posted on Saturday, 19th November 2016 by David Slater
Every install whether big or small needs to have one common denominator: a quality robust IT network. And that means a whole lot more than just picking right router. What we have here on test is an entire IT solution from Pakedge. The system comprises the Pakadge RE-2 router (£400), NK-1 wireless controller (430, with 15 licenses) and WK-2 access point (£460) and SX-24P16 fully managed switch (£1,070). All prices are plus VAT.
Pakedge RE-2 router: Features and installation
At the heart of our system is the RE-2 router. The RE series are multimedia routers designed for a 300+ Mbps traffic throughput, the RE-2 has 5 gigabit ports 1 WAN, 1 configurable WAN/LAN and 3 LAN, there are 2 USB ports for file sharing or media server. The device is not very large, coming in at 26.4 x 16.5 x 4.4 cm (L/W/H); rack mount ears are supplied in the pack for easy installation into an equipment rack. Unlike some manufacturers Pakedge doesn’t incorporate wireless aerials in its routers, its opting for the more enterprise approach of a separate wireless access point.
Accessing the RE-2 router’s GUI is a simple procedure of typing in the IP address of router, then your username and password. The presentation is clean and uncluttered. On first boot, if there is a firmware update you will be presented with an option to download. Like most routers, you set-up the WAN info first with information that your ISP provides.
All the steps are really simple. We needed to use port forwarding and remote access, so under network tab we inputted the port configuration and everything worked instantly. You can check out the network via a real time monitoring tool, the live sessions will display information on active connections, this information includes protocol type, amount of data transferred and the destination of the data.
The RE-2 has an isolated guest network option. When enabled, port 5 on the router will be turned into a guest network port. Any devices connected on that port will be placed on the Guest network. The Guest network will only have access to the internet. It will not have access to any internal resources.
The RE-2 comes pre-configured with VLANs, this is called Pakedge Zones and makes for a more simplified setup of VLANS. The zones are Voice, Audio Video, Automation, Data and Guest. Each zone can be customised and when installed with the Pakedge zone switch it will setup VLANS quick and easy. There is also an option to enable network bonding which allows devices that use multicast messaging to communicate across the VLAN.
The Quality of Service (QoS) tab allows you to prioritise data on the network. For example, those applications which require the least amount of latency possible. You can prioritise this type of traffic so that it is sent ahead of other data that can function properly with some latency, such as ordinary web traffic.
Service offers IGMP snooping, which allows the router to determine which devices on the network need to listen for multicast traffic. File sharing can be added to the network by plugging in a drive to the USB sockets on the router.
The router is well made and I really like the new interface, it’s much easier to navigate through over the traditional Draytek which I have traditionally used on installations. Just keep in mind you will need to add a modem to your system first, as unlike the Draytek it’s not built into the router.
Pakedge SX-24P16 switch: Features and installation
The SX-24P16 switch is a fully managed gigabit switch. It provides 16 PoE+ capable ports with the ability to utilise full 802.3at (30W) PoE+ output of 12 ports simultaneously, if you don’t need high power you can have full 802.3af (15.4W) PoE on 16 ports simultaneously. The switch shares the same GUI as the RE-2. Start by setting the IP Address of the switch. Here you are presented with 5 tabs: System, Ports, VLAN, Traffic and Management. The Security option allows you to set ARP attack defence, worm attack defence, DoS attack defence and MAC attack defence.
The Ports tab allows you to change a port state or speed, clicking on a port allows it to be changed, while Port Mirroring allows you to copy packets on one or more ports to a mirroring destination port.
You can attach a monitoring device to the mirroring destination port to view details about the packets passing through the copied port(s). This is useful for network monitoring and troubleshooting purposes. The switch provides local port mirroring functionality, namely, both mirrored ports and mirroring destination ports are located on the same device.
The PoE page allows you to modify power over Ethernet settings. The PoE global Setup configures the PoE Power Management Mode. When it is Static, you can configure power allocation manually. When the power supply is connected on the port, part of power will be enforced to be reserved for this port and can't be used by other ports. When it is Dynamic, according to actual used power allocation, in full load, power will be allocated by port priority (priority + port number). If the priority is the same, the smaller the port number is, the higher the priority. It’s a nice touch to be able to configure each port rather than just get a batch of ports assigned as PoE. You can set different levels of priority devices, set as high priority, will have access to the power first.
