How can your guest Wi-Fi captive portal become the most powerful ally of your ZTNA strategy?

How can your guest Wi-Fi captive portal become the most powerful ally of your ZTNA strategy?

Understand all you need to know about the evolution of captive portal solutions to your future security-enriched cloud-based solutions

What is a Captive Portal?

To get online, everyone with a smartphone has at least connected once on a Wi-Fi captive portal. From the hotel lobby Wi-Fi, on a busy subway train, at the airport waiting for your flight, or while shopping at the supermarket, Wi-Fi captive portals are everywhere. They can either provide a great simple online experience or make it a painful experience for all kinds of reasons. More than 6 billion smartphones will be in circulation in 2023, with a penetration rate of 89% (source). Captive portal automates authentication, profiling, and smooth onboarding of user devices’ access to private and public networks. 

In our complex, connected, and regulated digital world, captive portals must respond to strict compliance challenges to comply with local regulations, strict data privacy management policies, and complex authentication and user identification requirements

In this post, you will learn the differences between the captive portal and its cloud-based version.

How does a cloud-based captive portal work?

To answer these challenges, sophisticated cloud-based captive portal solutions have now been developed to continue authenticating and identifying un-trusted devices connecting to the Wi-Fi, such as:

  • Guests
  • Employees
  • BYOD
  • IoT 

Cloud-based captive portals offer key unique features and advantages: 

  • No additional hardware to install
  • infrastructure hardware agnostic
  • Easy deployment and scalability from a central location instantly
  • One single entry point to the network
  • Simplifying remote network and security administration 
  • Personalized seamless experience
  • Cloud-based DHCP service to onboard and profile your IoTs

In short cloud-based captive portal will help you secure, authenticate, automate and simplify your overall guest network administration.

Here’s a simple cloud-based captive portal integration example:

cloud-based captive portal integration architecture
Cloud-based captive portal integration architecture

It’s as simple as any guest user connecting to the internet via an open SSID configured on your equipment, except there is no additional physical equipment to maintain on-site; everything will now be managed in the cloud! Users will be greeted with a splash page that redirects them to the portal if they are not authenticated. 

Cloud-based captive portals offer multiple authentication methods: Sponsorship, Email, SMS, QR Code, and Social networks… 

Once authenticated, users can seamlessly browse the internet with or without any restrictions depending on rules set by the central or local admin teams.

Unlike traditional captive portals, getting started with a cloud-captive Wi-Fi portal solution is simpler and does not require additional hardware therefore more scalable by adapting to your existing network infrastructure and cloud security solutions.

Three essential steps to set up your cloud-based captive portal: 

  • creating your captive portal
  • adding your location
  • configuring details to the legacy infrastructure

You can check the Cloud-Fi knowledge base article to understand how to get started with the cloud-based captive portal.

No additional hardware, fewer maintenance costs, and less hassle 

Unlike cloud-based solutions, a traditional captive portal solution implies dedicated resources to maintain the hardware. This also implies that the solution scalability is restricted due to the physical hardware constraints of how much space you have available for hardware. Cloud-based captive portal solutions can be deployed instantly and anywhere globally. You can scale it and pay as you grow while using your local internet breakouts more efficiently. Everything you need to do can be done directly from your online captive portal administration platform.

admin dashboard

Secure your network while complying with local data regulations (i.e., GDPR)

Hardware-based captive portal solutions must be controlled on the premises as opposed to cloud-based solutions. A cloud-based portal lets you manage all your locations and user policies from one central administration panel. In addition, verify the status of the portal at all times and even troubleshoot from any location.

The Cloudi-Fi captive portal can also work with a unique cloud-based DHCP solution that massively simplifies and streamline untrusted devices such as IoT, authentication, and administration. 

As for security, thanks to partnering with infrastructure and industry leaders, the administrators can decide to use their existing cloud-based security platform layer (such as Zscaler,  Palo Alto Networks, or Fortinet, for instance), enabling them to leverage enriched security functionalities such as cloud firewall and URL filtering to adjust the guest policy based on the user’s profile and the IoT policy based on their category’s profile 

To comply with local data protection regulations, Cloudi-Fi uses local data centers for device log storage, making the solution unique from a global compliance point of view and extremely easy to deploy for global multi-location organizations.

Furthermore, transparent data collection processes will provide users and administrators complete control over the information collected and shared. As legally required, all personal data are automatically encrypted.

Cloudi-Fi’s legal experts regularly review the rapidly evolving regulations across each continent, allowing businesses to carry out digital transformations without being dependent on complex local legal frameworks.

Native marketing automation feature 

Global brand marketers expressed the need for centrally managed marketing tools, delivering delegated administration capabilities required by global retail and hospitality Marketing teams to push and measure personalized campaigns triggered by fresh opt-in data. 

The admin UI contains all available portals with session lifetime, locations with sites overview, collected identities overview and management, personalized reporting, and more!

While guests, visitors, customers, and employees authenticate themselves on the Wi-Fi through the captive portal, digital marketing teams can easily create personalized campaigns and retarget that audience thanks to CRM integration such as Salesforce, Hubspot, or Pipedrive by using an API or even Zapier low code connector. Cloudi-Fi's solution uniquely manages to return visitors who can be greeted with a personalized landing page and offers improving user experience and conversion rates.

Cloudi-Fi cloud-based captive portal now provides a complete suite of solutions for marketing team challenges.

Hospitality, Transport, and Retail local and central marketing teams using the Cloudi-Fi cloud-based captive portal can now collect data and retarget locally opt-in audiences efficiently and compliantly anywhere in the world. The required data and demographics are collected at the sign-up page level, and the visitor is greeted with a welcome page featuring personalized offers.

Branded Wi-Fi captive portal on demand

cloudi-fi atos captive portal

Cloud-based captive portals are fully customizable to match and administrate multiple brand guidelines and adapt to local connectivity practices. You can either have your team design the portal or have the Cloudi-Fi Creative Lab team do it for you, so you maintain a consistent user experience for all your guests in all touch points.

Indeed, Cloudi-Fi solutions go far beyond a traditional Wi-Fi captive portal, offering a unique cloud-based DHCP service, which enables complex organizations to authenticate and secure their IoT devices. The solution supports the implementation of a ZTNA framework for all internet breakout points, minimizing the risk posed by non-trustable devices, such as IoT and BYOD devices. By providing a reliable and innovative approach to IoT authentication and security, Cloudi-Fi simplifies network administration for complex organizations.

We hope you have learned everything you need about captive portals in this article; for additional information, do not hesitate to click the links below.

Find everything you need to get started in the Cloudi-Fi knowledge base guide.

Full overview and demo link on the cloud-based captive portal page.

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