Cisco Meraki’s cloud interface to centrally manage the wireless LAN. “We used to have a different wireless network in every facility,” he says. “Now, we have consistent networks, and people can get right on the same network from any county facility.”
In terms of security, Hall can assign access rules for each user, service set identifier and switch port; plus, the wireless system offers standard encryption and configuration capabilities.
“Overall, we find this system makes it much easier for us to go mobile,” Hall says. “While the iPads and other mobile devices we use are still mostly county-issued, it does give us the option to let staff bring their own devices as well as provide basic Internet access to citizens visiting county facilities.”