IT Pro Verdict
Clever magnetic mounting
Not as versatile as other rivals
The first thing that strikes you about the SkyKey is its size. Weighing a mere 79g, it will fit easily in the palm of your hand, with a footprint of just 59 x 100mm. Yet this miniscule appliance can manage up to 100 EnGenius EWS access points (APs) and network switches via the free ezMaster software.
Indeed, it’s so tiny that you may not need to make use of the included mounting brackets: EnGenius has cleverly given the box a magnetic back, allowing it to clamp securely to the side of a rack cabinet. Two Gigabit Ethernet ports sit on the left-hand side, while on the other end there’s a microSD card slot for configuration backups, plus a socket for the optional power adapter. You may not need that, though, as the first Ethernet socket also supports PoE.
Deploying the SkyKey took just a few minutes. After connecting the appliance to the lab’s PoE switch, we created a free EnGenius Cloud account, then loaded up the iOS app on our iPad and added the SkyKey by scanning in the QR code on its base.
The EnGenius Cloud portal has dual roles. As well as providing remote access to ezMaster hosts, it also directly manages EnGenius’ ECW series of wireless APs and ECS switches. The mobile app is geared up for the cloud service, however, so it can show details of registered SkyKey hosts but not the wireless networks they’re managing. What you can do, though, is visit the page that lists all ezMaster hosts, where you can connect to its local web interface for further configuration.
Before adding APs, it’s worth defining your wireless settings. These are created as per-site “projects”, which can contain multiple AP groups for different types of wireless services. Each group supports up to eight SSIDs with its own encryption scheme, along with options for SSID masking, L2 isolation (so wireless clients can’t see each other) and VLAN isolation.
There are also extensive captive portal features, which can be used to direct users to custom splash pages, present AUPs, apply ezMaster, RADIUS or external Cloud4Wi authentication, redirect visitors to a specific web page after login and keep them within walled gardens. A Wi-Fi scheduler function also lets you disable individual SSIDs and APs for specific periods during the day.
To put all of this to the test, we used a mixture of EnGenius EWS357AP Wi-Fi 6 and EWS330AP Wi-Fi 5 APs. Connecting them really couldn’t have been easier: once online, they popped up in the ezMaster console as pending approval, and we were able to claim them with a just few clicks. Helpfully, the SkyKey immediately checked each AP’s firmware on connection and offered to upgrade them all for us.
The next step is to assign your APs to a group. This takes about 30 seconds to complete, after which they’ll start broadcasting whatever wireless services you’ve defined. Local management is disabled on connected APs as they’re now controlled by the SkyKey: you can still connect to each one’s web portal, but the only operations available are viewing statistics and rebooting.
The SkyKey’s web console, meanwhile, presents a status view of SkyKey resource usage, projects, APs and managed switches. Selecting a project opens up a new screen with a wide range of AP and client-monitoring features. The topology view only works if you have an EWS switch, but you can use the embedded map view to see the physical location of connected APs. We were also able to survey all connected clients and see a range of statistics, including real-time traffic graphs for selected APs.
While the SkyKey offers a decent set of management and monitoring features, it’s not as capable or versatile as the Cloud Key Gen2 appliance we normally use in the lab to manage our UniFi NanoHD APs. However, the SkyKey is cheaper, not to mention more conveniently sized, making it an attractive plug-and-play solution for small businesses wanting to manage an EnGenius-branded wireless network.
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.
An open source challenger to GitHub Copilot? StarCoder2, a code generation tool backed by Nvidia, Hugging Face, and ServiceNow, is free to use and offers support for over 600 programming languages
Lenovo's new sustainability program looks to extend device lifecycles