Linksys enters cloud-managed Wi-Fi market

Belkin International's Linksys unit has launched a cloud-managed Wi-Fi system. Linksys is tapping MSPs for help in selling Cloud Manager to small businesses.

Belkin International has introduced a Linksys-branded cloud-managed Wi-Fi system that small businesses can buy directly from the vendor or through a managed service provider.

Launched this week, the Linksys Cloud Manager works in conjunction with three compatible Linksys access points: the LAPAC1200C, 1750C and 2600C. The price of the access points includes a five-year license for the cloud service.

The Linksys Cloud Manager and access points are unlikely to compete with cloud-managed Wi-Fi offerings focused on the highest end of the small and medium-sized business market, said Mark Hung, an analyst with Gartner. Those brands include Aruba from Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Meraki from Cisco.

Competing with those brands would be "an uphill battle" for Belkin, Hung said. "Given [its] consumer heritage, Linksys will probably only be able to capture the low end of the SMB market at best."

Belkin plans to get help from managed service providers in order to penetrate the small-business market. Cloud Manager includes features that let MSPs maintain multiple networks and provide customers with controls for their networks.

Staffing requirements minimal with cloud-managed Wi-Fi

In 2013, Belkin bought Linksys from Cisco for an undisclosed sum. Cisco had bought the company in 2003 for $500 million to sell its routers and access points to homes and small businesses. Cisco later decided to shed all of its consumer and small-business products to focus on its higher-margin enterprise gear.

Belkin has focused on simplicity to make the latest Wi-Fi system appealing to small businesses with very few technicians. For example, Cloud Manager stores access point configurations and downloads them to new hardware as soon as its online and connected to the network.

Cloud Manager continually monitors a network and sends alerts and reports when there's a potential problem. A user can access the service through a PC or any mobile device.

Cloud Manager also provides a web-based centralized management dashboard that lets managers perform about a dozen tasks that include blocking devices from the network, setting a maximum number of clients, setting bandwidth limits and upgrading device firmware.

Cloud Manager does not have to be connected to the Wi-Fi for it to continue working. If the connection to the management console goes down, the network will keep operating, Belkin said.

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