Home Network Overhaul

Hi,

So the Post About @JacoDeJongh doing the zigbee install, opened up a few posts about the home network you guys are running and this reminded me that I need to Overhaul my home network.

I currently have a crappy tp-link ISP provided Archer router, it only has 100mbs Lan Ports, which I found out with a shock when trying to copy files between devices on my network and to re-download the file was faster.

From what I can gather online the stand out options are:

  • Full Unifi Setup: USG and controller on a VM and AC Lite
  • Ubiquiti EdgeRouter X with Unifi AC Lite.
  • MikroTik Hap Ac2
  • pfSense box build, from hardware I own, just need to source a decent Intel Dual/Quad Port NIC (anybody know where I can find one)

I want to be able to complete this in phases, first the router as that is where the most immediate action is needed. I will reuse my current ISP provided router in AP-mode so that it only acts as a WiFi access point. Later I would like to add Unifi AP’s.

What I would also like to do is add a POE switch, at first a cheapy TP-Link with 802.3Af support but later a managed switch to support vlan’s. This would be so that I can segment out the growing number of IOT devices on my network. But for now a cheap poe capable switch would do so that I can power my ip cams from the switch, I would use the remaining lan ports on the router to segment out the network.

I currently have a 100mbps down /100mbps up, Fibre connection.

From what I have read so far, the EdgeRouter X is better than USG, same hardware lower price and the EdgeOS is more powerful than Unifi, but you lose the unified control which the Unifi platform gives you. MikroTik seems the dark horse here I used RouterOs in the past, but information on them is scarce these days. Most info online seem to reference Unifi especially in the IOT smart home space, maybe they have good influencer marketing. Lastly the pfSense looks to be the most powerful solution, but the thought of having to power another PC is off-putting especially since I am trying to reduce my night time power usage.

So I was wondering if any of you have any opinions and or suggestions for this. I am very much a power user not afraid of the CLI, but also appreciate a good UI for basics.

I personally like the AsusWRT range. They also have AIMesh where all the settings are managed from the main router similar to the Unifi setup, but the routers I find much cheaper and I like the no frills UI, but you can get very deep if you want to (up to ssh with cron scrips, etc.). Might be worth a look.

I’ve been running on an older DSL version up to now, but am currently waiting for my new upgraded router with Wifi6.

You can find some pretty good videos on youtube explaining what a Ubiquiti setup needs and how it works. If I had to overhaul everything, I’d go that route.

Their power other ethernet (if you anyways going to pull network cables everywhere) seems to work great. Also no need for bulky access points, you just get a wall socket.

If you need wifi outside, say by the swimming pool, they have devices specifically for that also. Basically an enterprise based product for a consumer.

Personally I use ASUS routers with Ai Mesh. I went through a bit of an ASUS craze a few years ago. I have a 88U, 68U and 2x66U. This more than covers my needs, but I found I anyways had to hardwire the routers (the mesh can be made wirelessly, but I found it unreliable in my house - lots of walls). And then you need to find nice places to hide the routers without upsetting the wife.
It works really well, but there’s no solution for wall socket access points or outside antennae, which I would really like.

This is a staggered approach and you can grow your system in the following steps.

  1. For your network backbone, buy a vanilla 24 port Unifi switch. NON PoE. I use a US-24-G1. It’s a 24 port gigabit switch with 2 * SFP Uplinks. Don’t bother getting PoE on this, it’s just too expensive for what you get. They just under R5k. I’ll go into details below
  2. Buy a Unifi AP. The popular one is the UAP-AC-LR at around R2k’ish. They come with their own PoE adapter so again, no need for a PoE switch. I have 4 of these, total overkill.
  3. You can either buy a cloud key (also R2k’ish) or you can run the cloud key service on a PC for the time being. The cloud key hardware comes with its own PoE adapter.
  4. For a router, you can go for the basic USG Router (around R2500 - I went with this one), or you can go for the bigger ones that contain cloudkey functionality already. But they north of R7k. The normal USG router is more than fast enough for running on my 200MB fibre line
  5. When it comes to cameras, the only stuff that really needs PoE, I’d go with the cheap Scoop PoE switches, the 8 port units are less than R1k. Two reasons: they very cheap while still providing 802.11af PoE, and if lightning were to hit them (cause cameras are outside), it’s a bit of a barrier between it and your expensive Unifi network.

Anyway, this provides a migration path, as cheap as possible, but getting the whole Unifi ecosystem benefits

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Have a look at Mikrotik , for one they are quite a bit cheaper than Ubiquiti R2k vs R625. Now I must admit I have not used MPLS but for what I have read about it it works well. The router OS is super and you will be hard pressed to get the features it offers at its price point.
I use the router with reporting and I switch between two ISP without noticing. (Using Rain and Telkom) You can even check who is hogging your bandwidth with the Accounting feature and Influx db.
Last part that I use is the API where I get notified it there is a new connection on the network and then the device gets passed into the simple queue whereby the bandwidth is limited to 2M download and 1M upload . Bit of a learning curve but thereafter it is all smiles (for me anyway :slight_smile:)
Here is a LINK for a comparison

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I know those Mikrotiks are awesome. If you like getting into CLI and such. If, like me, you just want easy, the UniFi ecosystem can make it as easy or hard as you want to make it.

In the case of Home Assistant, there’s native Ubiquity support. So any device connecting on the WiFi network is automatically exposed to Home Assistant, no need to get into any API for that. And updates are managed by the community. Def worth the extra money I pay for a Ubiquity router.

