SA520W + AP541N: No repeating?

Unanswered Question
Jul 16th, 2010

A while ago I had posetd asking if anyone knew of an AP that would be able to wrielessly repeat traffic to my SA520W (so that the AP has no ehternet wiring at all).  The answer someone had posted on here (or in emailt to me, can't rememberr) was the AP541N, however after spending a few hours with this thing I'm almost ready to send it back.

First off, there is no WDS option anywhere in the SA520W, so there is no method for which to simply create a WDS link between the two devices.  Yet the Factory Default Settings table in the SA520W Admin guide indicates there should be (search on WDS in the PDF to find this).

So frankly I"m a little annoyed, both at the lack of integration of these Small Business Pro devices, and moreso at the fact that I was told that these two would be compatible for wireless-only repeating.  I've been messing around for hours trying to get something to happen.  Maybe I'm just missing something obvious as this is my first time trying to get an AP to talk wireless-only to a wireless capable internet gateway device (the SA520W).

Can anybody advise?

This forum doesn't get much acton so I'm probably just going to call the support center but ideally someone can come on here and verify, from experience, that they have set the AP541N up as a wireless-only repeater for connecting wireless clients to the SA520W.  Please 

I have this problem too.
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ValleyITPC Tue, 09/07/2010 - 09:55

Hi Stef,

This forum still seems to be in a growing stage, not a lot of pepple reply to a lot of posts.  Those that do reply seem very hepful usually but that's if you actually get a reply.  It's probably a knowledge gap thing few people have lengthy experience with this stuff since it's so new.  (the types of issues you see in the firmware update release notes is a clear sign that this product line has not matured fully yet, but they are clearly working hard at it).  And the support center people themselves are good when you call.

So for this wirless issue:  bottom line is that the SA520W cannot wirelessly repeat nor be "repeated to"  - there is no WDS functionality in the SA520W, even though the admin guide somewhat misled people to think there was.  Documentation people and engineering people usually communicate well but sometimse intended features get listed with the actual features I guess.  So it's not clear if WDS will ever be in the SA520W unless there's another post on this forum I missed.  My guess is something like an SA521W will come up, costing $50 more, that will have it.  Who knows.

The only solution right now is to tether an AP541N via cable to your SA520W and then that AP can link to a 2nd AP541N wirelessly.  So adding the first AP541N is conceptually like adding a sub-module to the SA520W - you may even end up placing it litterally next to the SA520W on a shelf, connecting it by cable, then using WDS to connect wirelessly between the first and 2nd AP541N.  I have a 2nd AP541N on order so I can test this experientially but that's the current answer nonetheless.  Maybe some firmware update for the SA520W will change that eventually.

I don't know what Cisco's design reasons are for not allowing the SA520W to support WDS - it may simply be that their enginners haven't had time to do this or perhaps the 256MB ram isn't enough for the extra code.  Or maybe it's a product positioning thing - if you want WDS you need to buy at least two AP541Ns.  Putting WDS in the SA520W might devalue the AP541N';s unique features.  Again, who knows.

Or when I look at the GUI interface features/designs of the SA520W, the AP541N, and the ESW540 switches, for a product line that is supposed to be highly integrated I do see some glaring design inconsistencies that might suggest each product caegory in the SB Pro series might be under a different design team and thus feature commonality might get overlooked.  That might explain the fact that the SA520W to us logically should have WDS to integrate with everything else in the product line but doesn't. 

Four examples of these inconsistencies that really stand out to me:

1.  The AP541N's login screen.  It only allows the username to be cisco, and the password to be 8 characters and if I recall there was no account lockout mechanism so you can brute-force/dictionary attack an AP541N to hijack the device.  Yet those limitations aren't imposed on the SA or ESW devices I've worked with.  The problem is when you put all them together in one network, the AP becomes a vulnerable attack point for that whole network.  Further on the authentication subject, the ESW 540 boots you out after 5 minutes of idle time when logged into it's GUI whereas the other devices don't.  And I dont' see a place to change this 5 minute setting so if I'm multi-tasking a lot I constantly have to re-log into the switch.  A device with a idle timeout feature should always always have a way to change the settings - another sign that perhaps some of the design work on this product line is still a bit new.

2.  The way each device allows you to save the device's configuration.  The ESW uses a startup-config/running-config file management method just like the IOS does yet the AP and SA units have different methods.

3.  The actual navigation of the menus as well as the placement of where you find certain items in those menus is quite different.  Just to illustrate if you look for the place to save the configuration of the device the menu names and submenu names are all different.  Half-jokingly, I have to say if it wasn't for the consistent color scheme and the Cisco name I might wonder if these were all part of the same brand.

