Monday, November 13, 2017

Wearing Superhero Capes Around the Office

As an IT person, I love being a hero.  Solving a customer's issue, especially when others before me have tried and failed is fun.  But as a consultant, I can't be at all my customer's at once.  So when one of them has an issue, either it's remotely troubleshooting, or I'm rolling on-site to diagnose the issue.

And while I and the rest of the team of superhero wireless engineers are out taking care of customers, what happens when there's an issue at the office?  Not as much as I would like most of the time.  We are the stereotypically cobblers kids, and barefoot is the new black.

But shortly after MFD2, we had an office expansion and a lot of the executive and operational staff moved into a new area with new APs.  And they had problems.  I remember getting a "things are broke" email, with no username, Mac address, time of incident, etc and thinking to myself that it was going to be a few weeks before I was going to get to dig into this.

And then I remember that Cape Networks had given me one of their sensors, and it hadn't been doing much in my home lab.  So I grabbed my superhero Cape and headed into the office.  A quick reconfiguration of the SSID and I was in business.

Setup and Configuration:
The first thing I'll say for Cape, is that it's really easy to setup.  I put in the credentials for the SSID, and it was off testing the out of box services. I took a few minutes to add in our internal domain controllers, web servers, financial applications and some of our random cloud services and let it go.
Several days later, I logged in, and tightened up some of the DNS/DHCP response times, the defaults were a little too forgiving for my tastes on the internal LAN.  All of it very straight forward, and quick.


Detecting issues:
Having the Cape sensor helped me deflect some blame due to an internet outage, and network closet interruption from the wireless onto their appropriate blame centers, all of which resulted in me getting emails about "wireless issues."

Meanwhile I'm right now exploring a legitimate wireless issue that I caught with the Cape, and their packet capture feature let's me go back and look at what it saw and why.  I know rolling packet captures are the new hot thing right now, so having that for a deployment that doesn't support it natively is nice.  


Issues with the Cape and resolutions:
My experience with Cape wasn't without issue.  Early on, I found a bug where my reported RSSI was bouncing frequently with a 30db variance.  A quick chat with support, they had identified a bug, and it was resolved the next day, which is awesome considering the timezone differences.  I look at my interactions with their support, and I really can't ask for much more.


The Cape dashboard is really clean and functional on desktop platforms. Unfortunately for mobile users, you can't drill into some of the things due to their use of hover over in the dashboard.  For me this is an issue, because I'm frequently checking on stuff while on the go.  But you can get to the basics of most things while mobile.  

Overall:
I think that Cape is really early in their lifecycle.  When it came out of the box, I was a little disappointed that some of my "must have" features weren't there (band locking, multi-SSID, etc).  But over the last few months, 90% of those have shown up in the product.  This goes to show that they folks over at Cape are working hard, and listening to customer feedback around what is needed.  Combine that with exceptional customer service, and being very responsive in fixing bugs, I'm a believer.  I think it's important to understand that these guys are still small, still very much in the startup phase.  They aren't perfect, but it's been my experience that they really want to do things right, and are quick to get things resolved.  

I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of what the cape can do.  I haven't leveraged the cellular at all nor have I tested their integration with Adrian's Wifi Explorer Pro.  Overall, Cape Networks has built a solid platform that belongs in most wireless superhero's utility belts.  


Disclaimer: Cape Networks provided me one of their Cape Sensors and their cloud service as part of my participation in Mobility Field Day 2 along with a variety of other swag.  These thoughts are my own, and I am not being compensated for my opinions about their products.