Unifi Network Upgrade
In the spring of 2019 I decided to upgrade my network equipment with a complete Unifi setup. Prior to the upgrade, I had a collection of inexpensive consumer-grade devices purchased and installed over the years. I have over 40 devices including servers, IoT devices, streaming media players, and the normal computers/laptops connected to my network at any given time.
Given the increasing number and variety of devices currently attached to my home network, the time had come to build a more secure and centrally managed network infrastructure.
Some of my primary goals for this overhaul were:
- Secure and reliable hardware/software
- Single management console to define and monitor the entire network
- Flexible and expandable to accommodate present and future needs
- Better network monitoring to help understand the traffic on my network
- Enhanced security including an advanced firewall and intrusion detection/prevention
I chose the Unifi platform because I really like the concept of using a single piece of software to define and provision the network across all of the equipment. The UniFi controller makes setting up the network simple and convenient.
In a nutshell, the plan was to replace all of my existing network equipment with UniFi devices. This included my Netgear wireless router, TPLink 24 port switch and a few other small switches located throughout the house. These were all un-managed devices that had been purchased over the years based on their low price rather than advanced features.
I spent a few weeks researching UniFi gear to familiarize myself with the equipment and start planning my new network infrastructure. The first piece of equipment purchased was a UAP-AC-LITE access point. I setup the AP and installed the UniFi controller software on a VM to get familiar with the software. After using the UniFi controller and AP for a couple of weeks, I decided to proceed with the complete network upgrade.
Here’s the list of equipment I purchased:
- 1 x UniFi Key Gen2 Plus
- 1 x UniFi Security Gateway Pro 4-Port
- 1 x UniFi US-24 Switch
- 1 x Unifi UAP-AC-LITE
- 1 x UniFi Switch 8 Port 150W
- 2 x UniFi Switch 8 Port 60W
- UniFi Cameras (UVC-G3-AF and UVC-G3-FLEX)
As equipment was delivered I went ahead and started replacing my network gear piece-by-piece and migrated the network configuration from the temporary VM to the new CloudKey Gen2+.
Installing a new piece of equipment was quite simple. The basic steps were the same each time – power the device on, adopt it into the UniFi controller, perform a firmware upgrade, and move the existing cabling from the old equipment to the new equipment. After about a week, I had received all of the new equipment and had an entirely new network setup.
After verifying that everything was working as expected I went ahead and enabled the Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) to provide an additional layer of security to block potentially malicious traffic. Even with almost all IPS categories enabled, I don’t see any performance impact on my network or internet speeds.
One of the nice things about a managed network is having the ability to get some insight into what’s going on. The UniFi dashboard allows me to quickly see all of the devices and clients connected to the network along with some network utilization statistics.
My internet speed is 100/10 mbps and prior to having the UniFi dashboard I had always wondered if I would benefit from a faster internet connection. After collecting statistics for a few weeks, it was clear that I was rarely using anywhere near the maximum capacity so I’ll save some money and keep the 100/10 connection for a while.
Another great feature is the network map. This allows you to quickly see how all of the network devices and clients are connected. The map is updated dynamically as devices are added/removed and when clients connect to WiFi Access Points.
The CloudKey Gen-2 Plus includes UniFi Video for security camera monitoring. It’s simple to use and is perfectly adequate for my needs. I can easily see live video footage from my cameras and scrubbing through the timeline makes it easy to review past events. I could still benefit from some fine-tuning on the motion detection so that it captures events more reliably and minimizes false alerts but the fact that I can easily scrub through the timeline makes perfect motion detection less critical.
Regarding the cameras, I prefer the UVC-G3-AF over the UVC-G3-FLEX. The G3-Flex is a decent camera when you consider that it costs significantly less than the G3-AF, but the G3-AF definitely provides better quality video.
While the UniFi equipment was substantially more expensive than the equipment it replaced, I believe that the benefits were worth the cost. I now have a fully managed network that provides capabilities far beyond what were previously possible.
The network monitoring dashboards are very helpful in assessing the health of the network and understanding the type of traffic flowing through the network while the firewall and IPS systems give me the tools needed to properly secure my home network from common threats.