Home Network Upgrade – Ubiquiti Unifi

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My Home Network is responsible for providing Internet connectivity for my computer, laptop, printer, iPAD, iPhone, security cameras, and a myriad of home automation devices.  It requires 24/7/365 availability.

Recently, one of my Apple Airport Extreme access points servicing my Home Network failed after three years of flawless service.  That somehow turned into me upgrading my entire home network.  A few of my colleagues have been raving about how much they liked UBNT gear and I was anxious to try it out.  Since I was starting to run out of physical network ports and was tired of the SmartNet contract obligation for software upgrades, my Cisco 3560-CG Compact Switch also became a candidate for replacement.   I originally planned on keeping my pfSense Security Appliance which has been problem free since I purchased it – however I wanted to fully experience the entire Ubiquiti ecosystem which meant that it was going to be replaced as well.

Design Requirements

When implementing any solution, it’s always a good idea to jot down a list of requirements.  This was a small list of requirements that I created:

  1. The equipment will be powered-on 24/7/365 all components should be low power, current power consumption for equipment being replaced is a total of 53 watts.
  2. Network Switch must support a minimum of 10-ports, 5-ports are required to provide power to PoE devices.
  3. Network Switch must fit in existing wall mounted 19″ rack which has a maximum depth of  12″
  4. Network Throughput must exceed our current Internet plan – 300/25 Mbps.
  5. Network switch must have at least one SFP port for fiber run to the Garage
  6. Network Switch must be Managed
  7. Network Switch must be quiet, current switch is fanless
  8. Equipment must provide Port Level Statistics
  9. Wireless Network must support 802.11n and 802.11ac, we have several Home Automation devices that use 802.11n

Once I verified that the Unifi components would meet the requirements by reading through product documentation I decided to move ahead with the purchase.

Components & Cost

The Ubiquiti solution was almost 50% less than my existing solution.  B&H Photo carried all of the components and was competitively priced.

Total Cost (B&H Photo Video) = $756.04

As a point of reference, here is a break-down of the costs of the components that were being replaced:

Total Cost = $1,267.99

B&H shipped the Unifi equipment quickly, I ordered everything on a Monday and had it in time to start my installation over the weekend.

Installation Experience

Hardware Installation

The physical installation of the Unifi Switch 16-150W was seamless. Rack mount brackets for the 16-port switch were included in the box and the 8.7″ switch depth left me with 3.3″ of clearance in the back – plenty of room to allow for airflow.  The switch is lightweight at 6.37 lbs which made it easy to mount by myself.  Once the switch was powered-on the very quiet fans (37dBA) came on, but later turned-off.

The installation of the Unifi AC HD was also straightforward, the included wall mount bracket installed quickly onto the ceiling and it was easy to twist the access point on to the mounting bracket.

The Cloud Key included a short re-inforced network cable that allowed me to hang it from the switch port, you can see this in the picture.  Cloud Key is PoE device so no additional wires are left hanging.  This provides for a very clean installation.

The small 5.3″ width of the Unifi Security Gateway allowed it to share a shelf with my   APC BG500 UPS – it was a perfect fit!

Software Installation

The software installation was relatively straightforward, although it was not seamless.  The Ubiquiti Device Discovery Tool Chrome App had difficulty finding the Cloud Key and Unifi Switch – I was surprised since my laptop was plugged into the Unifi Switch when I ran the Scan.

Out-of-the-box every device required a software upgrade, and although this added installation time all upgrades were completed successfully.

I had a hard time getting the Unifi Management controller software to adopt the network switch.  At one point I gave up, went for a 40-minute hike and when I returned the device had been adopted.

Once all of the devices were added to the Unifi Management controller the configuration was simple, although it took a Google search to find out where to enable DPI – deep packet inspection.  Hint: Use the side-bar menu to select Settings and you will find DPI.  For some reason I was looking for this setting on the Configuration Tab of the Unifi Security Gateway device itself.  There is a Configuration tab on each device, and then a separate Settings menu on the side bar – it’s important to review them both so that you understand which options are available.

