Setting Up the SMCWHSG14-GBy Frank Ohlhorst | Posted 2008-09-10 Email 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.
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.