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Best cheap WiFi Router with Passphrase and possibility to block some websites

Posted on 2012-03-28
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Last Modified: 2012-07-27
I've a customer who operate a small internet center, and they would like to have a WiFi router with the possibility to use a passphrase (it's easier to give a password like "tomato" to his customers than giving them a 16 Hexa digits password).

Even thought it's not "required", it would be nice to have a feature to block the access to some web sites, based on an internal list, or a public web site list (like BarracudaCentral for Spam).

Of course, it's an internet center and the  router will be placed in a locked cabinet, so it's important that the router doesn't require a "reboot" every 2-3 days because it has some major failure in it (ex: WRT54G in is earlier days had this problem.  Even South Park laughed at their face in an episode of their show).

Thanks for your recommendations, i really appreciate
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Question by:cdebel
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Mysidia earned 450 total points
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Well,  8 characters is the minimum length for a WPA-PSK passphrase, so it couldn't be "tomato",  but anything supporting WPA-PSK  should allow a passphrase that meets the length requirements of the protocol;  WEP is not recommended.

Other possibilities are WPA enterprise with EAP/802.1x and a RADIUS server and individual usernames/passwords;  that's the "Enterprise" way to have multi-user access -- with different users protected from each other. With just a single passphrase, by the way,  any computer connected to this WLAN is technically capable of intercepting other users' traffic (e.g. vulnerable to "Firesheep").

The RADIUS server costs something, and of course having individual usernames may be inconvenient  -- but there is a major security tradeoff there in choosing to use one passphrase.

"Cheap" and "Best" are conflicting ideas also...    Normally my recommendation would be buy what your business needs;  figure out the role of the IT infrastructure in your business and implement the overall solution that is justified, don't excessively overbuy because its better,  don't buy less than is prudent, because its cheap.  Buying "Best" always comes with a sacrifice, usually in the form of higher cost.  Buying "Cheap" always comes with a sacrifice as well,  usually in the form of less capacity, fewer features, or lower reliability.

If you are a business selling internet services,  "buying cheap"  can cost more money in the long run,  when customers get frustrated with a poor experience.   Cheap choice of equipment doesn't always mean lower cost, so careful.


The best WiFi access point hardware is definitely not cheap,  and the best APs typically do not contain any kind of router on them -- Wireless Access Point and  Ethernet to Ethernet Router  are really two separate functions;  finding a single device that contains both functions is a pretty good sign that sacrifices have been made for convenience,  usually it means that both Router and AP functions are very limited.

Buying both a Router and an AP  is certainly more expensive. Also, don't forget about Uninterruptable power supplies to protect sensitive gear such as WiFi access points.


Good commercial wireless access points like the ones designed to build an Enterprise wireless infrastructure are not inexpensive, ~$400 entry level;  the decent commercial units, last longer, they are in general higher power units, that are far more reliable during operation, particularly with larger user loads, or multi-AP designs,  typically such units have a separate radio for each wireless protocol, range is greater than inexpensive units,
they can cope with many more simultaneous users.
In addition to cost,  more advanced operator skills may be required to configure them, which is a downside for small scale implementations.


So if you are really looking for the cheapest router units, you rule out devices designed for commercial applications,  you rule out most wireless access devices really suitable for more than ~15  simultaneous users;  and to boot the AP has to share processing power,  watts of power, and cooling, with the routing function,  and often a 5 port switch, therefore some extra switching hardware and  Ethernet controllers -- more of the $$$ being spent on something else besides good wireless components.


The most capable inexpensive WiFi APs (IMO) are ones you can flash with an open source firmware such as DD-WRT;  i'm a big fan of the Asus RT-N16   with its 32mb ROM and 128mb of RAM  and the lower-end RT-N12 with its 8mb ROM and 32mb RAM.
Which I call inexpensive, because they're less than $200.

Well lots of things are possible with DDWRT, even third party plugins.
There are not necessarily many good options for filtering spam sites in that.

But there are URL/keyword filtering options:
http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Access_Restrictions

And a recommendation to use OpenDNS for extra filtering.

That should be 80% of what you will ever really need at least.



If you want a unit that's going to filter spam sites without the OpenDNS downsides
such as easily circumvented,  and do a good job at it,
i'm pretty sure you will have to compromise on price and pay more for that function.
Barracuda certainly sells some web filtering appliances,  they cost an arm and a leg last I checked.

There are also some software applications where you can make a computer a router and
apply some filtering rules... think Untangle with eSoft, WebTitan...    but then you have the cost of a computer to add  in addition to any subscription costs.

I believe iBoss makes a unit suitable for such applications costing something like $150 for the unit + a subscription fee   for filter updates.     In general I would recommend that approach over DIY filtering using URL lists, free software, or  OpenDNS .


but a DD-WRT flashed router + OpenDNS gets you started.

Just make sure to pick a suitable router and follow the instructions for DDWRT and for OpenDNS carefully
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by:cdebel
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I know that "Cheap" and "Best" doesn't fit together.  Perhaps i should have said "best characteristic vs price match"?

Anyway, the reason why i've mentionned "Cheap" is because of the nature of the Internet Center.  I didn't said "Internet CAFE" because Internet Cafe around here charge about 7-10$/hour, which may sound "normal" to everyone, but his "Internet Center" is for poor people who don't have money to have a computer & internet access at home (yeah, it still exist).  It's not a company with huge benefits, it's an "OSBL" (i don't know the term in english but it would sound like "Non-Lucrative Organism").  They charge 1$/hour only, it's operate by volunteers, and the money gathered is used to upgrade the computers "regularly".  

Thanks for all

Now you understand why I've mentioned "Cheap".

The RT-N16 you have mentioned is cheap, and look just fine.  I'll look for the instructions URL you gave me to see if there's some model that can't be flashed, to not get in store and buy the "new model that can't be flashed".
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A lot of routers offer some sort of site filtering capability, even though I would be the first to acknowledge it's not necessarily the best filtering you can get. I've personally been going the D-Link route as of late with wireless routers I use, and I've barely ever had to reboot them. (Sadly, I remember that those Linksys routers that had the ton of issues as well)
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by:cdebel
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I,ve done another thread about a problem that i've got for port forwarding with that router, if you are interrested to help, here's the link: http://www.experts-exchange.com/Networking/Misc/Q_27808401.html

I've installed DD-WRT on it, and i use OpenDNS as you suggested, and it work great, beside this small problem with the port forwarding.
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