Review: Hot cloud-based tools for Wi-Fi hotspot management

Cucumber Tony, SputnikNet, Tanaza deliver management support for multi-vendor wireless networks.

Wi-Fi hardware vendors are coming out with new cloud-based solutions, primarily to ease the remote management of wireless networks. However, they typically only support their own hardware. Here we take a look at three cloud-based solutions that support wireless routers and access points from multiple vendors.

We reviewed Cucumber Tony, SputnikNet, and Tanaza. All are designed with public Wi-Fi hotspot operators in mind, enabling the remote management of basic wireless settings and captive portal configuration with customizable splash screens and hotspot authentication methods.

The pricing schemes vary, so the best bang for your buck depends upon your particular network. If you’re looking for a free solution, Cucumber Tony would be a great choice for smaller networks for both the private and public Wi-Fi.

If locations typically only need one wireless router to provide adequate Wi-Fi, then Tanaza’s per access-point pricing would be best. However, if your location needs three or more access points, SputnikNet would be more cost effective. If there’s more than a dozen or two access points in total, consider the premium services from Cucumber Tony.

Net results

  Cucumber Tony SputnikNet Tanaza
Starting Monthly Price $250 for up to 50,000 splash views $19.95 per router $9.50 per AP
Pros Free edition quite functional. Feature-rich and attractive GUI Supports hundreds of devices. Site survey helps identify any interference Great social login analysis and functionality. Help shortcuts through GUI
Cons Least amount of supported devices Can’t easily configure private wireless security or multiple SSIDs GUI could be improved

Here are the individual reviews:

Cucumber Tony

Cucumber Tony provides a free edition, supporting an unlimited amount of access points with up to 2,500 total splash page views per month and one admin account. Pricing starts at $250 per month, which supports up to 50,000 total splash page views per month, up to five admin accounts, plus some advanced analytics.

To utilize all the features of Cucumber Tony, you must flash a supported access point with their firmware, or purchase pre-flashed access points directly from their website. They support 21 access points from eight vendors, with the most access points from Open-Mesh and Ubiquiti. You can utilize the guest Wi-Fi features of Cucumber Tony on many other access points, like from Ruckus and Mikrotik, with their stock firmware by adjusting their RADIUS and captive portal settings. However, this won’t allow you to monitor and manage the access points wireless settings.

To evaluate Cucumber Tony, we flashed their firmware on an Ubiquiti UniFi UAP and UAP Pro. The process was identical to Tanaza, which consists of connecting the access points to a computer with a static IP one at a time and performing an upload via TFTP. Once the access points rebooted, we entered their media access control address into our Cucumber Tony account to add them to our test network.

If you visit the access point’s local web-based GUI using its IP address, you’ll see a login page along with some status details. You can login to configure the IP settings and perform troubleshooting for that particular access point.

After logging into to the Cucumber Tony cloud GUI, you see a network overview and list of network locations with stats. There’s also a graph that can show the number of devices connected and splash page stats over a period of time. The main menu is in the upper-right of the screen, including the alert button. You can click on the stats to view further related reports and settings that are throughout the GUI.

You can click on a network name to access that network’s settings, which displays a map of the access point locations and a menu of tabs on the left side of the screen. The Clients tab shows you a graph and list of users who have connected. The SSID tab lets you manage the SSIDs for that network. For private SSIDs, you can enable either the PSK or enterprise mode of WPA2 security, unlike either of the other solutions reviewed here.

The Zones tab allows you to create and manage different groups of access points within the same network. The Splash tab is where you can edit the optional splash page that can be shown to users upon connecting to an SSID. In addition to capturing the email addresses of users, you can implement the following authentication methods: password, vouchers, click-through, social, registration, and quick codes.

The Vouchers and Codes tabs allow you to create and manage access codes if you choose to limit access. The Events tab allows you to create automated tasks, such as rebooting the access points and enabling/disabling the Wi-Fi. The History tab shows you a log of what settings have been changed and by who. The Settings tab contains the main settings for that particular network, such as admin accounts and location details. The final tab of the network page is Boxes, which lists the access points for that particular network and their main details and stats.

