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Hotspot gateway hardware and software

Posted on 2013-10-29
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Last Modified: 2013-11-28
Interested to know what everyone is using for their internet hotspot gateways. Looking to move away from my current system.

Proper commercial setup. Average 100 logins a day. Peak about 300. High throughput. Prefer the ticket method. Must be reliable.

Personal experiences will be highly regarded.

Thanks!
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Question by:Jpoppi
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28 Comments
 
LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 39612068
What do you have at the moment?

Are we talking full-blown Cisco/ISE deployment type of 'proper commercial setup', or are we talking ADSL router with custom firmware type of hotspot?

If it's a small-business type setup I've used the Zyxel N4100 hotspot a lot.  It has full hotspot functionality and a ticket printer to provide ad-hoc login credentials.

For an enterprise scenario there's Cisco's ISE as I mentioned.  Very reliable although it requires extra kit.

There's also solutions such as WifiSpark or Aruba Clearpass.  Both are very good hotspot solutions that integrate with your existing network and act as a gateway.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39612154
I've worked on several college campuses that handle hundreds and thousands of simultaneous users across square miles …  I can't attest for other products, but I tell you that I use the arubanetworks.com product family.

This is true commercial enterprise stuff that may or may not be over budget, but if reliability, ease of management, security, and fault tolerance is important to you, then check them out.

They sell through a channel, or at least they did last time I had to work on a new installation, but no matter what you can call their 800 number and talk to a human about an appropriate config, and maybe you can then source a parter or distributor depending on how much you want to do yourself.
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LVL 39

Expert Comment

by:Aaron Tomosky
ID: 39612639
Meraki. You can even tie to to Facebook for login access.
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LVL 1

Author Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39613153
Thanks experts for your replies. I will look up your suggestions immediately.

At them moment we are running:
a dedicated Dell R210 II server
Win Server 2008 Foundation
Antamedia Hotspot Premium software
4 x ADSL2+ modems through a load balancer.
14 x dedicated hotspot PCs
a dual band wifi access point.

With the Antamedia software, to say that all I have had is trouble, would be a severe understatement.

We are only a small business, but our customers are international visitors who expect a high quality service. Speed and reliability are a must. Due to the nature of our business, our customers come in 10 - 30 people at a time, all wanting access to the internet, immediately. We have pre-printed tickets that are sold at 3 POS registers, and can be used either on the dedicated hotspot pcs or their own laptop though our wifi AP. Currently we have 6 different pricing/time/download/bandwidth choices. We will need capacity for growth.

I've been looking around, and 2 options I found so far were solutions from Nomadix and Guest Internet. GIS-R20 from guest internet particularly catches my eye.

I encourage you to have a look at our website for more of an idea of what we are about: www.phseafarers.org

Looking forward to your replies! :D
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LVL 47

Accepted Solution

by:
Craig Beck earned 2000 total points
ID: 39613519
Antamedia is terrible!!

I've had much better experiences using the Zyxel N4100 hotspot router.  It's a few hundred £ but does everything you want.

The Nomadix boxes are a bit complicated to configure sometimes, especially if you're integrating a payment solution.

If you want to stick to the server-based setup so as to keep your network setup as-is, have a look at FirstSpot.  It installs in Windows just like Antamedia, but it's far superior in features.
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LVL 1

Author Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39615495
Thanks for your reply craigbeck.

Yes, Antamedia is terrible. If only someone had told me sooner....

Since I've had such a bad run with server based, I am tempted to move across to hardware based. You sound like you have set up a few: what do you find yourself installing more of?

Have you used FirstSpot? Is it reliable and stable? The Dell server I am using is only an i3. Is this powerful enough?

I had a look at the Cisco ISE and Meraki, but both seem to have allot of stuff that I don't need (and don't know how to use). The Meraki gear seems pretty cool though.

We don't currently need a payment gateway, but we may do in the future.

With the Nomadix boxes, can you have a ticket / voucher account? Meaning I can create and print, for example, 500 tickets with just an access code to enable controlled access? No username and password. I had a read of the manual, but didn't see anything there. Also, do I need to pay yearly licence fees? That’s what I have been led to believe on one of the websites.

