Upgrading the Wifi Experience at Church
Does your church provide internet access? That’s a question every church needs to think through. We encourage people to use the Bible app to follow along our sermon notes, so we really want people to stay connected. We also have a mobile app that we encourage people to download, so Internet access is a tool we use to help reach people. When Cornerstone moved in to our current location in a downtown storefront, we installed a wifi router with DSL for our leaders to use. However, it didn’t take long to realize that many others at church wanted access to internet. So we started by putting a simple password on our router and sharing that password through our bulletins and announcements. The next step was upgrading from DSL to Cable, and then we ran into our first problem. We simply had too many people on our router.
Consumer routers are only made to handle 20 to 30 wireless connections. After that, you run into trouble. Our router would continually crash on Sunday mornings, and then our children’s ministry would be stuck without internet access for checkin and children’s videos. We are in an old downtown building that is approximately 7000 square feet on each floor, and we only had two consumer routers providing poor coverage through the whole building.
I started researching possible solutions, and I kept seeing a company called Ubiquiti and their Unifi products mentioned. The prices for their equipment were extremely low, so it made me skeptical. But the more I read, the more I realized that is was a perfect fit for us. For under $500, we added four Unifi internet access points, a Toughswitch POE switch to provide power to the access points, and an EdgeRouter Lite to handle the router duties. Since then, we have excellent coverage throughout our building and the internet has been rock-solid with as many as 90 wireless connections on Sunday morning. Keep reading to learn the details of our new system.
The secret to the Unifi system is that is controlled by a computer on your network. It offloads the heavy processing to a computer instead of trying to handle it inside the router or inside the access points. The system provides both a firewall and password protected network for us, as well as a reduced speed guest network. There are numerous options and you can even setup a guest portal like you see in many hotels and public spaces. Advanced options and statistics are available through the controller computer, and you can even setup the system to allow instant roaming between access points. Load balancing is also offered so that access points aren’t overloaded. Here is a screenshot of our controller showing coverage through our sanctuary and cafe.
Overall, this system is a great fit for us. We haven’t had any problems, and it even worked great through our Easter Services. However, it does take some knowledge of networking to setup. It doesn’t work straight out of the box. You must configure the routers, switches, and access points, before you can use them. Working as an engineer, I have had experience setting up networks, so I didn’t have too much trouble. We have two access points on each floor, and excellent coverage. If you are interested, check out this video explaining the system.