Monday 21 October 2019

Managing the Network in Holiday Cottage

Our holiday cottage is in the middle of a short Victorian terrace row of houses. It is located in the town of Wirksworth, an old lead and limestone mining town. Originally it had two bedrooms, with no bathroom in the building. The toilet was in an outhouse and the occupants would bath in a tin bath in the kitchen. We've since converted one of the bedrooms into a bathroom.  

One other feature demanded by our guests in the cottage is a good Broadband Internet connection. It is generally one of the first questions we're asked when guests arrive: "What's the WiFi password?" Indeed we've had some guests who spend most of their stay on the settee in the cottage playing network computer games. We installed a business quality ADSL Broadband service with a WiFi service in the house delivered from the ISP Router. Usage is unlimited and the average top speed is 18 mbps download and 1mbps upload. The business service option costs more, but gives me a better service level in the event of faults.

One of the adjoining houses does not have their own internet connection and a limited income, so as a courtesy, a few months ago we allowed them to hook into our WiFi service free of charge. In general this does not generate any additional costs to us, but potentially reduces slightly the WiFi capacity available to our paying guests.

As a general upgrade I've recently signed up to a Plusnet partial fibre "SuperFast" broadband service (FTTC / VDSL). This has become available over the past couple of years. At our location this should give an Internet speed of 75 mbps download and a much faster upload (20 mbps) to our guests. However it does give rise to another potential issue. I don't want our neighbours to gain access to the faster service. To control this external access I've turned off the ISP WiFi on their router and installed a Ubiquiti UAP-AC-Lite  network access point to provide WiFi in the cottage. It is powered by Power Over Ethernet (POE) so needs only a single network cable from the ISP Router to the Ubiquiti access point unit on the wall. This POE method simplifies the cabling for the new unit.

The Ubiquiti device allows you to have up to four WiFi services simultaneously. You can also monitor them remotely and changing the settings on-the-fly without disturbing the holiday cottage guests. 
  • I've setup one owner's WiFi band which is password protected and gives unrestricted capacity. 
  • A second high speed WiFi band is dedicated for paying guests, and this is protected by a different password. 
  • Finally there is a third guest band of WiFi which is open, not protected by password, available for visitors and neighbours. 
This third band is set with usage limits so that paying guests on the main band are not impacted by external usage.  Passwords can be changed remotely (UniFi Cloud service) by me at the start of each new rental via an Internet web page. This is the same type of WiFi system as the ones used in Premier Inn Hotels, except we don't charge our guests extra for the fast service.

The access point comes pre-configured from the supplier. It really is just a plug in and go device. If you want to monitor or alter the configuration it can be done from any web browser. It does help to have some knowledge of network technology if you are planning to tinker. The Ubiquiti devices are good at "mesh" networking if you need to deploy multiple access points, without running network cables, to ensure coverage of your property, but in most cases one unit will service a whole house.

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