Review: EnGenius Fit - customised network management for small and medium-sized organisations.
With the EnGenius Fit portfolio, EnGenius aims to offer even more choice to organisations looking for a centrally manageable network.
Not every organisation is looking for what EnGenius Cloud has to offer. There is for example still a market and demand for on-prem solutions. Small businesses in particular have little or no IT knowledge in-house to set up a network, and also do not always want to outsource this to external parties.
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 again divided into two categories; the FitController and the FitXpress. The former, as the name suggests, uses an on-prem controller, as you might be familiar with from other parties in the market. In contrast, EnGenius delivers FitXpress 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 points and configure them.
FitController & FitXpress
The differences between EnGenius FitController and FitXpress are mainly in the target audiences. FitXpress is aimed at small companies that are generally not exactly tech savvy and also do not have an IT department. In terms of format, EnGenius itself talks about single-site offices with up to 20 employees. Within FitXpress, it is possible to set up up to 8 separate networks and manage up to 30 devices. EnGenius FitXpress currently offers only access points and switches, no gateways. A gateway is coming, though, we hear from our contacts at EnGenius. It is not yet clear exactly when it will be there.
EnGenius FitController, on the other hand, is aimed at IT professionals. In total, you can set up up to 50 separate networks within FitController. Each FitController can manage up to 100 devices. Again, this only involves access points and switches, not gateways.
For both solutions, the number of devices that can be managed may not seem huge. That is, 30 devices for FitXpress and 100 for FitController may not seem like that many. However, if you look at the target audience, but - much more importantly - at 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. Then, with 30 devices, you quickly get to many hundreds of endpoint devices. For 100 devices, that can easily go towards 1,000.
EnGenius Fit: product range in brief
Looking at the EnGenius Fit offering, it currently consists of two access points: EWS357-FIT and EWS377-FIT. These are both modern access points, as Wi-Fi 6 models. The range of switches is a bit more extensive. We count five in total. 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. It is therefore obvious that the range of switches will be expanded.
Currently, it is not possible to access EnGenius FitController from the cloud, that is only possible with EnGenius FitXpress. FitController is an on-premises solution with no outside access. You can of course set it up yourself via a VPN connection, but there is no off-the-shelf solution for it at EnGenius.
EnGenius FitController: some knowledge is necessary
We mentioned it above: EnGenius FitController is not specifically aimed at users without any IT knowledge. It is definitely aimed at simplicity and convenience, but it is not plug-and-play. The IP address of the controller is needed, as you have to enter it in a browser window. You also must type the port number (8080) after it, otherwise, your browser will indicate that the IP address is not reachable.
Looking at putting the products into use, 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 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 you have to find those out yourself via 'System>Inventory'. Then you have to click 'Inventory' again on the individual pages for switches and access points to actually add the products to your network. Then, according to the manual, you still have to click 'Pairing' to set up a secure connection. As far as we are concerned, a step or two could be taken out of this. When we ask EnGenius about its plans for this, our contacts tell us that it is working on making the last step (pairing) automatic. This is already a step in the right direction.
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 the App Store and create an account. The app then guides you through the connection process. That in itself 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 hopefully become possible in the future.
To make it clear how easy EnGenius FitXpress works, we have made adding a device step-by-step with screenshots below. We assume here that you have already created an account.
Step 1: logging in
Step 2: Add your first device
Step 3: Register your 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 not unimportant is the shortcut in that bar to your Wi-Fi networks. EnGenius has already given it a name. Of course, you can also make up your own name.
Keep in mind that the two preconfigured networks are not encrypted ex-factory. It is convenient and smart to do that as soon as possible after adding an access point. As far as we are concerned, this is step 5 when adding the first access point. After the first access point, you don't need to do this again. Subsequent devices will automatically get the set encryption.
EnGenius might also want to think about this. Whether it might also be possible to ship the access points with encrypted networks.
So, getting EnGenius FitController up and running could be a bit easier as far as we are concerned. EnGenius itself seems to realise this too, as the manuals are very good and detailed. By the way, these are not included on paper, but you don't have to look for them yourself on EnGenius' website either. Each product comes with a card in the box with a QR code for the quick start manual. The other QR code is for the mobile app, but you should only use that when you get started with FitXpress.
Within the quick start manual, EnGenius guides you through the different usage scenarios: FitXpress, FitController or standalone. Here, the individual categories also state very clearly how to add products to the environment. This at least ensures that you don't have to search on your own. It is clearly aimed at making the threshold as low as possible. So, while EnGenius does target people with some knowledge with FitController, you can also help them with a clear manual.
For FitXpress, a manual is not really necessary. Still, the addition to the manual of this is also useful, if only to give you the links to the app on the Play Store or the App Store. Besides, it also clearly indicates that FitController and FitXpress are both available for the EnGenius Fit hardware. It is a complete solution for small and medium-sized businesses.
Zero-touch and secure
We think that an IT professional 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 in the end is hang everything up 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 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. EnGenius makes it possible to set up 2FA. in fact that is the first suggestion you get when you first open the controller software./p>
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 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 a larger organisation, we can imagine that you want to be able to manage several physically separate networks from a single FitController management environment. As yet, we have not been able to discover that possibility. Not surprising in itself, as there is currently no possibility for remote management of FitController.
Currently, you can install the FitController software in a VM, either in the cloud or on-premises at a customer's premises. In such a case, you can manage much larger networks, even remotely. But that also adds complexity. And that 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 themselves. You can however link multiple accounts to FitXpress, these can then be linked to different networks and/or to different user rights.
With FitController and FitXpress, EnGenius completes its portfolio of centrally managed network environments. FitController is a good option for mid-sized companies that want to manage their network on-site, without the usual hassle. It can easily be 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.
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. The somewhat low total number of products to manage will in practice be sufficient for the small businesses for which this solution is intended.
Overall, EnGenius Fit is particularly interesting because it offers both categories 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.
Click here to view the EnGenius Fit range