Over the past year I have been looking for a product for home that would work as a Firewall and a Content Filter with the ability to rate limit specific types of traffic. I have teenagers at home that I want to block and deter web content from. I finally found my solution in a Meraki MR12 wireless access point, it could be called a wireless router. I had looked into a lower end Palo Alto and a Cisco ASA, but the MR12 fulfilled my wireless needs and my security needs for less then $300. This price is a little high for home use, but well worth the piece of mind.
The Meraki MR12 was very easy to setup. I connected it to my DSL modem and powered it on. It provided me with an open SSID to get onto the Internet to configure the access point. If I wanted to, I could have had it all configured prior to cutting it out of the box. Before receiving the access point, I received an email with all of the information needed to get it configured.
The layer 3 firewall allowed me to block undesirable IP subnets from countrys with known hackers. If I were to download a virus and the virus tried to send data to those subnets, it would be blocked. It also allowed Layer 7 access control. In the Layer 7 area I was able to block applications by name instead of by IP or TCP/UDP port. This makes it very easy to block sites like Twitter or Facebook.
The main reason why I wanted this product was for the ability to rate limit applications. I have found that if a site is blocked, the teenagers get angry at me because it’s blocked. With the MR12, I can rate limit applications like Facebook down to 50kbps (lowest speed setting). Now when the teenager accesses Facebook, it’s not blocked, it still works, but works at the speed of dial up. When this happens, the teenager gets upset at Facebook instead of me. It’s very convincing to tell your teen that after school is a very busy time for Facebook and the servers are probably very busy. So far, this has worked well in my family.
The MR12 also comes with an Adult Content filter. The setting is simply a drop down box that states if you want it or not. This feature did work well and it does place a nice splash screen that simply says it’s been blocked. If you want more Content Filtering choices you can combine this feature with a service like OpenDNS.com. Open DNS is a content filter based off of DNS lookups. After you pay for their service (Last renewal for my home was $10 a year, Well worth it!!) you add their DNS Server IP’s in the MR12 and it will then force the clients to use the Open DNS servers for more granular content filter.
All Meraki devices are managed from the cloud at dashboard.meraki.com. This is really nice when you are at work and remember that you wanted to add or remove the rate limit on a specific application, or block or unblock. You could also administer one of these units for a family member and never have to worry about VPN access or remote desktop to their PC, you do everything from the website. It’s all very easy.
I have only touched on a few features here, but these were the key features that I wanted at my home. These Meraki products are Enterprise grade products and have their place in big business, but this MR12 fit well in my budget and my home. There are many more features and I will probably write about them in the future so stay tuned in to read more.
Have you used the Meraki products?
What do you think about them?
Are you willing to spend around $300 for these features to control your kids web access?