Bluesocket Wireless Gateways: Roles-Based Network Rules

When the subject of security comes up, the buzz in wireless networking circles is often tempered. In fact, one reason that all universities have not jumped wholeheartedly into the wireless world is that wireless transmissions have so many unique security issues. Intrepid students may install their own access points in order to connect their own wireless hardware. Hacking into confidential files is a risk. Bandwidth hogging is a factor as well; institutions have to ensure that students with their MP3 habits don’t gobble up bandwidth. Much secure networking, including virtual private networks and so-called secure roaming solutions, require that software be installed on every mobile device accessing the network. So, given that campus users are using everything from PDAs to laptop PCs to iBooks, it would be difficult to imagine any school IT team covering all the bases.

The problem is solvable, however. One solution is the wireless gateway from Bluesocket Inc. The company makes three products: a product designed for small offices (up to 15 people) and two enterprise-level gateways. The Bluesocket WG-1000 wireless gateway is appropriate for most higher education institutions. The company points out that it has more than four dozen higher education customers across the educational landscape, including liberal arts colleges, large state universities, medical schools, and community colleges. The company recognizes the value of the education market and courts it with enthusiasm.

So how d'es a wireless gateway work? A gateway acts like a security guard or a bouncer. Based on the user’s password, it evaluates who is attempting to access the wireless LAN and how they intend to use it. The gateway, relying on assigned roles and other instructions, permits or denies entry to the network. There is no need for client-side software; the browser-based gateway will do the job regardless of what type of wireless device the user has. Bluesocket’s gateway is also entirely agnostic to the type of access point or standard (WiFi or WiFi5) being used. It simply addresses traffic as it arrives. The roles-based management system lets administrators control what someone can access, when they can access it, and how much bandwidth they can use. So, high-bandwidth users (for instance a researcher using a lot of medical imaging technology) would be assigned more bandwidth than a student.

Bluesocket promises privacy on the wireless LAN. Using its gateway, institutions can terminate a VPN tunnel before it enters the secured network. This packet-level filtering supports a wide array of privacy and authentication schemes, including IPSec, 802.1x, other 802.11 extensions, PPTP, SSL, and others. The vendor agnostic software provides single points of entry and authentication for all members of the campus community.

Wireless done right can increase access to campus services and the Internet, powering a completely location-free educational experience. It may also offer some cost savings, although that hasn’t been proven in large installations. On a small-to-medium scale, especially where the campus has other barriers to wiring a network (historically important architecture, for instance), it may prove financially beneficial. A survey conducted by Buena Vista University concluded that the cost of wiring several dozen classrooms was five times the cost of setting up a wireless network. Wireless also connects faster than dial-up. In any case, it’s clearly imperative that the wireless LAN not put an undue burden on network administrators. Bluesocket’s gateway may be an important part of the solution.

For more information about Bluesocket, visit www.bluesocket.com or call (781) 328-0888 or (866) 633-3358.

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