Tag Archives: Wireless NMS

Getting to Know Ubiquiti’s UniFi Cloud Key

Ubiquiti is a fairly fascinating WLAN gear company. I use different Point-to-Point bridge models from Ubiquiti, including some in 900 MHz, 5 GHz, and their big ol’ 24 GHz AirFiber 24. I don’t have a real deep history with the company’s Wi-Fi access gear, but have enough hands-on time with it to understand the mass appeal of this competitively-priced WLAN product line. I’ve written about things I’ve learned about regarding Ubiquiti bridges along the way, and covered the company’s introduction of 11ac access points back in 2013 for Network Computing. I consider myself familiar with Ubiquiti enough to have my own opinions about various products and the way the company does certain things, but I am by no stretch a Ubiquiti “power user”.

I mention that because many of the Ubiquiti faithful in the company’s support forums can be a bit- shall we say – fervent in their loyalty to the company, it’s products, and it’s methodologies even when those of us outsiders with WLAN expertise call Ubiquiti into question for something or other. I’m not bashing those rabid Ubiquiti fans, but I also know that they have long since lost their objectivity on the product and tithe frequently at the Church of Ubiquiti. For me, I try to see the good and bad for what it is with each product or feature and not generically bash or praise any product line or vendor. That’s my self-characterization on objectivity, and it brings me to a handy little gadget I’m evaluating now: the Ubiquiti Cloud Key.

CLoud Key

The product glossy is here, and my own dashboard looks like this for device management:Cloud Key Manage

And system monitoring (don’t read anything into the sucky throughput values, this test environment is set up extremely crudely right now):

cloud key mon

Now, back to the Cloud Key itself. It’s an interesting device, roughly the size of an elongated Raspberry Pi. It can be accessed locally, or from the Internet if you opt to allow that. It’s an NMS that requires no server, and it does a pretty decent job of managing and monitoring the Ubiquiti UniFi environment. (This blog isn’t about individual APs or overall system performance that you should expect if you use Ubiquiti networking equipment- it’s just a quick intro to the Cloud Key as it really is a slick and curious system manager.) I’m currently managing an edge security gateway, a switch, and two APs, but the Cloud Key can certainly scale much, much larger for bigger Ubiquiti environments.

Drilling into my switch shows the types of config work done via the Cloud Key, as an example:

cloud key switch

You’d see similar for the access points and security gateway in my environment if your were to click around.

Administration of the Cloud Key itself is fairly intuitive and pretty well designed, from bringing it to life to assigning administrative roles to adding managed devices and doing upgrades.

That’s enough for now… if you’ve never seen the UniFi Cloud Key, hopefully this blog gives you some idea of what it can do. I reserve my opinions on the other Ubiquiti network pieces for future blogs as I spend more time with this eval environment. But I can say that the Cloud Key has impressed me as innovative, interesting, and effective (so far) in doing what it was built to do. With a low price and no licensing costs, it is one example of why Ubiquiti sells A LOT of wireless gear.