|At a Glance|
|Summary||Free Wi-Fi mobility platform that lets you securely connect to your home network from anywhere|
• Easy to use
• No end device software needed
|Cons||• Can't reliably handle double NAT
• Throughput limited
Updated 9/2/2013 - Added throughput test information
Updated 8/28/2013 - Incorporated clarifications & corrections from Anyfi
This review is about a wireless software platform called Anyfi.net, developed by Swedish company Anyfi Networks AB. Anyfi.net, billed as "The Open Wi-Fi Mobility Platform," is software that can be integrated into wireless routers and access points that simplifies connecting to remote Wi-Fi networks.
Here's the concept. Let's say you've got Wi-Fi at home configured and running with your own SSID and password. However, when you take your Wi-Fi device (laptop, smartphone, tablet, ...) elsewhere, you have to connect to a different SSID and enter a new password to get on line. Imagine a world where when you leave home, you connect to Wi-Fi securely and automatically without having to enter new passwords! That's Anyfi.net's goal.
How does it work?
To start, you need Anyfi.net software loaded on your home wireless router or access point. At the end of this review, I'll discuss how you get Anyfi.net on a wireless router or access point.
As an end user with an Anyfi.net enabled wireless router or access point, you simply setup your Wi-Fi SSID and password as you normally would. You then connect your devices to your home network with your Wi-Fi password. You're now able to access your home network and surf the Internet over your home Wi-Fi as normal.
In the background, when an Anyfi.net enabled home wireless router or access point comes on line, it registers with Anyfi.net's Mobility Control Server, as depicted below. This is similar to VoIP technology where a VoIP device registers with a SIP server. The Anyfi.net registration message contains your wireless router or access point's IP address and your SSID.
Once your Wi-Fi device authenticates with your Anyfi.net-enabled home wireless router or access point, your wireless router or access point sends a message to the Anyfi.net Mobility Control Server, depicted below. This message binds the MAC address of your Wi-Fi device (laptop, smartphone, etc..) to the previously described registration record on the Mobility Control Server. At this point, you are connected to your home wireless network as expected and prepared to go to other Anyfi.net networks.
Now, let's say you visit a friend who is also using an Anyfi.net enabled wireless router or access point. Let's say you want to use your Wi-Fi device(s) at your friend's place. Normally, you'd have to ask your friend for their password to get on their Wi-Fi network. Not with Anyfi.net.
When your Wi-Fi device attempts to get on line, your friend's Anyfi.net wireless router or access point will see your device's MAC address and send a message to the Anyfi.net Mobility Control Server. The Mobility Control Server will reply to your friend's wireless router or access point with the IP address of your home Anyfi.net wireless router or access point and the SSID used by your home Anyfi.net wireless router or access point.
Your friend's wireless router or access point will then transmit your home SSID to only your device. At the same time, your friend's wireless router or access point will set up a secure tunnel (called a Wi-Fi tunnel) to your home wireless router or access point, depicted below. Your laptop, smartphone, or tablet will then authenticate against your home network, using whatever Wi-Fi security protocol you have configured and you'll be allowed to surf the Internet at your friend's house. Your passphrase or other credentials always stay where they are and encryption keys are derived only in your own device and in your own home router.
The end result is you're on line and can surf, you didn't have to enter a new password, and you have remote access to your home network. Further, your friend didn't have to give you her Wi-Fi password, thus maintaining network security.
A beauty of the Anyfi.net solution is that no software or configuration is required on your laptop, smartphone, tablet, or other Wi-Fi device. The Anyfi.net magic is entirely in the software loaded on the wireless routers and access points, along with the Anyfi.net Mobility Control Server. Thus, Anyfi.net can work automatically on Windows, Mac, Linux PCs; iPhones and iPads; Android smartphones and tablets and virtually any Wi-Fi enabled end device!
Anyfi.net sent three pre-configured Wi-Fi network devices with Anyfi.net software: a TP-Link TL-WR2543ND wireless router; Inteno VG50A wireless router and a Ubiquiti NanoStation loco access point. All three devices were preconfigured with different SSIDs and wireless passwords and all had Anyfi.net enabled. Anyfi.net gave me the Wi-Fi password for only the TP-Link, intending that I use the TP-Link as my home router. Thus, I used the Inteno and Ubiquiti for testing Anyfi.net remotely.
The only configuration option I could see for Anyfi.net in the TP-Link GUI was a check box to turn it on or off, shown below. Other than that, there were no configurable options or status screens. At minimum, I think Anyfi.net should add a screen to display the number of clients connected over an Anyfi.net tunnel, both on the remote and home wireless router or access point. Reports on number of clients and bandwidth utilization from Anyfi.net clients might also be useful.
Anyfi.net's website provides detailed documentation on the ins and outs of Anyfi.net's technology. This documentation not only describes the technology, but also provides guidance for vendors interested in integrating Anyfi.net software into their wireless routers or access points.