Recommendations for building out a unifi wifi for small campus

Hello Gang,

I have historically designed and deployed Aruba networks for my wifi deployments, for years they served well. After the acquisition by HP I have found their updated licensing model to be unnecessary, cost prohibitive and cumbersome. (not to mention annoying as many working deployments became crippled unless you opted in for a new management license).

Moving forward, largely thanks to Tom’s advocacy and information on Unifi systems we would like to move future deployments to Unifi.

Can anyone suggest a solid hardware build for setting up wifi on a small campus with 6 ap’s, 4 being clustered close together, the other two in more distant offices. Ideally they could act together under one SID, and support seamless roaming, but if the two remote have to be managed independently I could live with that. I would like minimal cloud management if possible, certainly not with high recurring licensing fees. The systems do not have to be wifi 6, but whatever hardware gives good solid performance for between 20-200 client connections (active number would be about half that at typical load).

Thank you in advance, I appreciate your input!

Keith Waldron

The UniFi UAP-AC-HD-US with the Gen2 switches work well.

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When I used Aruba a group of AP’s were managed by a virtual controller, which in turn was replicated to other AP’s so that in the event of failure a new master was promoted with all the settings on the controller, and any configuration was made in one device and updated across all virtual controllers.

Is this the same with Unifi or do you need to purchase and deploy a separate controller?


It is the same on unifi. Everything is configured on the unifi controller. The controller can self host (software is free), cloud hosted (hostify) or you can buy cloud key (hardware) you can control all 6 ap via 1 single ssid with no issue

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Another cheaper alternative is tp-link amada solutions

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Thanks for this clarification Fred!

So I guess the difference is that the Unifi AP’s require at least one other host for the controller (local, virtual, cloud).
(or I understand they can be setup in standalone mode, but have to be managed independently).


Somebody will correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t think you can managed the AP without the controller. You need to host the controller somewhere. If you use truenas there is a unifi plugin you can deploy quickly. If money is tie, deploy it on oracle cloud free forever tier.

A controller is a requirement to run UniFi AP’s

I read about stand alone configuration - apparently it can be done with G2/3 AP’s using the phone app - and once up and running will persist the settings and functionality controllerless unless/until the phone app makes changes subsequently.

So, if you want/need multiple AP’s to act together under consolidated settings then a discreet controller is required whether that is local or cloud so long as it is “always on” to maintain sync with the AP’s.

With the older Aruba’s the controller was virtualized and synced within the AP’s themselves - and a new master was elected if the current master went offline. This was a truly awesome system! My Aruba deployments ran smoothly for over a decade using this model. HP purchased Aruba and now those deployments all require annual licensing to maintain the controllers, and without the controller license you can’t even manage the devices - they are/will all become crippled by the new management.

Unifi’s controller options are completely manageable either via local, remote or cloud deployments and thankfully will provide a great replacement option for my new and existing wifi deployments.

Thanks for the input!


Ho, yes I forgot about the phone app. I guess this will work too. My guess is that upgrading the AP will be quite painful