Have you got too many gadgets? iPads? iPods? iPhones? iMacs? Tablets? Chrome? Phablets? Cameras? Spy devices? And along with routers, there are new passwords to think up because I can never quite get straight which one is for which in my notebook. Alter the router password and you have to change it on every other device that connects to it. Sometimes I felt like Alan Turing fiddling with his Enigma. And then, there it was at CES, the answer to my prayers and curses. Yeah, baby: Skydog!
PowerCloud Systems is a startup that spun out of Xerox’s famous Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), the research think-tank that more or less invented the personal computer. PCS (also out of Palo Alto, California) has answered my prayers. It’s gives you basic access, bandwidth alterations, and content blocking, and all for US$149 (which includes three years of subscription to Skydog’s Cloud Service). An unforgettable name to me, of course, because I actually remember seeing the Allman Brothers Band in 1970 and the beloved sizzling slide of Duane ‘Skydog’ Allman.
Better yet: It’s so brain-dead simple, even I can manage it. I just entered the information from my old router onto a Web form and registered my unit with Skydog’s Cloud Service. After that, I just click the ‘Make it happen!’ button to let Skydog pick a name and password for my network (or else choose one of my own). The router then did its brilliant thing, putting on a galvanized electric circus light show for seven minutes as it updated its firmware and searched for every device on my network.
Then, ready for the fray, it’s a matter of adding and subtracting users and assigning devices and priorities. I created a separate account for each member of my family, plus groups for all our connected entertainment devices like Roku, TiVo and Chromecast and other essential devices like the alarm, thermostat, night lighting and close-circuit cameras. If you can get it together to have a family meeting then you can create simple templates which assign priority bandwidth across the zones – for example, prioritizing a Skype phone call over a Youtube video – adjusting them on the fly using your smartphone, your sister’s iMac, or any other connected device. No matter where you are, at work, on vacation, whatever, you control your home network in real time!
Crypto-Fascist parent that I am, I don’t want my son surfing till 2 a.m. I have it shut down at midnight. We don’t fight much because he does well at school and, in general, gives me little or no grief. At any rate, I can pick and choose the rewards of bandwidth down to next to nothing should I be challenged. Skydog offers you the chance to create your own filtering screen or five filtering alternates for blocking content from gentle to heavy-duty extreme. Additionally, if you are one to avoid face-to-face confrontation and conflict, Skydog Smart Router can send an email or text message notification to any transgressing family member of your household when he or she hits a usage limit you set. It will also notify you your broadband service is down or if, say, an unexpected guest needs Internet access.
As a parent, I endeavor not to make ‘one size fits all’ lectures to other parents. Still, according to the Washington Post, the American Academy of Pediatrics says that children and teens should “engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day.” A study by McAfee found that parents feel increasingly out of control when it comes to their kids’ Internet usage. On average, kids spend an average of six hours online per day, and most parents aren’t happy about that. Four out of five parents say they do not know how to find out what their kids are doing online, In other words, you know if you need this product, or not!
$149 may sound expensive but the peace of mind which comes with having created your very own fire-walled zones that let you separate users within your home network – allowing you to put your home office in one zone, the family’s devices in another, and guest access well isolated in a third – means keeping private data private is well worth your money. The Skydog Content Access Control System also protects your home network from the most dangerous malware on the web like phishing, spyware and botnets automatically.