Coming off the lengthy slog that was Course 4 – Wireless Access Points, this course is not only much shorter, but by far my favorite to date. Not to imply that the previous courses haven’t been chock full of nuggets of practical wisdom, but this class tackles a real problem that is near and dear to our industry’s heart: remote monitoring and management.
The more we can do remotely without having to roll a truck not only saves us time but helps to get the customer back up and running more quickly. And happy customers are paying and referring customers, I always say!
Part of what made this course so enjoyable was that it is mostly hands-on learning how to configure and use Pakedge’s BakPak remote access service. At CEDIA 2016, Control4 announced that the BakPak service would be included for free on all of the company’s routers. “You get a BakPak, you get a BakPak, you ALL get a BakPak!”
BakPak main screen
At the time, I thought that was a cool move by the company. Now, after taking this course and realizing the full power of BakPak and what it can mean for installation management (especially when you start talking about managing potentially hundreds of clients as your company grows) I realize how powerful BakPak can be. And while there are other products out there that offer remote management capabilities, many of them come with a fee or require additional hardware. Here you get a first-class router with BakPak built in. That’s maximum value-add, people!
One of the great things about BakPak — besides its low-low price of free — is that it allows the dealer to create one master account that has full administration access for all jobs. Not only does this make it easier to see all sites at a glance, but it also allows you to assign technician accounts with access to specific jobs with different levels of permission.
The other great thing about this is that if you have an employee leave the company, you can immediately revoke their permission from accessing projects. Hopefully that would never happen, but if you think about what damage a malicious ex-employee could do to one of your jobs — delete a project file, default a network, change login credentials — being about to quickly and instantly remove them is pretty awesome.
The RK-1 router included with the PCNA kit features the full version of BakPak, which provides management to every device on the site’s network. (Pakedge’s new WR-1, Wi-Fi router launched at this past CEDIA, includes BakPak Lite, which just provides access and control of the router itself.)
BakPak Network Map
Once you connect your RK-1 router to your BakPak account, you run a deep scan device discovery on the network where the system goes out and queries/identifies all the devices on the network. Once this is performed, all of the devices connected on the network appear, giving you some pretty powerful tools to manage your jobs.
What can you do? How about things like update a device’s firmware. Or restore a device’s configuration. Or cycle power on ports or outlets to reboot something. Or change a Wi-Fi password. Or configure alerts to be notified is a device goes offline.
But not only do you have this control over Pakedge devices, you also have full device control over everything on the project using the device’s native web interface. For instance, use Bakpak to login and update metadata information on a client’s Kaleidescape collection or log in to assign and re-label an input on a receiver. Game. Changing.
BakPak device portal
Further, you can create “update groups” to quickly and easily work with multiple components across several jobs at once. For example, you can put all of your routers into one group and all of your WAPs in another. Click on that group, and then you can check and update firmware to everything at once, or instantly backup all configurations. #TheAwesome
And BakPak has a mobile app as well that lets you quickly check in and do some basic management on the go.
We’re in the home stretch, people! Next up is our final class: Network Design. Then it’s straight up graduation time! Well, after acing the proctored exam, of course…