And with the multiple SSID support in UniFi, guests get the low bandwidth connection when I give them those credentials. All they have access to is the internet, they have no access to anything else on my network.

Where’s a good local place to get Ubiquiti stuff? Is it just scoop?

Scoop an uniterm direct. Sometimes takealot has specials running that might be a bit cheaper. If you have a dealer account with scoop it can be cheaper still, but I never bothered.

So, just to confirm, would these be the items aligning with your suggestion above?

That’s pretty much it hey. On the Scoop switch, you don’t need one with gigabit uplinks, you can go for the cheaper one that has 100M uplinks. Doing the math, 5MP cameras generally have 6Mb streams thus around 50Mb over 8 ports. You’ll never touch 1Gb speeds on it.

To expand further, I have 3 of those switches in my home for aggregation. One east, one west and one south. So I have those zones of cameras go to their respective switch and then the uplinks going to my core switch. That leaves room for further growth while not having to pull a million lan cables throughout the house; if I add a camera I just go to the closest switch. Your case may be different, but in my case it’s a beatch getting cables to where my rack is so found it more convenient to have multiple camera only switches spread over the property.

In addition to that, I’ve gone as far as having a separate camera aggregation switch for the cameras only. This goes to my BI server that has an additional network card for the camera streams. This way, the CCTV cameras never ever sees the internet and thus logically airgapped from the outside world. From the main network, I only see the BI server, never the cameras.

Anyway, I’m rambling now. The above might just be something to consider for the future (does it ever stop? lol)

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Thanks, that’s useful.

My issue is that my property is fairly large, and the walls are k*k thick, so 5Ghz Wifi dies a swift death as soon as you move to another room.
Right now I’ve got (and I need to pause and count on my fingers) 6 routers acting as access points, which is fine, but not ideal.
Do you find the Ubiquiti APs have better transmission through difficult materials?

Well, the big benefit of the Ubiquity AP is that it mounts to the ceiling. So, it helps with reception in other rooms because signals travel pretty well through open ceiling cavities. That being said, walls are walls, no matter what product you use.

Nothing stops you buying just one AP and running cloud key on a PC. That way you can experiment to make sure how to place APs in your house to get best reception. Putting in too many APs is also a bad idea as you might saturate the area. In my case, I had to turn down the power settings to get the best performance. I do, though, have pretty good 5Ghz coverage everywhere in my house, even outside. And my home layout is weird, hence the need for so many, plus I have two IoT gates south, and a IoT pool pump north. If I spent more time initially experimenting with placement, I would’ve probably had the need for less APs. But I’m lazy lol

From the prices of the Ubiquity you guys stated I am glad I went with the Asus.
It has multiple SSIDs, Guest SSIDs, Home Assistance integration, Dual WAN, etc. All for R2000 I payed.

Yeah, but we are network nerds. Have to impress our network nerd buddies man :smiley:

Main reason is having seamless network meshing when moving from one AP to another. And you need many APs when there lots of walls

Just to add to the above. Another option instead of a Gateway & Cloud key would be to get the UniFi Dream Machine which has both built in as well as an AP with a 4x port Gigabit switch.

It’s quite a bit more, so if you have a rack and space then the USG & Cloud Key should be fine, but what I’m looking at with where my fibre is coming into the house the Dream Machine would be perfect.

I’m running my 2x D-Links at the moment with one as an upstairs AP and a router & WiFi downstairs. But then you get dead zones and start contemplating things like this…

Yeah, The dream Machine is nice. But I just had a hard time justifying that price vs half that for a cloud key and USG. I already had the big core switch in already. Lastly, I had to consider how that will be powered during load shedding, everything in my rack has additional UPS, whereas where my fibre connection point is doesn’t have that. I’m fixing that now, but it’s also something to consider.

Another thing, when comparing Ubiquity vs cheaper options: I have 5Ghz pretty much everywhere in my house and maintain a speedtest of at least 150Mb/s, sometimes up to the full 200Mb/s of my fibre line. It’s great for us as there are many smart TVs connected wirelessly and we can watch 4k content on all of them at the same time without any issues. Granted, not everyone has this need or want, but it’s certainly capable.

Yeah, I think it all depends on cost, space etc. If I had to make a change now then the dream machine is the perfect solution as it’s a straight swap from the D-Link with 4 ports and Wi-Fi and it’s next to the TV where the fibre comes in which is limited in space, but the cost is still quite crazy. Knowing myself I’ll most likely end up with a rack and switch in the garage when we buy our own place and I’ll realise it may have been overkill which is why I’m holding on for now.

:smiley: I can fully understand that.
I’m impressed already :slight_smile:

My AP cover the hole house, but I put in an old Linksys WRT in the garage as a wifi bridge for my ESS system’s network. I guess that is the benefit of a smaller home - you need smaller coverage.

Asus router (select ones) do mesh together. I run 4 (1 main and 3 nodes). Before I hardwired the mesh, I had whatsapp call drop off when my cellphone was handed over to another node. After hardwiring that issue is gone.

That said, I really badly want Ubiquiti…

Unfortunately, as been said, walls are walls and you are trying to get a 2.4/5Ghz wave to go through it. Not sure one brand vs. another would really improve that. That is why people go for a mesh setup.

I’ve only got ~20% WiFi strength in the garage where my Raspberry Pi is, so ended up getting an old Powerline ethernet over power pair from the box that my wife wanted to throw out years ago just to have a stable connection to VRM.