Cloud Managed vs Cloud Analytics

When discussing wifi hardware options with customers, sometimes they become confused about whether or not they need a Cloud Managed access point solution to use a cloud based WiFi Analytics access point solution.

There are also customers with security concerns about their “local network data being in the cloud” when it comes to WiFi Analytics.

So let’s start at the beginning.

Cloud Managed vs On-Premise Solutions

Cloud Managed hardware shouldn’t be confused with a Cloud based WiFi Analytics solution.

A Cloud Managed controller solution is one where the access points are managed from a cloud based controller.  Meraki, Aerohive, Aruba Central, and Ruckus Cloud are good examples of this. When the access points first boot up, they connect to their respective wireless controllers that are controlled through a website.

The real alternative for a Cloud Managed access point system is an On-Premise access point system.  On-Premise controller solutions are what most IT professionals think of when they hear the term wireless controller.  They’ve been the standard for over a decade now. In an on-premise wireless controller solution, the access points connect to the wireless controller on the same network or related VLAN.   This usually means that the access points and the wireless controller are in the same physical building. Good examples of this are most Cisco wireless controllers, Aruba Airwave, Ruckus Zone Director, or Ubiquiti.

Cloud Management has a lot of benefits.  For instance, distributed access points can be easily managed and changed by a single administrator, despite the physical distance between access points.

A good example is if you’re managing 7 locations across 3 states, and you need to make a default WPA2 encryption key change across all of them, with an on-premise solution, you’d be driving to all 7 locations to change the key.  However, with a cloud managed solution, you can easily change the encryption key across all access points, all from your home location.

Cloud based WiFi Analytics Solutions

Cloud based WiFi Analytics Solutions are independent from how the access points are managed or controlled.  Yes, most WiFi Analytics solutions are hosted in the cloud, however, they are NOT dependent on using a Cloud Managed controller solution.

The ability for an access point vendor to be a strong candidate for WiFi Analytics really has to do with the robustness of the API available from the controller.  The API and integration options that a controller provides to 3rd party analytics or internal development teams is what designates its ability to be useful for WiFi Analytics.

For example, both Meraki and Aerohive have strong API support that they make available to customer’s internal development teams and 3rd party analytics companies.   Both Meraki and Aerohive are Cloud Managed solutions, and they’re also are good WiFi Analytics hardware choices because of their integration options.

However, Aruba and Ruckus are also widely supported by the WiFi Analytics community.  Aruba has both an on-premise solution, Airware and ALE, and also a cloud managed solution, Aruba Central.  While Ruckus has the Zone Director on-premise solution with vSpot, and a cloud managed Ruckus Cloud solution.

Interestingly enough, both Aruba and Ruckus’s on-premise solutions are currently more widely supported by WiFi Analytics companies than their cloud managed options because of the robustness of their on-premise APIs.

It should now be clear the difference between Cloud Management and Cloud based WiFi Analytics solutions.  A Cloud Managed controller solution is not required to have Cloud based WiFi Analytics.

Security Concerns

We have customers with concerns about their network management being in the cloud.

It should be noted that even with a cloud managed solution, like Meraki, Aerohive, Aruba Central, or Ruckus cloud, no local network traffic ever goes to the vendor.  Only information about the network, like devices, uptime, etc. goes to these cloud management solutions.  But for those that choose not to use cloud based controllers because they’d like a completely on-premise solution for managing the network, you still have options for WiFi Analytics.

This leads some IT managers to tell us, “if I don’t trust the router companies with my network information, why should I trust a WiFi Analytics company”?

And the answer is that you don’t have to.  Solutions like Who’s On My WiFi completely anonymize all device information before it gets to our cloud platform.  This means that you can still have WiFi Analytics intelligence from your local on-premise solution, without any cloud provider ever seeing any of the real MAC Address information of your visitors.

Yes, you can keep a completely on-premise wireless controller solution, and you can still provide WiFi Analytics intelligence to your boardroom without any other company ever seeing your real visitor information.