Power Consumption

Because my home network is on 24/7/365, low power consumption was a key requirement.  Lower power consumption not only reduces electric costs, but also extends the run-time of the UPS in the event of a power outage.  My APC Back-UPS Pro 500 Lithium Ion UPS battery backup can provide 34 minutes of runtime at 40W.

Previous Power Consumption – 53 watts

  • Apple Airport Extreme – 9 watts
  • pfSense Security Gateway – 6 watts
  • Cisco Catalyst 3560CG-8PC-S Compact PoE Switch – 32 watts
  • Estimated Annual Power Consumption = 464.28 kWh
  • Estimated Power Cost $51.07 (0.11 kWh)

New Power Consumption – 38 watts

  • Unifi Switch 16-150W Managed PoE+ Gigabit Switch with SFP – 32 watts
  • Unifi Cloud Key – Powered by Switch (PoE) consumes 2.8 watts
  • Unifi Security Gateway – 6 watts
  • Unifi Access Point AC HD – Powered by Switch (PoE) consumes 6.9 watts
  • Estimated Annual Power Consumption = 332.88 KWh
  • Estimated Power Cost = $36.62

The new Unifi equipment lowered power costs by $14.45 annually, and based on the APC Runtime Graph for the BG500 increased our run-time by 7-minutes.

Noise

My Cisco Catalyst 3560CG-8PC-S Compact PoE Switch is fanless and completely silent.  Although you can find several 16-port unmanaged network switches that are fanless, it is pretty rare to find a 16-port managed switch without fans.  The Unifi Switch 16-150W is no exception, it includes two fans.  The Unifi Switch 16-150 Datasheet reports that fan noise is 34 – 37 dBA., 40 dBA is what a Library is rated at.  The room where the switch is located is approximately 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it has been running for 24-hours and the reported temperature of the switch is 61 degrees Celsius – the fans are not on. The only time the fans have turned on is when the switch was booted.  So yes, it is quiet.

Performance

The only anomaly with performance was the wireless download throughput I received when using my MacBook, it was by no means slow – it just wasn’t as fast as I am accustomed to.

Unifi Switch 16-150W

The Unifi Switch includes a total of 18-ports which provide a non-blocking throughput of  18 Gbps and a forwarding rate of 26.78 Mpps.  The Cisco C3560CG has a total of 10-ports provides a non-blocking throughput of 10 Gbps and a forwarding rate of 13.9 Mpps.  It’s unlikely that I will notice the difference in speed between the two switches.

Unifi Security Gateway

At $104.99 it was about 1/3rd of the cost of my pfsense Security Appliance.  I conducted several Upload and Download Speed tests while directly connected to the LAN port of the device and consistently achieved 300+ Mbps download speed.  One of my friends here locally in Austin, TX mentioned that he consistently was able to get 800 – 900 Mbps of download/upload speed behind his Unifi Security Gateway with a Google Fiber connection.

Unifi AP AC HD

I read several articles including this one Review: Ubiquiti UniFi AP AC HD WiFi Access Point (UAP-AC-HD) which provided examples of download speeds exceeding 300 Mbps.  I consistently get over 300 Mbps when connecting my MacBook Pro Retina (15″ Mid-2014, Broadcom BCM43xx 3×3) to the Apple Airport Extreme.  Unfortunately after running at least a dozen tests, I could never get anything better than 250 Mbps download standing directly under the Unifi access point with my MacBook.

I also own a Dell XPS 15 outfitted with a Dell Wireless 1830 and was able to get 300+ Mbps download speed from the UniFi AP.  So the problem may be related to my MacBook.

Final Thoughts

I have only had the system online for about 24-hours so please keep that in mind.  Overall I am happy with the quality of the hardware components and the software features.  I had hoped to replace two Airport Extreme devices with a single Unifi AP AC HD, however the the Unifi AP is located approximately 60′ from my office and although it provides a respectable 80 – 90 Mbps download speed I am accustomed to having 300+ Mbps.  I considered purchasing a second Unifi AP AC HD to place in my office, however I would like to determine why my MacBook can only download at 250 Mbps before I spend another $293.99 on an additional Unifi AP.  So for now I have an Apple Airport Extreme in my office to support my laptop and iPhone while the UBNT AP AC HD provides Internet Connectivity to the rest of the house.

 

 

 

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