What is the best nerdy investment you can make? Work from home has always been part of life as a traveling consultant, but the amount of time at home has increased dramatically. The answer to the question of best nerdy investment question, for me, is the Unifi networking platform from Ubiquiti Systems.
Nerdy Investment: Why?
Did you know that even the most expensive consumer router you can buy from Best Buy is designed to support only a dozen consecutive devices? I promise, you have more than a dozen connected devices. Between phones, computers, door knobs, thermostats, and everything else that makes up the internet-of-things, the number of devices connected to your home network is sure to surprise you.
For reference, in my home there are currently 27 connected devices. That count does not count the watch, phone, laptop, ipad, and vehicle where are currently not home.
The point is, even if you spend $1,000 on the best mesh system on the market today, it is not enough to deliver a quality signal to all of your devices.
If you are also working from home and have experienced latency and dropped Zoom calls, it is likely that your network is running beyond capacity. With no end to WFH on the horizon for many, now is the time to invest in the tools needed to do your job well.
Nerdy Investment: The platform
I probably went a little overboard (do you know me?) Even if you decide not to go to the extremes that I did for my network, there are surely components that will make sense for you.
My neighbor Joe introduced me to the Unifi platform from Ubiquiti systems. The platform is powerful enough for most mid-sized businesses but simple enough for most home users with a basic understanding of network technology.
My goal was to be able to take advantage of the speed and stability offered by the Ting fiber that runs to my front door by hard-wiring as many high-bandwidth devices as possible. I also wanted to maximize wifi coverage with as few satellite devices as possible. The Unifi platform allowed me to achieve and far surpass my goals and objectives.
In addition to the core networking technology, the Unifi platform also offers integrated security cameras, doorbells, and home accessibility controls.
Nerdy Investment: The brain
The hardware that serves as the magic behind the network is the Unifi Dream Machine Pro.
At $379, the UDM-Pro serves as your router and security gateway, provides cloud storage for your security cameras, and offers redundancy when paired with the UniFi SmartPower USP-RPS for power and U-LTE service for network backup. Additionally, the UDM-Pro gives uses the ability to monitor and control their network from anywhere though a slick UI and app.
Nerdy Investment: The switch
The switch represents where my nerdy investment probably went a little deeper than yours may need to. I selected the UniFi Switch PRO 24 PoE.
At $699 the UniFi Switch PRO 24 PoE represents more nerdy investment and capability than most people will need. The reason I selected the PoE (power over ethernet) switch over one of the less expensive solutions is that I hate wires and wiring. I intend to add several cameras to my platform, and the idea of running power to each of these cameras versus only a Cat6 cable was horrifying.
For most, the Unifi Switch Lite 8 and 16 port PoE devices will work well. If, however, you have a large network and expect to deploy many hard-wired devices, the Pro 24 and 48 port PoE devices are amazing.
One other super-cool attribute of the UDM-Pro and app is the augmented reality interface which allows you to see which device is connected to a specific port on the switch. Nerdy investment, justified.
Nerdy Investment: Redundant power supply.
I probably did not need the UniFi Redundant Power System (UniFi-RPS) but in a world of Zoom meetings, the peace of mind of knowing that you will be able to respectfully end a conversation in the event of a power or service disruption is valuable.
Fro $399 the UniFi-RPS provides power and 4g network connectivity for up to six UniFi devices with enough capacity to allow users to end their conversations and initiate proper shutdown procedures assuring maintained relationships, saved documents, and hardware stability.
Nerdy Investment: WiFi
The UniFi 6 Long-Range Access Point has completely blown me away. At $179 the device provides coverage for up to 300 concurrent devices using WiFi6 technology.
I have my UniFi 6 Long-Range Access Point installed in the server closet on the first floor. Using my iPhone on the third floor of my house, the furthest point in the house from the device and through floors, walls, and metal, I still pull a 130Mbps signal. That is unreal! Additionally, the last time I bounced my network was when there was a power surge three weeks ago.
I could not be happier with the WiFi coverage provided by the UniFi platform.
Nerdy Investment: Other stuff
Now, on to the other things in the rack.
There are a few other cool things in my rack.
One that I really value is the patch panel. The Cat6 cables are hard-wired into the back of the patch panel allowing for easy and clean cable management. The team at Cable Concepts in Raleigh, NC not only installed the panel but also ran cables through my entire home. I purchased the house as a spec and did not have the opportunity to place Cat6 jacks where I wanted to. Though I’m not sure they would agree to run cables in a completed custom home again, the crew was able to run 10 lines throughout all three floors of my home with only drilling one hole.
I have no idea how they did it, but their work is amazing.
The other cool thing in my rack is the xMac mini Server.
The xMac mini Server is a box that allows you to turn your Mac mini into a stable rack-mounted server. I am using mine as a development sandbox and occasional web server. More practically, you could use the product as a local cloud or media server.
The other devices? Those are the bridges for Hue, the Ring alarm the UniFi 6 Long-Range Access Point, Fiber modem, and a random switch to help keep the bridge wiring neat and tidy.
Nerdy Investment: Conclusion
All in, I have invested close to $3,000 in my networking solution. For me and my work situation, this was the best nerdy investment I could have made. The UniFi solution from Ubiquiti Systems is clean, easy to install, powerful, and brings enterprise-level stability and security to your home. Give it a look!
Interested in some of my other away-from-work thoughts? Check out THIS post about running in the rain.
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