Setting Up the SMCWHSG14-G

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print


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Offering free Wi-Fi access to customers is becoming more and more important to small businesses, and SMC aims to make it easier than ever with the EliteConnect Wireless Hotspot Gateway SMCWHSG14-G.

SMC's new hot spot proves to be pretty easy to set up. On the hardware side, installers will find a thermal ticket printer and an "all-in-one" router/access point/Ethernet switch box as the primary components. SMC also puts the needed cables and a pair of power supplies in the shipping box, along with a quick-start guide for the thermal POS printer and a CD that contains an installation wizard and associated documentation.

Although initial setup proves to be straightforward, SMC should consider including a complete, printed quick-start guide for the product that covers all of the basics and standard configuration options, which could save installers a few minutes and ensure that the initial setup goes as smoothly as possible.

Everything pretty much works over Ethernet cabling; the receipt printer can be plugged directly into an available Ethernet port on the gateway, or connected via the network backbone. The key here is that the receipt printer and wireless gateway are on the same subnet and can communicate with each other via TCP/IP. The gateway features a WAN/POE port that can be plugged into the existing Ethernet network via an RJ45 cable and that effectively firewalls the gateway from the host network.

Once all of the cables are plugged in, the rest of the process takes place via a Web browser session. The setup wizard is launched by pointing a browser at the unit's default address, which will bring up an authentication screen for the administrator log-in.

The setup wizard does a good job of handling most of the unit's settings and guides the installer through the process. Some questions asked by the wizard cover DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) settings, gateway settings and other pertinent network settings. If the device is connected directly to a cable or DSL modem, the wizard will take the installer through the needed settings to configure access to the Internet. In short, the basic setup of the unit differs very little from setting up a typical broadband router; things only start to change in the portions of the setup that deal with the hot-spot-specific features.

The wizard also guides installers through some of the security settings and, more importantly, the account access methods. Here an installer can chose to integrate the unit with a RADIUS server or enable the device's own on-board authentication service. During that portion of the setup, account defaults can also be configured, such as how long a user can access the wireless (or wired) service and the price (if any) associated with the hot-spot access plan.

Installers can also choose what each of the three buttons on the POS printer does during setup. For example, the first button may print a receipt and offer a code for all-day access, while the other buttons could be defined for different lengths of time and dollar amounts (if any). The printed receipt will offer the customer an access code, Wi-Fi access information and other information, such as an advertising blurb and usage message. The idea here is to make the unit as easy to use as possible, so that a clerk only has to push a single button and hand a receipt to the customer.

The wizard does offer access to a few other minor elements and does a great job of quickly setting the unit up for use. Of course, administrators can do a great deal more with the system and have access to advanced configuration options that can be used in certain circumstances. The advanced menus offer configuration screens for services such DDNS, RADIUS and other network-centric elements.

One interesting feature is the unit's ability to do "complete billing"—where a customer can input credit card information and have the hot-spot gateway automatically process those charges. SMC includes in the firmware ways for several of the major credit card clearing houses to process payments automatically. That allows customers to have unattended access to the system, yet still garner revenue for the service.

A nice option here would be the ability to integrate PayPal into the payment scheme, which could be more comfortable for some customers to use than entering credit card information into an unknown hot spot.

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com

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