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UniFi Cloud Key vs. Cloud Controller

Published onby Dries (edited on )

For those managing a UniFi network, the decision between using a UniFi Cloud Key or a managed cloud controller service like UniHosted can be difficult.

Both offer remote management capabilities for UniFi devices but differ in functionality, scalability, and management.

In this blog, we'll explore the differences between the UniFi Cloud Key and cloud-based controller services, helping you determine the best fit for your network needs.

Table of Contents

UniFi Cloud Key

The UniFi Cloud Key is a hardware device by Ubiquiti Networks, designed to run the UniFi Controller software. It connects to your network and offers a local solution for network management with cloud-based remote access.

Pros of UniFi Cloud Key

  1. Local Control: Offers a dedicated physical device for managing your network.
  2. No Subscription Fees: One-time purchase with no ongoing fees.
  3. Easy Integration: integrates with existing UniFi devices.
  4. Direct Access: Provides direct access to the controller without third-party involvement.

Cons of UniFi Cloud Key

  1. Limited Scalability: Hardware resources are fixed, limiting scalability.
  2. Physical Vulnerability: Susceptible to physical damage, power outages, and other on-site issues.
  3. Maintenance Responsibilities: Requires self-maintenance, including updates and backups.

We also wrote an in-depth review about our experience with the UniFi Cloud Key here.

Cloud controller

There are two ways of hosting. The do-it-yourself ways or managed cloud hosting. DIY Cloud Hosting involves setting up your own UniFi Controller on a cloud platform using services like AWS, Azure, or on a Linux/Ubuntu server. This approach gives you full control over your cloud infrastructure.

Pros of DIY Cloud Hosting:

Full Customization: Complete control over the server setup and configuration. Scalability: Easily scale your server resources based on network demand. Remote Accessibility: Access your controller from anywhere with an internet connection.

Cons of DIY Cloud Hosting:

Technical Expertise Required: Requires knowledge of cloud platforms and server management. Ongoing Maintenance: You're responsible for all updates, security patches, and troubleshooting. Variable Costs: Costs can fluctuate based on resource usage and cloud service pricing.

Managed cloud controller

Cloud controller services offer a UniFi Controller hosted on cloud infrastructure. This approach involves using a service provider like UniHosted to do the managing for you.

Pros of Cloud Controller Services

  1. High Scalability: Easily scalable resources to meet growing network demands.
  2. Reduced Maintenance: The service provider handles updates, backups, and maintenance.
  3. Enhanced Reliability: Hosted in enterprise-grade data centers for increased uptime and reliability.
  4. Expert Support: Access to professional support and expertise.

Cons of Cloud Controller Services

  1. Ongoing Costs: Typically involves a monthly or annual subscription fee. However, UniHosted is free for home-users.
  2. Less Direct Control: The physical infrastructure is managed by the service provider. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but you are placing your trust in the hands of a service provider.


The choice between a UniFi Cloud Key and a cloud controller service boils down to your specific requirements:

  • UniFi Cloud Key is ideal for those who prefer a one-time investment and are comfortable managing physical hardware. It's well-suited for smaller networks or situations where direct control of the hardware is preferred.

  • DIY Cloud hosting is for those with technical expertise who desire complete control over their hosting environment and are willing to handle everything themselves, like updates, troubleshooting and security patching.

  • Cloud Controller Services like UniHosted are better suited for larger networks or for those who want to offload the maintenance and management responsibilities. We offer a more scalable, reliable solution with the benefit of enterprise-grade support.

Final Thoughts

If you're looking for a local management solution and are willing to handle maintenance and scalability within your capabilities, the UniFi Cloud Key is a good choice. However, you should be informed about its drawbacks. More about this here.

For those who prioritize scalability, reliability, and ease of management, a cloud controller service like UniHosted is a great option. We offer a hassle-free experience, ensuring that your network is optimally managed without any maintenence from your side.

Additionally, I'm happy to walk you through personally. You can schedule a call with me here.

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