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UniFi External Portal Server – Build vs Buy

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The UniFi External Portal Server is an option currently available on the UniFi controller, where you can direct all guest traffic for external authentication. The primary use of the external portal server is to create customised captive portals for email data capture and social registration. The UniFi external portal server makes good use of the UniFi controller API.

What is the UniFi External Portal Server for?

So what exactly is the external portal server for? Currently UniFi provide functional guest authentication tools. From simple promotional URL redirects, to vouchers to taking payment in return for access, the UniFi Controller can handle most of the basic requirements of operating a WiFi hotspot for guests.The UniFi hotspot manager portal lets you manage all your guests/vouchers etc and keep track of what devices have been using your network. The UniFi Hotspot manager also allows guests to connect using their Facebook or Google accounts.

When you need something more

Sometimes you just need a little more and that is where the UniFi external portal server comes in. The same API’s that control the Hotspot manager are available on the external portal server option, and all of the basic functionality can be recreated if desired. This option gives you the opportunity to create your very own captive portal environment, where you can apply branding and styling to suit the venues requirements. This customisation will be required in enterprise deployments, where the basic UniFi hotspot functionality just will not suffice.

Social Registration Options

You can set up social registration in your custom external portal server, however there is some programming involved and you will need somebody with significant experience in php development. Consideration also needs to be given as to how and where the data is stored and structured. New GDPR legislation on data makes it even more important an issue as fines for breaching GDPR can be as high as 4% of annual revenue.

Resources

Developing your own custom portal server for UniFi does offer much more in terms of customisation, but is it always the best option? As always it depends on several factors. Do you have the resources to do it properly and maintain and upgrade it once it has been developed. Sometimes it is just best to purchase a native enterprise version that offer much more than the hotspot portal currently offered by Ubiquiti.

External Portal Server Build or Buy

Ubiquiti offer quite a lot through their external portal server API and with that the opportunity to create more value for clients. The build versus buy debate will always be relevant when it comes to software, however in this case where there are so many factors to consider it is probably best to buy an enterprise version of the external portal server if that is what you require. Or, you can always use the excellent free but limited Hotspot software that Ubiquiti provide as part of their UniFi controller

Peadar Gormley

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