Recommendation for AP for Small Non-Profit

Our Current Network

A Comcast Provided Business Grade cable modem/router/wifi router is the DHCP server, main router and gateway to the Internet.

  • A ethernet cable connects the Comcast router to one 5 port switch which serves:

    • A Kyocera Copier/Printer BW
    • A Lanier Printer COLOR
    • A TP-Link Wireless N300 2T2R Access Point, 2.4Ghz 300Mbps, 802.11b/g/n, AP/Client/Bridge/Repeater, 2x 4dBi, Passive POE (TL-WA801ND)
  • A second ethernet cable connects the Comcast router to one 5 port D-Link switch in a separate building which serves:

    • A Matrox HD Professional Streamer/Recorder
    • Another 5 port switch TP-Link brand which serves:
      • Two laptops with ethernet cable connections
      • TRENDnet TEW-638APB Wireless N Access Point (which serves a Chromecast, and about 1-4 wireless devices most of the time in this separate building)

Funds are limited, especially now, for our small non-profit, but the last item the TRENDnet Wireless N Access Point seems to be giving me fits. When I added it 3 years ago after what we think was some sort of power surge took out our TP-Link N300 (Same model as the existing one in a different building) it seemed to work better than the TP-Link N300 which needed to be power cycled once every couple of weeks. But now I seem to loose connection regularly, and I often get a poor connection just 25 yards away.

I have seen a lot of talk about Unifi on this forum. Can I get a Unifi AP for around $100 that I can use without any other Unifi equipment on the network? The TP-Link and TRENDnet AP’s I could plug in the ethernet cable, and log into them and set them up with our current network setup, would I be able to do the same with a Unifi? Does someone have a better suggestion for around $100?

I know its a NP and times are tough but buy quality upfront, it will save them $ long term. As far as I’m concerned, Trendnet is for the budget minded home user, not a business in any way, shape or form.

I think this will serve you well -

“he TP-Link N300 which needed to be power cycled once every couple of weeks.” - I find this to most likely be a bad capacitor.

Been using this for a year, had no issues plus it supports multiple vlans
TPLink EAP245

@neogrid , have you looked if it has an CVE’s against its name, that are mid or > ? I personally have a few TP-link routers knocking about, I won’t sell the brand to a client, well not their networking / IT stuff anyway.

No matter what brand router / AP I go for, I try get one that supports DDWRT / Open WRT, which usually provides more features / control aswell as security patches.

@ZaK86 I haven’t seen if it has any vulnerabilities, however, I fully expect most manufacturers won’t provide patches or updates for the life of the product.
I connect over OpenVPN when I’m at home as I don’t trust WPA very much.

Had DDWRT flashed on routers in the past, but I found it really flaky. Though I am using OpenWRT on a router which is pretty stable for the last 3 years. No idea if the wifi is stable though.

Ideally if netgate could come up with a solution that would be my preference.

To directly answer your questions. Unifi APs require a controller to work, so you would need an AP and a controller. The controller can be an official cloud key device, or you can run the software on a Linux device, full computer, docker or Raspberry Pi etc. However, once the AP has been setup it does NOT require the controller to be running to work. For instance, at home I run the controller in Docker on my NAS and it doesn’t run 24x7 as I like to save power. So in theory you could do it for $100 and get a good system, but it wouldn’t be quite so simple to set up. Another option might be to look at secondhand equipment on the usual auction sites. The Ubiquiti equipment would certainly give you a good long term solution.

Yes , no once can or will support a device for > 5years in most cases, well atleast not a home marklet router. Tunneling through the internet , from or too that TP-link unit, won’t have any affect on someone trying to exploit the TP-liink. No AP should be on WPA1 or WEP. I think “WPA3” is on the way but was delayed due to a security issue.

If the device in Q doesn’t have the right amount of RAM to keep higher resource operations going, then you will have flaky ops unfort.

A Netgate 1100 or 3100 would prob do you well.

Being a NP, doing a decent security audit, can save PLENTY $ later, if something were to happen. Edge equipment needs to be well looked after / updated & removed if warranted, due to a high CVE.

What a wonderful community! Thank you so much for some great recommendations and important information to think about as well.

I believe I will go forward with the Unifi suggestion:

  • It is close to the $100 price tag.
  • I have a Linux computer in that building that I can set up the Unifi access point with the controller software and then shut it down the Linux computer after I have the AP set up.
  • I’m also hopeful that the “long range” helps with some of my connection issues that I have on the opposite side of the building from where I have the AP installed.

The TP-Link AP is also close to that same price range too, so thanks for that suggestion as well.

I really appreciate the explanation of how Unifi’s need to be set up. I knew they were a little different than some other brands.