Ruckus Wireless ZoneFlex review

Ruckus’ ZoneFlex makes deploying company or campus wide wireless networks as easy as falling off a log.

IT Pro Verdict

ZoneFlex offers a highly scalable wireless network solution that has an answer for virtually any size of business. The ZoneDirector appliance makes light work of deployment and ongoing management, there’s plenty of security on tap, wireless range and coverage are excellent and it all looks very good value.

Businesses are faced with a bewildering range of choices when it comes to implementing a total coverage wireless network with many solutions priced way beyond the means of SMBs. ZoneFlex from Ruckus Wireless aims to satisfy on all counts as it is designed to be incredibly easy to install and deploy and its pricing structure enables it to offer affordable options to small businesses and enterprises alike.

At its foundation ZoneFlex is designed to provide centrally managed, secure wireless services, multiple SSIDs, rogue AP detection, the ability to handle VoIP and video streams and hot-spot facilities. It comprises a ZoneDirector appliance and ZoneFlex APs (access points) and on review we have the 3000 model, which can manage between 25 and 250 APs. Pricing starts at 4,450 for a 25 AP license but if you want a lower cost option then Ruckus offers its smaller ZoneDirector 1000 appliance, which starts at around 650 for a six AP license.

For testing we were provided with four ZoneFlex 7942 APs, which support 802.11b/g/n operations. They're certainly unusual and the large domed case hides Ruckus' patented smart aerial array, which incorporates twelve high-gain aerials for improved range and signal quality. Two ports are provided for a standard network connection or via 802.3af PoE and both support Gigabit speeds. (Ruckus has recently announced a dual-band 7962 model that supports 802.11n and has nineteen smart aerials).

Installation starts with the ZoneDirector, and UPnP support makes this even easier as we were able to select the appliance's icon menu from Vista's Networks view for direct access to its web interface. You start off with a quick start wizard and then move onto the main management interface, which opens with a smart dashboard that can be customised with various widgets.

You have plenty to choose from with widgets for a system overview, detected ZoneFlex APs, the most frequently used APs, clients and rogue devices plus regularly updated views of system activities such as discovered devices, their designation and the status of your own WLANs. Selecting the MAC address of any device takes you to a status screen for it from where you can see more in-depth details.

At this stage you can set up your WLANs ready for use where you provide SSID names, select WEP or WPA/WPA2 encryption schemes for each one and choose an authentication method, which can be external AD or RADIUS servers or the appliance's local database. Web authentication can be applied to any of the latter methods and this redirects users to a customisable web portal. You can also stop wireless clients on the same SSID from seeing each other by selecting the isolation feature.

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.