How do you configure VLANs on a Ubiquiti UniFi Switch for network segmentation in a small office?

12 June 2024

As a small office grows in size and complexity, so does its networking needs. A crucial aspect of managing a network is ensuring the security and efficiency of the data traffic. One of the best ways to achieve this is by using VLANs or Virtual Local Area Networks. If you're using a Ubiquiti UniFi Switch, the configuration of VLANs can be a bit challenging but absolutely manageable. This article will guide you towards understanding VLANs and how to create and manage them on a Ubiquiti UniFi Switch.

Understanding VLANs

A VLAN is a subnetwork within a network that groups together devices across multiple switches. They are utilised to segregate network traffic, enhancing network performance and security. By creating VLANs, you can control traffic patterns in your network, enforce security rules, and reduce broadcast traffic.

Using VLANs in your Ubiquiti UniFi Switch will let you separate different types of traffic and ensure that sensitive data is only accessible to authorized devices. It's an important part of a network security strategy that you shouldn't overlook.

Setting up VLANs on Ubiquiti UniFi Controller

Before you can create a VLAN, you need to ensure that you have the latest version of the Ubiquiti UniFi Controller software. This software manages your UniFi devices and makes it easier for you to configure and monitor your network.

To create a VLAN on the UniFi Controller, navigate to the "Settings" tab, select "Networks," and then click on "Create New Network." Give your VLAN a name and select "VLAN Only" for the network type. Input the VLAN ID number, which needs to be unique, and then click "Save."

You've just created a VLAN, but it's currently not assigned to any switch port. To assign it, go to the "Devices" tab, select your switch, and go to the "Ports" section. You'll see a list of ports, select the one you want to assign to the VLAN and under the "Network/VLAN" field, choose the VLAN you just created.

Configuring VLAN Firewall Rules

The beauty of VLANs is the ability to apply specific firewall rules to control the traffic flow. These rules can be used to restrict certain types of traffic or to allow specific devices to communicate.

To create a firewall rule, go to the "Firewall" section of the UniFi Controller. Click on "Create New Rule," give it a name, choose the type of rule (Inbound or Outbound), and then specify the source and destination groups. You can also specify the protocols and ports that this rule will apply to. Once you're done, click on "Save."

You can create multiple firewall rules for a VLAN. For example, you might have a rule that allows all devices in a VLAN to access the internet but blocks access to certain sensitive resources. It's recommended to review the firewall rules every few months to ensure they still meet your security needs.

Power over Ethernet (PoE) and VLANs

If your UniFi Switch is a PoE model, it can supply power to connected devices over the network cables. This can be really useful for devices like VoIP phones, cameras, or access points that need both network connectivity and power.

When you create a VLAN for these devices, you'll need to ensure that the PoE settings are configured correctly. In the UniFi Controller, go to the "Ports" section, select the port that the PoE device is connected to, and check the "PoE" settings. You can select between PoE, PoE+, and Off. Make sure to select the correct setting based on your device's requirements.

Monitoring and Managing VLANs

After you've set up your VLANs, it's important to monitor them regularly to ensure that they are functioning correctly and that network traffic is flowing as expected. The UniFi Controller software provides various tools for this.

You can view the status of each VLAN, see how much traffic it's handling, and even view the types of traffic on the network. If you notice any anomalies, such as unexpected traffic or devices attempting to access restricted resources, you can take swift action to mitigate the threat.

Additionally, managing your VLANs is also essential. As your office network grows and changes, your VLAN configuration may also need to change. Whether it's adding new VLANs, modifying existing ones, or decommissioning old VLANs, stay on top of these changes to maintain a secure and efficient network.

The Ubiquiti UniFi Switch, armed with its advanced features, offers an affordable solution for small offices to achieve an enterprise-level network configuration. By effectively using VLANs, your office can enjoy a secure, efficient, and manageable network.

Integrating IoT Devices and Access Points through VLANs

The ever-increasing presence of IoT devices and access points within small office networks presents a new set of challenges for network segmentation. Creating dedicated VLANs for these devices can alleviate many potential issues, and it's straightforward when using your Ubiquiti UniFi switch.

To start, identify all IoT devices and access points on your network. Take note of the ports these devices are connected to on your switch. Next, you’ll want to create a separate VLAN for your IoT network. Follow the steps detailed previously in the article to create the VLAN on the UniFi Controller software, ensuring that you give it a unique name and VLAN ID. Once created, assign this VLAN to the respective ports that your IoT devices and access points are connected to.

The next step is to ensure that your IoT network is secure from potentially harmful traffic. This can be achieved by configuring firewall rules. When creating a rule for your IoT network, you might choose to allow only outbound traffic and block all incoming traffic. This would prevent any unauthorized access to your IoT devices, while still allowing them to communicate with the outside world.

Remember, it's also important to restrict the communication between your IoT network and your primary network. You can do this by creating a rule that blocks all traffic from the IoT VLAN to your primary VLAN. Don't forget to click "Save" after defining each rule.

Finally, if your access points are powered via your PoE switch, remember to select the correct PoE settings in the "Ports" section as discussed earlier.

In summary, proper configuration of VLANs on your Ubiquiti UniFi Switch plays a critical role in managing efficient network traffic and maintaining a secure office environment. It allows you to segregate different devices and types of traffic, ensuring sensitive data is accessible only to authorized devices.

This guide has walked you through the process of setting up VLANs on the UniFi Controller software, assigning them to switch ports, configuring firewall rules, integrating IoT devices, and correctly setting up PoE for access points. Regular monitoring and managing of your VLANs is an important part of keeping your network secure and efficient.

Remember, the UniFi ecosystem extends beyond just the switch. Cloud Key devices enable easy remote management of your UniFi network, and the Guest Network feature can isolate visitor traffic, providing an additional layer of security.

As your office evolves, so too will your network requirements. But with the flexibility and power of the Ubiquiti UniFi Switch, you can be confident in your ability to handle the changing needs of a growing office network. By understanding and implementing VLANs, you are taking a significant step towards maintaining a well-structured, secure, and efficient network.

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