Earlier this year Apple formally discontinued all of their WiFi products. The Apple Airport Extreme, Apple Airport Express, and even the Time Capsule, their wireless router with a built in hard drive for backing up using Time Machine, were all discontinued, with no plans to replace them.
This is important for two reasons:
There are a LOT of homes and businesses with Apple wireless networks. When we visit with new customers in Southern California, the Bay area, and even in New York, chances are they’re running Apple wireless. Right now customer concerns and questions are just beginning to roll in to our office. What WiFi is the best to replace my Airport Extreme? is one of the most common questions we’re hearing.
Apple WiFi devices were attractive because they were simple. Now that they’re gone, what WiFi networking products provide the same functionality and simplicity that Apple networking devices were famous for?
Apple Stores currently stock one wireless networking product on their shelves. It’s the Linksys Velop, a 3-pack of “mesh” wireless access points that Linksys claims provides Whole-Home WiFi access.
We’ve used Velop, and it’s a great product for certain people. What’s critical is knowing whether or not you’re one of those people. We’re going to cover the just basics here that you need to know. Because everyone’s situation is somewhat unique, let us know in the comments or drop us a line if you have other questions that we may not cover.
First, Velop is a wireless “mesh” solution. This is good, and way better than Apple’s previous wireless products which were not a mesh solution. Mesh means that the primary wireless access point keeps track of which of the three wireless access points your Mac or iPhone or other devices is connected to. Mesh technology is constantly looking for the best, fastest, optimized route between you and the Internet. Comparatively, old Apple devices couldn’t do this, so customers could lose 90-95% of their Internet speeds just by having more than one Apple wireless networking device in their home or office. With the Velop, you still lose speed, typically 35-60%, but not nearly as much as before.
Velop is a good product for some small apartments and other small homes in neighborhoods that don’t have a lot of wireless network congestion. This means there aren’t a lot of other wireless networks within range of your computer or phone at home (a short WiFi menu with a few network names is OK, but not a long one). Busy streets with lots of cars and even the emergency vehicles (police, ambulance, fire truck or other) can cause lots of wireless issues.
Apple picked a good product to replace the Airport devices on their store shelves. Velop is inexpensive and relatively easy to set up. In that regard, it’s a decent option, but there are still a lot of things that can go wrong. We called Linksys several times to ask if their product can do a few things, like separating out 2.4 and 5 GHz bands on separate SSIDs (wireless networks) and even help us optimize streaming for faster Netflix, Youtube and music performance at home. Linksys repeatedly reminded me that Velop is a consumer product, not a professional one.
If you’re a WiFi connoisseur, if you want total control of your system, and you want a system that can be continuously improved and adapted to any environment, no matter where it is, and no matter what kind of new devices come out from Apple, then there’s a much better WiFi technology. It’s called Meraki, and it’s owned by Cisco (who happens to also own Linksys).
Meraki is different because it provides professional level performance and security, as well as complete visibility and control. What this means, basically, is that once we design a network for a customer’s home or office, including the appropriate number of wireless access points, then we can “tune” it for incredible performance, and adjust it remotely if anything ever slows it down. We can tell instantly what’s causing slow Internet, whether it’s the cable company, a bad software update, or anything else.
We can also hot-rod music and video streaming for any device, whether it’s an Apple TV or a Google Chromecast. As customers buy more wireless devices, some of them are going to have bugs. Usually customers go through tech support hell, being told the “problem is in your network”. With Meraki, this doesn’t happen. Meraki lets us find the exact cause of the problem and either fix it, or compensate for it.
Meraki has cutting-edge security and can even filter dangerous and bad things out of the Internet to protect your family and my kids as they begin using the Internet. Best of all, Meraki natively supports Apple Macs and iOS devices like iPhone and iPad and AppleTV, as well as every other kind of device including Windows and Android. Meraki even has built-in Apple mobile device management, which means businesses with a Meraki network can use it to deploy settings and apps out to all their employees automatically and efficiently, no matter how many times devices or people change in the organization.
We’re barely scratching the surface of what’s possible with Meraki, but the main point is that if you’re considering an upgrade to your wireless or need to create a new WiFi network for your home or business, you should be aware of both Apple’s current retail offering with Linksys and the more professional, secure and flexible solution from Meraki.
People who own Apple products expect the best performance and reliability, and there is no better wireless and networking solution for Apple owners than Meraki by Cisco.
Have questions? Let us know in the comments or drop us a line. We are Cisco Meraki certified Cisco Meraki Network Associate as well as a certified Cisco Meraki Network Operator, and we’ve designed and installed hundreds of Meraki networks across North America and Japan. We would love to help you create an amazing network and then help you in the future to keep it fast, secure and awesome!