Running a WiFi Hotspot - A Guide to Hotspot Systems by primusboy


									Running a WiFi Hotspot - A Guide to Hotspot Systems
What is a WiFi Hotspot ?

A WiFi Hotspot is an area that has WiFi access to the Internet. The term
Hotspot is now used interchangeably for the both the area where the
signal is available and the device (WiFi Router or WiFi Access Point)
that is broadcasting the signal. Likewise the terms "WiFi Router" and
"WiFi Access Point" (AP) are often used interchangeably.
Simple Hotspot - The Open or Unencryped Router.

The easiest way to run a Hotspot is to purchase a domestic WiFi router,
hook it up to the Internet and set the wireless security settings as
"Disabled" or "Open". This would allow anyone to access the Internet and
potentially also access other computers connected to the router. You
would have very little control over who connects and how much bandwidth
is used. If you have no security concerns and are not looking at making
any money this is a simple way to go. Cost ~$50-100
Simple Hotspot - The Encrypted Router with WPA or WEP

Another option is to enable security on the router, there are two types
of WiFi security WEP and WPA - WPA is the newer and more secure. With
both types you specify a "key" which is a code you need to connect. You
could tell your customers what the WPA or WEP key is and they could
connect. This offers some security and I guess you could change the WPA
or WEP key each day, however there is nothing to stop someone telling
their friend the key so it's not ideal for generating revenue.
The Captive-Portal.

Nearly all commercial Hotspots are Captive Portals, this appears as an
Open or Unencrypted WiFi signal but then redirects any traffic to a
specific web page called a "Splash Page" where your often asked to login
or purchase internet access. This is a clever way of doing things as most
laptops will automatically connect to an open WiFi signal, then when a
customer runs Internet Explorer (or which ever Web browser they use) they
are sent to your splash page no matter what site they try to connect to.
Walled Garden.

When discussing Captive Portals the term "Walled Garden" is often used.
This is a website or websites that a customer can connect to without
paying. For example a customer connecting to your Hotspot will be
diverted to the Splash Page. They will then be given a choice of paying
for internet access or accessing free websites you have chosen, for
example your Hotel website or local attractions websites.
Hosted Hotspot Services.

There are several companies offering business owners a hosted hotspot
service. These services normally involve installing a modified Linksys
WRT54GL router on the customer premises that redirect traffic to a splash
page hosted by the hotspot company. The hosting company normally also
processes payment for Internet access. These services normally work on a
revenue sharing basis where the hosting company pay the hotspot owner a
percentage of the income from the hotspot. Some companies also charge the
hotspot owner a monthly fee for using their services.
DIY Captive Portals.
If you don't want to use a hosted hotspot solution there are a few
options for a DIY Captive Portal. There are some commercial software
packages that run on Windows or Linux PCs and act as a captive portal,
with these the PC has to be turned on 24 hours a day. Another approach is
to run the Hotspot software on the WiFi router itself, replacing the
stock firmware with a Linux based OS such as OpenWRT or DD-WRT. The
challenge here is to fit the software required on the small amount of
memory available on a domestic router.
Chris McGregor is a New-Zealand native who is owner of a successful data
networking company in beautiful North Island. He is also a Director and
partner of UseMyNet. UseMyNet sells WiFi Hotspot Billing software that
turns a Linksys WRT54GL router into a self-contained WiFi Hotspot, which
can be operated for a fraction of the cost of hosted hotspot solution and
is ideal for Pubs, Hotels and B&Bs

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