Not every organisation is looking for a cloud-based Wi-Fi solution and there is still a demand for on-premise solutions. Small businesses in particular often have little or no IT knowledge in-house to set up a network, and do not always want to outsource this to a third party.
To meet the needs of mostly smaller and medium-sized organisations, EnGenius has recently added EnGenius Fit to its offering, in addition to EnGenius Cloud. This is a separate group of products that is available in two flavours: FitController and FitXpress.
The former, as the name suggests, uses an on-prem controller, as you might be familiar with from other Wi-Fi vendors. However, FitXpress is delivered via the cloud, with the aim of making it as easy as possible to set up a network yourself. Finally, it is also possible to use the EnGenius Fit products completely standalone, i.e., not managed via cloud or controller. You can then simply log in directly to a switch or access point and configure it.
FitController vs FitXpress
FitXpress is aimed at small companies that are generally not tech savvy and do not have an IT department. For example a small business owner has to handle this amongst lots of other matters and doesn’t really have any knowledge of Wi-Fi. In terms of format, EnGenius itself talks about single-site offices with up to 20 employees. With FitXpress it is possible to set up to 8 separate networks and manage up to 30 devices. EnGenius FitXpress currently offers only access points and switches, no gateways. A Fit gateway is on the roadmap, although a release date has not been announced yet.
EnGenius FitController on the other hand is aimed at IT professionals. They may be present within the organisations themselves, but could also be working for an Managed Service Provider (MSP) or System Integrator (SI) serving these organisations. In total, you can set up to 50 separate networks with FitController and each FitController can manage up to 100 devices. Again, this only involves access points and switches, not gateways. As far as we know now, no gateway is planned for FitController.
The number of devices that can be managed by FitXpress and FitController may not seem huge, however for the target audience and how many devices a single access point or switch can control, then even with 30 devices you can set up quite a large network. Dozens of endpoint devices per access point is quite common, so with 30 devices you can easily handle many hundreds of endpoint devices.
EnGenius Fit: product range overview
There are also five network switches to choose from. Interestingly, these are all gigabit switches with PoE (four of the five with PoE+). This is notable because the EWS377-FIT access point has a 2.5Gbps port, so it seems logical that the range of switches will be expanded in future.
Currently, it is not possible to access EnGenius FitController from the cloud, but you can of course set it up yourself via a VPN connection. From the FAQs on EnGenius’ website we gather that there will be a link between FitController and the FitXpress cloud in future.
Using EnGenius FitController
As we mentioned above whilst EnGenius FitController is definitely aimed at simplicity and convenience, however it is not plug and play. So, you need to have some basic knowledge to get started with it. You will need to find the IP address of the controller, and then use that along with the port 8080 to access the management portal via a web browser.
The process for deploying the products requires some simple steps to be carried out, you first have to connect them to the controller. After all, that’s where the software that allows you to do the management runs. This works slightly differently from what we are used to in other providers’ environments. There, the software detects products in the network that can be managed from the controller software. All you then have to do is click ‘Adopt’ and the products are added. They are also immediately given the correct settings (SSID, specific switch settings) of the network.
With EnGenius FitController, the controller also detects the products. But the process is slightly different, the devices that have been discovered can added to the inventory tab, where you can accept them or manually add devices, once they are accepted you then assign them to your desired network which will then apply the required configuration.
Using EnGenius FitXpress
Whereas EnGenius FitController requires you to have some networking knowledge to get started with it, this is not the case with EnGenius FitXpress. All you need to do is download the app from the Play Store or App Store and create an account. The app then guides you through the connection process. That is also not much of a task. You add an access point or switch by scanning a QR code on the back of the device. You then give the network a name and get started.
A small point of improvement here as far as we are concerned is that you cannot immediately add multiple products. That is, after you have added a product, you don’t have the option to add another product immediately. You can only tap ‘Manage device’, after which you go to the overview page of the app. It would be useful if an ‘Add more devices’ option could be added as well. We have also raised this with EnGenius and have been told that this is being worked on, so it will become possible in the future.
To make it clear how easy EnGenius FitXpress is we have included a step-by-step guide on how to add a device below. We assume here that you have already created an account.
