Overview: what we're doing
This guide is intended to help you plan a cloud-managed wireless mesh network with CloudTrax. CloudTrax is a free cloud-based network controller that makes it easy for anyone to build, manage and monitor wireless networks from anywhere in the world. CloudTrax is the ideal solution to quickly and easily extend wireless coverage throughout a hotel, apartment, office, neighborhood, village, coffee shop, shopping mall, campground, marina and just about anywhere else—often without any additional Ethernet cabling.
This guide will discuss:
- Basic terminology
- CloudTrax's approach to wireless
- Key elements of building a strong wireless network
- Bandwidth and your ISP
- Choosing the right nodes and enclosures
- Determining the placement and number of nodes needed
- Determining the location for your gateways
- Additional tips
This guide is not intended to cover every aspect of CloudTrax. To learn more, check out the CloudTrax Quick Start Guide: Creating Your First CloudTrax Network.
We'll make this process as easy and nontechnical as possible. Here are a few key words that will help.
Network: A group of computers or devices that can talk to each other (in our case, wirelessly).
Bandwidth: The amount of capacity available to transfer data—such as web sites, social media, voice calls or streaming video—over a network. This is measured in megabits/second, or Mbps.
Gateway: A CloudTrax-compatible router that is connected to the Internet (usually through a DSL, cable, or LAN).
Repeater: A CloudTrax-compatible router that is not connected to the Internet that repeats the signals from local computers and other nodes to the gateway.
Node: A generic name for a CloudTrax-compatible router/access point, which can be either a Gateway or a Repeater.
All CloudTrax devices configure themselves: they become gateways or repeaters depending on if they are hard-wired to the Internet or not.
CloudTrax's approach to wireless
CloudTrax (and this document) grew out of experiences deploying networks for hotels and apartments. We had several requirements for each network:
- It must be affordable.
- It must not require any configuration and be installable by employees, property managers or residents with no training.
- It must be manageable by non-trained property managers.
- It must provide a good signal indoors without additional equipment.
- It must be able to let people know when there is a problem (such as being unplugged).
These requirements can be applied to essentially any wireless network, anywhere. By managing the network through the cloud, much of the cost, expertise and equipment typically required to build a network is eliminated. In addition, features typically available only on enterprise-grade systems are provided at no extra charge. No configuration is required on the access points themselves: all changes are done using the cloud controller.
Using CloudTrax-compatible equipment and the CloudTrax cloud controller, anyone can:
- Extend wireless coverage without running additional cables
- Utilize four SSID's (or “networks”), typically one public, one private
- Limit bandwidth up and down, per user
- Display splash pages (the splash page is fully editable via an HTML/WYSIWYG editor)
- Set up user authentication and credit card payment (PayPal)
- Set up and change the network passwords
- Redirect users to any web page on login
- Prevent public users from accessing the wired or private network
- And much more
With CloudTrax, it only takes a few key elements to build a strong wireless network. We'll discuss each of them here.