I've seen many posts on the advantages of Cloud Key, but they almost all say "easier than keeping a controller server running 24/7".
I don't imagine I need a controller running 24/7 on my home network, do I? With my current consumer grade router/AP I look at the admin screen maybe once a month.
So I'm imaginging for me it would come down to hassle of bringing up the conroller on a macbook/PC vs the cost of a Cloud Key.
Or am I missing something?
I'd say you have the right mind-set; hassle vs cost.
I have a CloudKey for my home network, mainly for the ease of having the controller on it's own device, because I don't want to have a VM to run the controller software on; I don't want to have it on my main machine; and If your controller machine dies you have to re-adopt UniFi equipment on your new controller machine
Also, it is very cute.
Other equipment in use: D-Link 24 Port Non-POE switch
Wired clients: Custom built Windows 10 PC, Brother Scanner/Printer, four PS3s, four XBOX360s, two Wiis, four Smart TVs.
Wireless clients: Eleven (yes, 11) Nest Thermostats for radiant floor heating, two Macbook Pros, two Windows laptops, one iPad Air 2, one Surface Pro 3, three iPhones and one Windows Phone, two DS Lite.
If you start off on a Linux, Mac or Windows controller, the migration to the Cloud Key is really straightforward so you could decide later or budget to get it next month.
I have a Windows-based media server running 24/7, so it makes sense to me to run my controller from there. I backup the configuration in case something decides to self-destruct.
I think I must still be missing something, although I think I'm convinced I should get the key.
Why does everyone mention 24/7? Is that shorthand for "I need the controller to be avilable whenever I might want to use it"? Because on my consumer rounter I don't require 24/7 access to the admin panel. I need it once o month.
Or is there something about the Unify system that it doesn't work unless a controller is on-line 24/7?
The controller also handles e-mail alerting when there are problems. Also if your equipment reboots (power outage, etc...) the controller can re-provision any devices that lost their configs.
But most of the time, the system can "coast along" without the controller.
As to why you want a controller on all the time: it is largely a matter of convenience. For instance, it allows me to check network status from my phone whenever I want. It will become even more useful soon when it starts collecting DPI statistics. But you can certainly do without until you find a reason that seems compelling to you.