SMC Wireless Hotspot Gateway/Mini-POS Ticket Printer review
Offering wireless hotspot facilities to customers adds value to any business. But the process of accurately billing and controlling access can be a problem for smaller companies. SMC’s combo of access point (AP) and printer offers a simple, low-cost resolve. It allows you to dish out wireless access on demand, restrict users to a specific time period, provide them with a receipt and charge them – all in one package.
The AP comes with five switched Fast Ethernet ports and up to four of them can be used to provide simultaneous Internet access. You can add four ADSL or cable modems and the AP will perform load balancing across all WAN ports in use. The AP is well featured for security, as it supports WEP, WPA and four 802.1x user authentication schemes, which require the services of a back-end RADIUS server. NAT and standard SPI firewalling provide Internet security, plus you can use packet filtering. Basic URL blocking is also available.
Setting up the AP is simple. The web interface opens with a quick-start wizard for configuring the WAN and general network settings. The printer comes with its own numeric keypad. Using the supplied cables, connect the printer and keypad together and link them to the serial port on the AP. There’s nothing more to do, as all further configuration is via the AP.
Your first job is to activate web redirection and user authentication. For the former, you can use default pages or enter your own login, logoff and successful or failed authentication advisory URLs. For authentication, you can employ a RADIUS server or choose the AP’s internal user database, which provides up to 2,000 entries. Session and idle timeouts may be applied and the text messages in all the default URLs on the AP can be customised. The last job is to set up ticket printing details, and here you can choose a title, add a supplier name and URL along with a phone number. Monetary units need to be defined, so for the UK you could print something like ‘UKP’ on the ticket. The AP uses units to determine access time, so you decide how much a unit costs, how many minutes a unit lasts and how long it will be valid for after being issued.
When a customer requests access, you simply punch in the number of units they want to buy. The ticket produced shows all the details you entered in the management interface plus a unique username and password. And that’s it, as the AP transparently manages all user access. When the customer accesses the Internet, they’re redirected to a login screen where they enter the details on the ticket. Once their session has finished, the AP will log them off and you can remove inactive username and password combinations from the table. At all times, you can monitor authenticated users, pull up connection statistics and terminate their connection.
SMC is offering a powerful, low-cost way to deliver monitored wireless hotspot services. The AP comes with tough security measures and can transparently manage all wired and wireless client access, making it a cinch to install and use.