4.  Inconsistent warranty offerings and apparent failure to recognize the importance of this.  The SA520W has such a terrible standard warranty for a SMB business product  (1 year coverage but 10 Days non-advance replacement), yet the ESW switches all have 5 Year warranties with NBD advance replacement.  I applaud the ESW stance, but hey if I have an SA520W which clearly is critical since it's my Internet gateway, my first line of defence against threats, and potentially my main or only WAP, having to send my unit back and then waiting 10 days for a replacement is absolutely out of the question.  The answer to this is to purchase the 3 Year warranty extension (part # CON-SBS-SVC2) which makes it NBD advance replacement which is more sensible for a product of this improtance, but seriously this should be part of the product already not a $70 upsell.  This is bound to be overlooked by budget consious or non-technical shoppers.  Try finding the warranty terms for the SA520W, it's not clearly shown anywhere easy to find.  I saw a chart a few months ago that did show this which is where, and to my surprise, I found out about this 10 Day thing, but I couldn't find this again ysterday when casually browsing for it.  It was probably at the back of one of the PDF's or something but this is the type of thing that really should be posted clearly for website visitors.  Though FWIW if I were offering a warranty like that I wouldn't be to keen to make it obvious either.

Dont' get me wrong I'm very much pro-Cisco but to my mind there are some things that could use another look for improvement.

And to be fair I haven't extensively tested the real ineeroperatbility and integration of these SB PRO devices to see how well they do unify with each other, and haven't used the voice stuff yet either.  So perhaps everyting I've said so far is just cosmetic and ultimately less important (well, the security on the AP541N is pretty serious).

stef.Andries Thu, 09/09/2010 - 07:58

ValleyITPC, thanks a lot for your quick and detailed feedback !

So for this wirless issue:  bottom line is that the SA520W cannot wirelessly repeat nor be "repeated to"  - there is no WDS functionality in the SA520W

Mmm... I was afraid of that. Let's hope Cisco builds it in later on.

The only solution right now is to tether an AP541N via cable to your SA520W and then that AP can link to a 2nd AP541N wirelessly.  So adding the first AP541N is conceptually like adding a sub-module to the SA520W - you may even end up placing it litterally next to the SA520W on a shelf, connecting it by cable, then using WDS to connect wirelessly between the first and 2nd AP541N.

That's interesting ! How would I need to proceed in accomplishing this ? I can't find any reference to "tethering" :-(

UPDATE: I have tried to set-up this bridge using the WDS config screen on the AP541N access point (assuming it wouldn't work !).

To my surprise it seems to have worked, as the AP nicely detected my SA520W SSID (and correct MAC address), and allowed me to add it !

I'll now check if clients can roam between both transmitters...

Is there another way I can find out this bridge actually works ?

ValleyITPC Fri, 09/10/2010 - 10:40

Hi Stef,

Sorry, my use of the term "tether" was just a random word I choose but the meaning of it was that you just connect the 1st ap541N to the SA520w via a regular network cable connection to one of the 4 ports on the SA, thus they're networked like two regular devices.  You then walk down the hall, plug in your 2nd AP541N and so there you can set up the WDS link between the two AP's.  In that situation, you might as well turn off the radio on the SA520W since it woudl not be part of this cluster (aka WDS, or Wireless Distribution System), not to be confused with WPS which is Wifi Protected Setup).

Regarding what you were saying about just putting in the same SSID.  I remember testing that but not getting consistent results, though I cannot remember why.  I just remember concluding that it wasn't reliable or maybe it didn't even work at all, I honestly can't recall now.

For what it's worth, I was using WPA2 whereas you have WEP in yoru screenshots.  Maybe there was something different there in how it worked.

I would be interested to know if you have any success with that, if I can ever get time I might try to test it again too but that probably wont' happen for another few weeks for me.

UPDATE:  Sorry I forgot to address your question about how clients can be tested.  The only method I can think of off the top of my head and without involving software tools designed for this purpose (which I don't know much about) is the following:

Have a Windows laptop, set it up to the SSID and so on so you have a connection and test getting on the Internet.  Once verified, open a command prommpt, and do a continuous ping to  (syntax would be ping -t .  Sorry the restof my post will have to stay bolded as Cisco's forums dont' work properly under IE8 (can't undo the B button). 

Whiel this continuous ping is going, walk around witht he laptop and observe the signal bar behavior.  Perhaps the best way is to stand right next to the AP541N which means your bars should be Excellent/best/hwatever.  Then walk away from it towards your SA520W.  There should be a lot of distance beween the SA and AP though for beset results - as much as possible. 

As you get away fromt eh AP541N, the signal should degrade (but the pings should not stop still you still have a connection).  As you approach the SA520W, I assume at some point they two devcies will "hand over" your laptop client from the AP to the SA.  If so, you should then start to see an increase in signal strength as you walk towards the SA,.  If so, then you've switched to the SA520. 

I'm nto sure how reliable this is as I haven't tried it but it's just a suggesetion.  Also, walk slowly so Widnows can update the status, and my guess is you should have at least 50 feet between the AP and SA but more is better since you want the halfway distance point between the two to be where the signla is clearly worse, so as you go towards either one, that one should become your main access point and the signla should be stronger as you approach it. 

Let me kn ow!


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