Sorry for all the questions, but I don’t want to make another Antamedia mistake…
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39615519
Don't even think of doing anything server based.  The embedded hardware solutions dedicate 100% of the code to the task at hand, and they are guaranteed to have the appropriate hardware & memory.

Also, 100% of the hardware in an embedded system is fully qualified & tested for specifically the software you are running.  The firmware, drivers are going to be correct.
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LVL 1

Author Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39616121
Hello dlethe,

All very good points. Do you have any particular units that you would recommend?

I had a look at the Aruba networks stuff, and I am assuming I will need a Clearpass system - a Hardware Appliance and all the associated licences.

Any idea of what the costs of this are? Is this type of system overboard for me?

The most simultaneous users we have had logged in at once is about 30. Our openDNS account is only for 35 users. We are looking at growth in future, so at this stage I'm aiming at 50 (simultaneous) users.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 39626980
For 30 users an appliance would be overkill unless it's a small unit.

I was running a FirstSpot gateway on a Windows 2003 server for over 300 users.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39627212
Just call aruba and let them do a config and create a quote for you. I don't keep up with model numbers and pricing.
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LVL 34

Expert Comment

by:Istvan Kalmar
ID: 39627442
Hi,

It seems enougg for you  a hp 720 controller:

http://www.amazon.com/HP-MSM720-Wireless-LAN-Controller/dp/B006M1QOZG
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39627454
That HP product is awful.  Heck, even the link you supplied has a typical 1-star review for the product that warns people not to buy it.
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LVL 1

Author Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39627813
Thanks experts for your replies.

Craigbeck, was that for 300 simultaneous users? Were you happy with the speed for each user? How powerful was the server? The r210 ii I have is only an i3...

Dlethe, I'll give Aruba a ring in the morning, and see what they come back with
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 39627817
I'm finding myself agreeing with dlethe here... (which is odd :-))

The MSM720 is a dire product and it's configuration is a nightmare.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 39627846
The server was handling 300 concurrent users in an exhibition centre.  Bandwidth was limited on a per-user basis so no user could exceed 4Mbps.

It was a custom build, using a high-end Intel workstation motherboard and a Xeon processor with 4GB RAM.  It had 4 Gigabit NICs bonded in two pairs for resiliency across a switch stack.
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:Daniel McAllister
ID: 39627884
Look for the Intellinet GuestGate [524827] product (NewEgg.com ID N82E16833425016). (NOTE: There are other distributors of Intellinet Networks equipment -- NewEgg just came up first in my Google search.)

It's a Wireless N router, but all wireless "guests" are given their own unique RFC 1918 30-bit netmasked network. Not only can they NOT access your LAN through it, they cannot access each other.

I have 3 clients on these, and there has never been any hint of a security issue, and all 3 are very happy with the purchase. All 3 have far more users than you're talking about, and at $134 (NewEgg price), I think it's worth the extra cost as a trade-off for the peace-of-mind.

In this case, this is a hardware/software pairing that is specifically designed to do EXACTLY what you're looking to do.

Good Luck!

Dan
IT4SOHO

I have no affiliation with Intellinet or NewEgg... it's just a solution I found that works well.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39627904
Nice tip, it4soho - I'll have to check into this next time I am in the need.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:Craig Beck
ID: 39628388
The GuestGate is a similar product to the Zyxel N4100 but a few hundred cheaper.  I looked at the GuestGate when trying to find a very cheap solution, but this stopped me from buying one...
Security
- Global guest password on/off
- 50 individual user passwords
- Define valid time for user passwords
- Define maximum amount of users (up to 9) per user password
- Radius server authentication (authenticate users via Radius server in LAN)
Apparently you can only have 50 user accounts unless you use a RADIUS and external user database.  That won't fit the OP's requirement.

http://www.zyxel.com/uk/en/products_services/g_4100_v2_n4100_vsg_1200_v2.shtml
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LVL 1

Author Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39632382
Thanks experts, alot of good info.

I'm currently in the process of sorting through it all!
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:Daniel McAllister
ID: 39633866
The only issue with the 50 user accounts is "registered" users... which is a rare instance for a GuestGate. In MOST cases, you will run the thing with an "open" network -- in fact, for most of my clients, the "guest WLAN" is an open Wireless N (as-in, no password to join, & no encryption).

