An access point is a network device that allows the wireless connection of WiFi devices within its range.
The device must be connected, via RJ-45 Ethernet cable, to a modem, router, switch or other networking device capable of providing the connection. A WiFi access point is useful in many contexts and, above all, in the business and professional environment. The device can be used to create multiple WiFi networks, each with its own access credentials or different ways to authenticate users.
A good access point should integrate support for the activation of captive portals, i.e. a special web page that authorizes the use of the WiFi network and allows the connection to the Internet only after authentication.
By enabling the captive portal, WiFi is usually left open and then requests authentication as soon as the user connects with his device to the access point and enters the URL of any website.
We’ve tested Netgear’s WAC730 access point for you. It is a device of the ProSAFE line, therefore intended for an essentially professional audience.
The device (which can be purchased from these pages together with the “little brother” WAC720) immediately stands out for a very uncommon feature: Netgear’s access point boasts quad mode management, i.e. four management modes: standalone, ensemble, controller and cloud.
In addition to being able to operate in a “solitary” configuration, in fact, WAC730 enables the so-called ensemble configuration: thanks to it, large companies (offices with several departments, companies located on several floors or in different buildings, accommodation and tourist facilities, hospitals, …) can create a network of access points of the same model (up to 10). An ensemble is a dynamic group of access points that can share the same configuration (e.g. settings on virtual access points and QoS parameters, Quality of Service).
This approach enables convenient centralized management of all access points and is the perfect solution for those seeking higher throughput, maximum performance and extensive coverage.
When ensemble mode is activated, the access point with the lowest number assigned in the Priority field automatically becomes the “master device”.
Netgear’s access point, however, is extremely versatile because it perfectly adapts to the user’s needs. In addition to acting as a standalone access point, allowing ensemble use, and working as a controller, the WAC730 also supports cloud management via the Business Central platform.
The latter mode is the one that is enabled by default when you start the access point for the first time: connecting with the administration panel of the device, there are no special settings because the device is fully manageable through a web panel accessible from anywhere, so even remotely.
To access the local management of the access point, simply set the Business Central Enabled option on the Configuration tab of the administration panel to No.
The Netgear access point, accessing the Wireless section, allows you to activate up to 8 WiFi networks on each supported band (2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz).
Clicking on Wireless scheduling you can request the activation of WiFi only on a programmatic basis, according to the schedule set while clicking on QoS Settings and Advanced, QoS Settings/QoS Policies, you can make sure that the access point gives a higher priority to the most important types of data or in any case to those that can not suffer delays.
The access point, by default, leaves WiFi networks open on both frequency bands. To define how to authenticate users, simply select the WiFi network to be configured and click the Edit button.
By default the WAC730 activates one WiFi on 2.4 GHz and another on 5 GHz: by clicking Edit, you can choose whether to leave them open, configure WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK, WPA2 with Radius or WPA+WPA2 with Radius.
Not only that. By selecting a Captive portal profile, you can ask the access point to display a web page for user authentication, whatever URL they type in the address bar of the browser.
With a click on Configuration, Captive portal, you can define the appearance of the web page that will be offered to users when they first connect to WiFi (logo and text).
The Profile settings section allows you to specify how users will be authenticated: Guest requires the insertion of a user name (which, however, will not be verified); Local draws on a local database (User configuration); Radius performs authentication by relying on a Radius server.
By activating the Business Centeral Enabled option, the access point or set of access points (in the case of ensemble configuration) can be managed centrally from this page after registering an account.
You will then simply have to click on Inventory, New device and enter the serial number of the Netgear device in the appropriate field (it can also be taken from the Configuration, System section of the administration panel of the access point).
A look at the main technical features of the Netgear WAC730 access point
The access point package contains an RJ-45 network cable but does not have a power supply: the WAC730, in fact, can also be powered via PoE (Power-over-Ethernet).
It can then receive power from a switch: the most important features but nothing prohibits the connection of a traditional 12V 2.5 A power supply.
In terms of technical specifications, it is important to highlight with Netgear’s WAC730 is an access point that not only supports 802.11ac but offers an aggregate throughput of 1.7 Gbps (450 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 1.3 Gbps on the 5 GHz band).
With 3×3 data transmission/reception, with three streams on 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz, information transfer becomes reliable and fast.
The WAC730 can work, basically, with internal antennas but you can also consider the installation of antennas (optional) at 2.4 or 5 GHz, to be connected to the appropriate external connectors.
The 802.11ac beamforming technique allows you to optimize the coverage and data transfer rates by directing the WiFi signal, from time to time, where it is most needed or where the client devices are located.