- Review Price: £551.00
”’Hotspot Gateway – £323.76”’
”’Ticket Printer – £227.64”’
Providing wireless access to your staff is simple enough and the numerous access points and routers we’ve reviewed recently are designed to make it a cinch to set up. However, the problem starts to get rather sticky if you want to offer a wireless hotspot with authenticated access and want to charge for it as few home and small business products offer any facilities to manage this. Enter SMC’s Wireless HotSpot Gateway and Mini-POS Ticket Printer which aims to provide a simple solution that can dish out secure, strictly controlled Internet access to wired and wireless users with nothing more than a few key presses.
The access point (AP) comes with five switched Fast Ethernet ports and no less than four of them can be used to provide simultaneous Internet access. You can add four ADSL or cable modems, enter their respective ISP login details and the AP will perform load balancing across all WAN ports in use. If any fail then all traffic will be switched to the active WAN links. Standard hacker protection is provided by NAT and an SPI firewall to which you can add custom packet filtering rules and apply them to specific ports. You can also stop wireless traffic from being passed to the LAN ports allowing you to isolate wireless users and restrict them to accessing only the WAN port. If wireless range needs to be extended the AP can use the WDS (wireless distribution system) so it can act as a repeater for other APs that support this feature.
Both 802.11b and g wireless clients are supported and you can allow both or either type to associate with the AP. Wireless security is where SMC scores highly as this is well beyond your average router. As you’d expect both 64/128-bit WEP and WPA-PSK are supported but the AP goes much further by offering four different types of 802.1x user authentication schemes. For 802.1x authentication the AP acts as a RADIUS client and will communicate with a backend RADIUS server for acquiring user credentials.
Standard SSID masking and MAC address controls are provided and the latter can use a list to either allow or deny access to those addresses specified. URL filtering is also available but this doesn’t add any real value as you only get a simple list of ten entries where you can enter specific URLs or keywords to be blocked. Access rules are another handy security feature as a table comprising a matrix of twelve two-hour slots for each day of the week can be used to allow or deny wireless access to Internet resources. You may also have some wireless users who are allowed unrestricted and unauthenticated Internet access and you can enter up to twelve MAC addresses in another table.
Overall, setting up the AP is easy enough as the web interface is well designed and opens with a simple quick start wizard to help set up the WAN ports and general network settings.
The printer comes with its own numeric keypad and both need to be connected together using the supplied cables and linked to the AP via its nine-pin serial port. There’s nothing more to do here as support is already built into the AP so you just need to access the management interface and activate web redirection. This causes any client attempting to access a web page to be redirected to a new login screen page in their browser. User authentication is activated next and you can employ an external RADIUS server or opt for the AP’s own user database which can store 2,000 accounts.
Secure logons can also be activated as the AP supports Base64 and SSL encryption. Session and idle timeouts can be applied and your final job is to set up ticket printing. This requires you to enter a ticket title, a supplier name and URL along with their phone number. Monetary units need to be defined as the AP uses these to determine access time. You decide how much a unit costs, the number of minutes it’s good for and how long it will be valid for after being issued.
And that’s it, all you do now is use the keypad to enter the number of units a customer wants to buy. The ticket is produced automatically and includes all the information previously entered along with a unique username and password which all use upper and lower-case alphanumerics. When the user is redirected to the login web page they enter the details on the ticket to gain Internet access either from a wired or wireless connection. It’s easy enough to keep tabs on all authenticated users as you can monitor their sessions, view statistics and terminate the session manually. When their time is up the AP logs them off and you can clear inactive accounts from the table with a single mouse click.
If you’re looking to provide easily managed, pay as you go wireless hotspot services this SMC partnership is well worth considering. It’s remarkably easy to install and configure, provides plenty of tough security measures and the local user database makes light work of dishing out authenticated access.
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