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What is a WLAN Controller?

What is a WLAN Controller?

Wireless network management isn’t always easy — especially if you have a large WLAN.

Every time you increase its capacity, you have to configure devices. At the same time, you also have to make sure you have good wireless coverage across the physical areas you support. And if you run into bottlenecks anywhere in the network, you have to redesign and rethink everything.

Here’s the good news. There is a way to make all of this management easier. It’s called a WLAN controller, and it has a lot to offer modern wireless networks.

WLAN Controllers

A WLAN controller (sometimes called a WLC) is a bit of technology that helps you manage wireless access points. At a basic level, it quarterbacks how devices connect to your wireless network and acts as the effective brain of the entire WLAN.

The real purpose of using a WLAN controller is to centralize your wireless access point management.

As a wireless network grows larger and incorporates more access points, that can create traffic flow issues and bottlenecks. Your WLC gives you the ability to centralize control of the access points so you can minimize those issues and manage a larger, more capable WLAN with fewer issues.

Typically, WLAN controllers are located at the center of your data so all of your wireless APs can connect to it (whether directly or indirectly).

Benefits of the WLC

Adding a centralized controller to a WLAN might intuitively sound like a good idea, but there are very clear benefits to taking this approach to network management. Specifically, we can look at three benefits to really highlight how this technology is used and when you may or may not really need to consider a WLC.

Management

The clearest and most important benefit has to be network management. When you use multiple wireless access points, you have to configure each AP manually. Even when you do, the APs can’t directly communicate with each other.

This can make network access, handoffs, and other aspects of traffic management clunky and unreliable.

Your WLAN controller takes over the configuration for each AP. You no longer have to manually configure everything, and the WLC ultimately works as a central decision-maker for all of the APs. Even if they aren’t directly communicating with each other, every AP can communicate with the WLC, shoring up these issues.

If nothing else, your WLC can save countless hours managing individual APs. Beyond that, the network will operate more smoothly and reliably because the WLC can organize all of the APs.

Security

Speaking of central management, it creates clear benefits for network security as well. Access points directly control who can and cannot access your wireless network. That’s an essential component of network security.

If all of your APs work independently, it’s easy to mismanage a single AP at some point, and that creates vulnerabilities in the network. This risk is exacerbated every time you expand the WLAN.

With a WLAN controller, all of the APs are up to speed in terms of security. None can be overlooked because the distribution of access rules is automated through the WLC. This reduces vulnerabilities and leads to better overall security.

Flexibility

Another perk that stems from centralized control is flexibility, and this works in two ways.

For starters, your WLC allows you to control all of your access points more easily. This translates into network flexibility, as you can shift resources around the access points in order to mitigate bottlenecks and improve network traffic.

From a macro perspective, your controller improves flexibility by making it easier for you to physically adjust the array of access points. If you have dead spots, you can move APs around or add additional APs to ensure total coverage. Instead of configuring them and going through the whole process, each new or shifted AP connects to the controller and gets all of the management information it needs automatically.

This doubles down on labor savings, allowing you the freedom to make minute adjustments to the AP coverage more frequently without racking up deployment and management costs.

Overall, WLCs improve your ability to control your own wireless network. Any time you use multiple access points, it’s worth considering an investment in a controller. As soon as you’re frustrated with the amount of time you have to spend configuring and reconfiguring APs, it’s time to take a very serious look at a WLC.

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