Step 1: Logging in
Step 2: Add your first device
Step 3: Register Device
Step 4: Scan device and Registration
Furthermore, the EnGenius FitXpress app is nice and uncluttered. In the dashboard, you can immediately see if there are any problems. The menu bar at the bottom takes you quickly to your managed devices and connected clients. Also there is the shortcut in that bar to your Wi-Fi networks. EnGenius has already given it a name but you can change it to anything you wish.
Keep in mind that the two preconfigured networks are not encrypted by default, so we recommend doing that as soon as possible after adding an access point. We normally do this an an additional step 5 when adding the first access point. After you have done this once you don’t need to do this again as subsequent devices will automatically get the set encryption.
EnGenius might want to think about shipping the access points with encrypted networks.
Easy to use manual
So in summary getting the EnGenius FitController up and running could be a little bit easier, however the manuals are very good and detailed and each product comes with a card in the box with a QR code to the quick start manual.
Within the quick start manual, EnGenius guides you through the different usage scenarios: FitXpress, FitController or standalone and it is very clear how to add products to your chosen environment. It is clearly aimed at making the threshold as low as possible.
Zero-touch and secure
We think that the IT professional at a smaller MSP or SI can do an excellent job with FitController. You can set everything up before shipping the products to customers. That is, you can link the products to the controller and do the full configuration in advance. The only thing the customer then has to do is mount everything and connect it. In principle, you do not need any networking knowledge to do this. Even if you are an administrator within an organisation responsible for the network design, you can proceed in this way.
Furthermore, the fact that FitController is an on-premises solution also means that it is inherently secure. Customers (of MSPs) for whom this is an important issue, know for sure with FitController that basically no one from outside can access the management environment. All data also remains within the organisation’s walls. Interesting at this point is that EnGenius makes it possible to set up 2FA. In fact, that is the first suggestion you get when you first open the controller software.
As an entrepreneur without relevant IT knowledge, EnGenius FitXpress is the better option of the two Fit solutions. This gives you a zero-touch experience and also a way to get a network up and running in literally minutes. Including login to FitXpress, it’s four clicks and your first device is added. The fact that EnGenius has also preconfigured a guest network in advance is very convenient in terms of security. Such a network is always separated from the internal network. That is, users can only connect to the internet, not to systems within the company network.
How about multi-tenancy?
One of the things we do still wonder about regarding EnGenius FitController and FitXpress is what about multi-tenancy. Right now, you can have multiple users log in, who then all see their own environment. So at that point there is multi-tenancy.
As an MSP or larger organisation, you would want to be able to manage several physically separate networks from a single FitController management environment. Currently this isn’t possible as there is no remote management of FitController. Linking FitController to the cloud would solve this problem, but it is not available yet.
Currently you can install the FitController software in a VM, either in the cloud or on-premises at a customer’s premises. This lets you manage much larger networks remotely but also adds complexity, which is exactly what EnGenius Fit wants to avoid.
For EnGenius FitXpress, multi-tenancy as described above is not very relevant. After all, the intention of FitXpress is that a small entrepreneur can install and maintain the network himself. Worthy mentioning though is that you can link multiple accounts to FitXpress. These can then, for example, be linked to different networks and/or to different user rights.
With FitController and FitXpress, EnGenius completes its portfolio of centrally managed network environments, which of course also benefits partners and MSPs. FitController is a good option for mid-sized companies that want to manage their network on site, without the usual hassle. It can be easily installed and managed by someone with minimal IT skills. Especially if there will be a link to the cloud that also allows access to the on-premises controller from outside, you can make great strides with this as an enterprise (and as an MSP).
FitXpress is of interest to smaller organisations that do not have significant IT knowledge, nor do they have the time to delve into this. EnGenius has kept it as simple as possible without skimping on performance and relevant features. Although at first glance you can only manage a somewhat small number of products, in practice this is more than sufficient for the small businesses for which this solution is intended.
Overall, EnGenius Fit is particularly interesting because it offers both flavours in a single offering. The company thus covers a gap in its portfolio in one fell swoop, allowing it to compete with all other network vendors marketing products for small and medium-sized organisations.