Our approach and vision is quite different from that of other software vendors in this "business", in this article we try to explain the differences which may or may not change your mind about how to manage your hotspot and what is important for you and your users.
AmazingPorts have since 2001 had 3 important goals:
Ask any company in the business if they find these points important, and they will say yes! The big difference is what conclusions are drawn from the problems that users experience.
In most hotspot systems today a legacy protocol called RADIUS is used to manage the local firewall/router. Using this protocol renders two major implementation issues: 1)No natural security and 2)profiles based provisioning. The lack of security can be handled using IPSEC, but experience show that the complexity of configuration and maintenance make that most operators just ignore security.
For this reason we looked into what was available in terms of simple standard technology that overcame these important shortcomings of RADIUS.... we found that that XML over secure (SSL) connections gave us all the advantages but none of the downsides. Further more we can still integrate with legacy systems using RADIUS if required. Using SSL as a security protocol means that we can roll-out large number of hotspots without requiring special configuration on each site, which in turn makes the process faster, more secure and cheaper.
Using XML enabled us to implement SOP (Service oriented provisioning) AND we can do symmetric and asymmetric roaming between different locations AND get good security AND improve ARPU AND reduce administration - over all the choice was easy!
Many Hotspot systems will force you to fill in two long and complicated Strings (username / password) usually over 20 characters just to gain "free" access. AmazingPorts solves this in 2 different ways depending on your business model:
1. The daily pass - is an easy to remember code that give "anyone" access. It is used by conferences, hotels and companies with free access for guests. The daily passes looks something like : tiger12 .
Long enough to make a brut force attack irrelevant (the code digesting feature has a built in "slow down" when multiple bad vouchers are entered) but formatted so that humans can remember it easily.
2. To distribute individual vouchers, single string voucher "secrets" are created. These are the equivalent of "top-ups" in the mobile phone market. The length of these secrets are adapted to the validity of the voucher - this makes that a Hotel reception giving out a voucher that is generated, printed and used within a short period of time in one single location - can be very short and still maintain full security (i.e. unbreakable before it is used).
At the same time vouchers created for printing on scratch cards and distributed "slowly" have secrets with a security level of several years. Both these models create vouchers that can be tracked, separated and priced in the system. Different administrative roles will have different types of access of creating, selling and seeing the vouchers: Administrator, Voucher maker, Support Agent, Accountant.
The end-user experience actually starts before "using the voucher" ... Any captive portal will have to redirect the user, most portals handle this, but the user experience is often awful. How many times don't you get: "WARNING this site is not SECURE" and then the : Please get me out of here OR Add security exception...
These problems are related to the captive portal not using "real" SSL certificates. In AmazingPorts, unlike most other systems the end-user is always presented a real trusted certificate recognised by 99.9% of all browsers - "straight out of the box". This way "not so tech-savvy" users feel safe and secure.
Once redirected, the user meet the landing portal. AmazingPorts can use third party web pages as landing pages but it also contains a built in portal with the following important aspects:
There are some more subtle underlying differences to many other captive portals that relate to reducing end-user support, it wasn't until we built version 4 that end-user support questions ware reduced to none.
The final part of the end-user experience is being "kicked-out". The worst ever implementation seen is the one by A*****d hotels - if you stay a week in an A****d hotel, you will have to enter a total of 4 different 16 character user-name/password combinations more than 10 times during one week to stay connected!!!!
In AmazingPorts the hotspot owner can set the idle time out on sessions, by default it is set to 30 days of inactivity. This means you don't have to "logon" again and again and again during the course of a day....even if you turn off your computer. it also means that the user once a voucher is used, doesn't have to keep it to remember the 16 character username/password combination.
Further more the "reception" in a hotspot can easily adapt the voucher to match the length of the stay of the user. This creates a situation where: once the user logged in - IT JUST WORKS.... the whole stay.
We hope you now understand what we mean with a "luxury", "best practice" kind of experience for the end-user.
Giving the user a luxurious experience doesn't mean that the security is any lower, we still help the hotel or conference to be compliant with the anti-terrorist legislation for European providers of telecommunications.
Perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of a hotspot system is the capacity to "survive" - that is - it must help the venue to generate sufficient funds to sustain the service. Again this may appear "obvious" but almost every other system on the market are still stuck in an "on/off" internet service type of thinking.
In more advanced networks service are sold with much more sophisticated models than "on/off". The reason why mobile phone operators have gazillions of different offers is that it enables them to maximise their revenue while still competing on the market and avoiding the "hyper" competition that exist in markets where offers are similar.
So the question we asked our selves was: How do you sell "more" and what is needed to achieve that?
The most successful way of increasing the revenue in a hotspot is to offer both "normal" and "professional" access and combine it with specific offers. Making this separation has two distinct advantages:
We have an article here about pricing strategies and how to leverage "scarce bandwidth" to your advantage while making sure that your service is perceived as "good".
This is where our service oriented provisioning outperforms the "old" way of doing it with profiles. In an AmazingPorts system you can create, maintain and cross sell any combination of services. Doing this with a profiles based system becomes extremely tedious when the number of different services surpass 5 and practically impossible if you wish to provide customised services for users (think what if i would sell access to "email" only).
It is not that AmazingPorts is diametrically different that makes us a "Rolls-Roy" of hotspot management systems. We believe it is the attention to details that matter for your user, for your revenue and for security that gives us the edge. What do you think?
You can download our software and get started here.
You can read more about pricing strategies here.
If you want to read more about how to set-up a public network or a hotspot - read our get started guide.
If you have any questions Contact us!
To understand our system better you read about our vision and goals