VLANS have always been a major pain to set up in the past, but the introduction of Pakedge Zones has simplified this massively. A Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) is a network topology which allows to logically, instead of physically, segment a LAN into several net segments.
A VLAN combines a group of hosts with a common set of requirements logically instead of physically relocating devices or connections. VLANs allow a network to be segmented into different broadcast domains. All members in a VLAN are treated as in the same broadcast domain and communicate as if they were on the same net segment, regardless of their physical locations.
The VLAN wizard is great. I setup my VLAN in less than 10 minutes, each port can be configured by dragging and dropping it into a zone. There are 6 predefined zones just like on the RE-2 (Management, Voice, Audio/Video, Automation, Data and Guest). Once the VLAN wizard is complete, you will be taken to the advanced VLAN configuration page where you can manually change any settings.
There are lots of advanced settings for network protection, Like DHCP delay and DHCP snooping, all there to make for smoother networking. The last tab is the maintenance tab that allows you to save configuration or update firmware.
The switch is very well constructed and the fan noise is low, which is another important fact when looking for an AV switch.
Pakedge NK-1 wireless access point controller: Features and installation
Next up is the NK-1 wireless access point controller / Network Cloud Patroller. This device allows you to setup all your wireless access points, optimising the coverage in your home. It also doubles as the controller needed to run Bakpak, which is the Pakedge cloud monitoring system. Just like all the other devices from Pakedge, it comes with a really clean interface and plenty of wizards to get you started. Once the NK-1 is plugged into your router and Access points are plugged into the switch, it’s as simple as running the wizard to identify the access points.
The Wizard will ask you how many SSIDs you would like to configure. You can configure up to 18 SSIDs (8 on the 2.4 GHz and 8 on the 5 GHz, in addition to a guest SSID for each band). Band steering moves 5 GHz-compatible client devices to that frequency. This is beneficial when you have devices that operate on an older wireless standard, such as wireless G or B. You can keep slower devices on the 2.4 GHz band and move the faster clients onto the 5 GHz band.
Once you enable Band Steering under the 2.4 GHz band, you need to make sure all the 2.4 GHz settings match the 5 GHz settings. The best way to do this is to make all your changes under the 2.4 and click Save and Continue to 5 GHz. This will copy your 2.4 GHz settings over. Once all access points are configured, the Dashboard will allow you to test out your wireless network and produce reports. The site survey section is really useful as it allows you to upload floor plans and determine the best placement of your access points. We used, in our system, a WK-2. This model is a 802.11ac dual access point with 3x3 internal antennas. It was powered through the switch via PoE+.
Bakpak is a must-have tool if you are a Control4 dealer, as this will monitor every IP device on your system. Dealers need to setup an account, then every NK-1 installed is added to the account. A wizard is used to detect every device in the system giving you the ability to setup High, Medium and Low groups, this will then monitor the system giving you emails if any device falls off the network.
All your installs will show up as profiles and can be accessed via Bakpak app on a smartphone or via a web browser at www.mybakpak.com. One of the biggest callouts we use to have was just to reset components on the network, so it’s a great plus point when this can be done remotely. Don’t worry if your devices are not all PoE powered as you can also buy several different Pakedge models of PDUs that will sit on the system.
Pakedge network system: Verdict
So what do we think of this Pakedge networking solution? We just love it! The clean interface and simple setup is a great time saver. It might have been nice to have a modem built into the router, but this is just a small point - the rest of the kit is bulletproof. In general use, we noticed a great increase of speed, and the Wi-Fi coverage has also had a boost. Now that Pakedge is sold by Control4, and tech support is covered by them, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to specify Pakedge as the default network infrastructure on Control4 jobs.
The Pakedge Network System is available now
Distribution is via Control4
David Slater started his writing career with SVI writing a
popular column, he has also guested on publications like Home Cinema Choice and
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