In the networking industry, when we use the term onboarding, we are usually referring to the process of securely connecting wireless devices for the first time to the enterprise Wi-Fi network. The onboarding experience needs to be as effortless as possible for employees, customers, and guests. As we all know, this can often be a big challenge for any enterprise, which is why at Extreme Networks, we are always looking for ways to make that experience easier for the user. This is why we offer many options such as PPSK security and ExtremeGuest Essentials to make that first-time connection a pleasant experience. Always remember that the first-time experience, as well as the ongoing experience of your wireless and wired network users, is the top priority.
However, in this blog, I want to focus on an onboarding experience for an often-overlooked person, the installer. I speak of the customer or partner employee whose job is to properly mount the access points into the ceiling during a Wi-Fi deployment. This is not easy work. The last thing an installer needs to worry about is if an AP is properly provisioned with all of the appropriate radio and network configuration settings. And the installer should be able to effortlessly provision an AP into the proper cloud management account.
We often hear the phrase, zero-touch provisioning, but can we be honest? Somebody always has to touch an AP when it is being installed. So how about instead we offer effortless provisioning for the hardworking installer? That is why we have recently released the first version of a smartphone application called ExtremeCloud IQ Mobile Onboarding.
Figure 1 – ExtremeCloud IQ Mobile Onboarding icon
ExtremeCloud IQ partners and customers can now leverage this mobile application for effortless onboarding. IT management is not a static operation; networks are dynamic, constantly being upgraded, expanded and modified. Mobile IT management is just as important as mobile client connectivity. The ExtremeCloud IQ Mobile Onboarding application was designed to securely support the mobile IT administrator when performing network management functions on the go. The application is simple to deploy, has a user-friendly interface, and operates on both iPhones and Android devices.
Now imagine you’re an installer, and you are at a worksite, diligently onboarding access points. You open the mobile app on your phone, and right away, you can see any APs that you have already provisioned into your cloud account, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 – Onboarding APs
But you need to onboard 35 more APs this afternoon, so you use your smartphones’ camera to scan the barcode or QR code on the AP’s shipping box or on the back of the AP itself. This grabs the serial number of the AP that you are provisioning into your ExtremeCloud IQ account. After that, it really is as simple as 1-2-3 for the installer. As shown in Figure 3, the installer first verifies the AP model and serial number. Second, the installer selects the proper location and floorplan for the AP. And third, the installer chooses the pre-configured network policy that will be used to configure the AP.
Figure 3 - Onboarding as easy as 1-2-3
After that, the installer can mount the AP. Once the AP is connected to an Ethernet cable and powered via PoE, the device automatically connects to your ExtremeCloud IQ account. The AP then downloads all the necessary settings to become fully operational in a few short minutes.
As any good Wi-Fi expert will tell you, validation of an initial Wi-Fi deployment is critical. Therefore, the installer has the option to remove the device, change the network policy or location, flash the LED light or reboot the AP. As shown in Figure 4, our installer can also run command-line interface (CLI) diagnostics for the AP using the mobile application that is talking directly to the cloud.
Figure 4 - Validation and Diagnostics
So, we would like to think we have made life easier for an AP installation professional. But we are not done yet. We have a lot more planned for the effortless ExtremeCloud IQ Mobile Onboarding experience in the very near future. In the meantime, I would encourage you to download the mobile application at the links provided below:
Apple application store: http://bit.ly/ExtremeMobileApp
Google Play application store: http://bit.ly/Android-ExtremeMobile