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Reports

Reports are where network performance junkies and managers may really get frustrated. The Devices view (Figure 12) scaling made it impossible to see everything without scrolling up and down. You can filter by network and location, but not by AP and there is no way to remove clients from the view.

Time periods can be set for the last hour, 6 hours, 12 hours, day, 3 days and week. Data beyond the past week is saved in the CloudCommand, er, cloud but can't be accessed at the present time.

CloudCommand Reports Devices page

Figure 12: CloudCommand Reports Devices page

The Access Points tab offers a similar view but for APs. In addition to the filters in the Devices view, you can select Active, Inactive or All APs. This view could really benefit from information on number of clients connected and the ability to click on a pie chart or piece to drill down into its client data.

The last Reporting option is the Location Survey or Rogue AP detection (Figure 13). This view lets you filter by Network location and by Active / Inactive APs. But you can't determine the AP that detected the rogue and there is no signal level information provided. So tracking down the rogue's physical location would be pretty much impossible from this data.

CloudCommand Reports Location Survey page

Figure 13: CloudCommand Reports Location Survey page

This report looks like a filter of the main AP log but only went back a week. You can Recognize the data to dismiss it from the view and recall it. But you can't email or save the report and there are no email or SMS alert options for it. The only setup options are to enable / disable and set the scan frequency for hourly or daily.

Closing Thoughts

Despite its reporting and configuration omissions, the DAP-2555 could be an attractive alternative for those looking for a cost-effective way to get a business-class multi-AP wireless LAN up and running in a hurry. Installation is dead simple and configuration options are limited so that inexperienced users won't get confused.

D-Link has also made the DAP-2555 easy to buy and relatively affordable. They've worked out a deal with PowerCloud to bundle the first year of CloudCommand service into the price of each AP. The first year of bundled CloudCommand service looks like around $150 ($281 - $132 based on lowest current prices of the DAP-2555 and DAP-2553 at time of review). Fortunately, yearly renewal after the first year is $99.

If you change your mind after the first year and decide not to renew, D-Link also provides the option of converting the 2555 back into an independently-managed AP. So if you decide that cloud-managed WLANs aren't your thing, your hardware investment doesn't turn into a doorstop.

Figure 14 shows an web admin that will be very familiar to DAP-2553 owners. You just hit the AP's IP address, login as admin (no password), uncheck the Enable Cloud Manager box on the Cloud Manager page and reboot.

DAP-2555 with CloudCommand disabled

Figure 14: DAP-2555 with CloudCommand disabled

It looks like all the DAP-2553's features are intact, which means that CloudCommand could enable them through its interface, should it choose to.

But the DAP-2555 also has some serious limitations that could keep it on companies' no-buy lists. The most serious is the inability to implement separate 2.4 and 5 GHz networks with unique SSIDs. You get only one Primary and one Guest network, which is at least one network short. And even if you decided to limp along by splitting the Primary and Guest networks by band, you'd have to manually assign channels.

Companies with mixed N and A/G clients may also find CloudCommand's lack of controls for legacy (A, B, G) support troubling, if not a show-stopper. There are still clients around that don't like to talk to N APs running auto 20/40 mode. So the inability to accomodate those clients by setting up a legacy-only network isn't good.

Finally, the reports and tools need work. CloudCommand does an excellent job of geting APs up and working. But figuring out where to place them for best coverage and performance will require the services of an experienced installer, who will find no help in CloudCommand's reporting, which lacks any client signal level reporting.

If you can live with CloudCommand's limitations, you'd be hard pressed to find another solution at this price point for building an easy to manage multi-AP network. It will be interesting to see if PowerCloud can get more hardware vendors signed up to provide a wider equipment selection and the revenue stream they'll need to not only survive, but grow and continue to enhance CloudCommand. That, in the end, is the key question.

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