However, you can create users that can have specific limits added to them. I do have 1 user who is using this feature -- it's a timeshare. When "guests" arrive, they can purchase a week of WLAN access for a $25 fee. This gets them a password that expires in a week. For each unit that purchases a password, up to 9 devices can login with that one password. (Phones, laptops, etc.)

But I have hotels and even a smoothie shop that use these as public WiFi servers -- and they've never had a problem (the hotel has 300+ rooms... never an issue!)

I recently propsed this for a small strip mall -- a guestgate with several repeaters/extenders. The thing for them is that they want each tenant to pay for their own, separate access (we have FiOS -- fiber optic high-speed Internet scattered throughout our area, and they're lucky enough to have it). This allows all tenants to share the same FiOS account.

I think this is a case where Intellinet tried to pack just about everything you could want into this thing -- and the result was a confusing entry in the specifications.

For public WiFi, or just standard WPA/PSK encryption, while I am sure there is a limit on the number of connections, I'm also sure it is HUGE. I have seen personally that the system doles out addresses in all of 10.x.y.z/30, 192.168.a.b/30, and 172.p.q.r/30 (where 16<=p<32) -- in other words, in all 3 RFC-1918 ranges! So that's a LOT of potential clients!

Just my experiences....

Dan
IT4SOHO

PS: If you need answers about a GuestGate, the Intellinet US distributor is IC-Intracom, located here in Florida -- they have a sales/support line that I think you can get the number for off of their website ic-intracom.com.
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LVL 1

Author Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39649952
Thanks for your response IT4SOHO,

I had a quick read of the manual for the GuestGate, and under the access control section I found this: "The amount of user passwords is limited by available memory in GuestGate, but should ideally not exceed 20." It does say that you can have up to 9 users using the same password. Have I misunderstood the system?

Ideally what I need is a system that can have a lot (100's) of accounts created, each with their own login password, time limit, download and bandwidth control. Last month we sold 1625 logins, and I usually only create accounts once a month.

I have got some info back from some other suppliers, and will post the info soon.
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39649958
You know, if budget allows, then the Aruba family more than meets your specs and you'll never bust out of it, and it would have been up and running in less than a day.

Don't make the mistake of buying a consumer product that was never designed for such commercial use.  Get something designed for the task at hand.
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LVL 1

Author Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39650005
Hi dlethe,

I have got a quote from Aruba, and with the non-for-profit pricing, the cost is quite substantial. But this is to be expected with a top of the line system.

I am very impressed with the additional features and add-ons for the Aruba system, but I don't think our growth will ever be able to fully utilise such a high end product. In addition, I've been told I would need to purchase Aruba WiFi access points to enable the system to work, along with the yearly licences and support. The salesman also worried me slightly about the setup and management being quite complex. Once again, I sort of expected as much.

I am still waiting for some more information and technical documentation, but I think they have forgotten about me...
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LVL 47

Expert Comment

by:David
ID: 39650055
Check out ebay. They hold their value.
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

by:Daniel McAllister
ID: 39651445
If you need that many individual users, each with a separate password, then yes, the GuestGate is not for you -- that is not its intended function. Its designed function is to provide safe, secure PUBLIC access -- like a hot-spot environment.

Dan
IT4SOHO
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LVL 1

Author Closing Comment

by:Jpoppi
ID: 39684711
Looks like I've settled with FirstSpot.

I did some testing, got a trial licence, implemented at our business and it worked for a full day without any problems. (It’s been a long time since I had a whole day of no hotspot failures). I have a 14 day money back guarantee with Firstspot, which hopefully I won't need.

I really wanted a hardware hotspot gateway. Forking out well over $10,000 AUD for Aruba, and not knowing 100% if it was the right choice for our business (due to lack of information from Aruba) was a deal breaker. Plus I think it might have been too complicated for my simple mind. Even the salesman gave me doubts due to its complexity.

I had just about handed over the money for a Nomadix gateway, but a last minute question revealed that it didn't have a "ticket" type access account that would suit us, and I also noticed that it lacked per user throttling.  

I would have purchased a “Guest-Internet” brand gateway, but the only feedback I could find was on Amazon..... It’s a shame, since it appeared to have everything we needed.

During the testing and trial phase using FirstSpot, the email support was exceptional. Something that I haven’t had in a long while also….

Thanks to all the experts for your suggestions.
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