When viewing the settings of a particular access point, you’ll see a couple tabs. The Details tab gives you an overview of the main stats. The Stats tab gives you a page of graphs showing real-time and average signal and SNR levels for both 2.4 and 5GHz. The Firewall tab allows you to open up ports. The Diagnostics tab lets you manually run tasks, the same task you can run automated on the Events tab from the network page. The Settings tab contains the general settings for that particular access point, including location, upgrade, and network settings.

The Reports button that’s always in the upper-right of the cloud GUI takes you to the reporting screen. There you can view and customize graphs and stats on the number of clients, sessions, splash page views, and social services for all or certain network locations. You can also view lists of online users, captured email addresses, guest logins, voucher codes, and orders. You may also end up going directly to one of these screens when clicking on a related stat from the main network overview page you first see when logging into the cloud GUI.

Throughout the cloud GUI there’s a question mark button in lower-right corner to access the help guides, online knowledgebase, online support chat, and service status. We found these to be helpful, but would be even better if all settings were thoroughly described for each page and tab of the GUI.

Overall, we found the Cucumber Tony (even the free edition) to be a feature-rich, attractive, and user-friendly solution for remotely managing both the public and private Wi-Fi access. Though it supports the least amount of routers/access points out of the solutions we reviewed, you still have more than 20 to choose from.


Sputnik provides a free limited service, called SputnikNet Express, but is no longer promoting it and is being discontinued in 2016. However, they also provide a demo server where you can temporarily manage a test device to get an idea of the functionality. To sign up for the SputnikNet service, there’s a one-time setup fee of $49.99 and then pricing starts at $19.95 per month or $199.50 per year for each standard Sputnik-powered device, which is generally just one device per local network: the router. There’s no additional fee for the management of additional devices acting only as wireless access points, whether wired into the network or wireless via WDS or mesh.

SputnikNet supports the most devices out of the solutions we reviewed, around 450 various models of wireless routers and access points, although the functionality offered by each can vary. They must be flashed with either the popular firmware replacement called DD-WRT or the firmware provided directly by Sputnik, which is simply DD-WRT with a couple optimizations to the default settings. Sputnik currently has one branded indoor/outdoor access points they sell for $79.95, which runs the Sputnik-Powered DD-WRT firmware. They also resell other third-party routers and access points with the firmware pre-flashed.

To test SputnikNet, we flashed a Linksys E2500 router with the Sputnik-Powered DD-WRT firmware. The process was easy; we could simply upload the firmware file via the factory web GUI. However, the process differs depending upon the particular device.

After connecting to the router, we’re presented with the initial SputnikNet setup page where we could enter our SputnikNet ID so the router could be automatically provisioned to our account. If you visit the device’s local web-based GUI using its IP address, you’ll see the standard DD-WRT web GUI where you can access and change all the settings for that particular device.

After logging into the SputnikNet cloud GUI, you’re taken to the Status page where you see a map with the router locations and a simple listing of stats. On the left of the screen, you find the main menu with shortcuts categorized. The next Page on the menu is Settings, where you can manage the main SputnikNet account and alert settings.

On the Routers page you can click a router name to manage it’s settings. There’s a two-row menu providing a tabbed interface. From the first tab, Status, you can click the sub-tabs of Router Info, Polices, and Alerts to see an overview of each. On the Settings tab, the first sub-tab is Profile that provides the main settings.

The Network & Wi-Fi sub-tab allows you to configure DHCP, DNS, and basic wireless settings. For DNS, you can conveniently enable content filtering by selecting Norton ConnectSafe or OpenDNS. For the Wi-Fi settings, you can configure the SSID, channel, TX Power, and client isolation.

You won’t see any settings for wireless security (such as WPA2-PSK) or multiple SSIDs like the other services we reviewed. Right now you’d have to either send commands via the cloud GUI to each device or login to each device’s web GUI individually. However, Sputnik says support for these and other features are coming to the cloud GUI before spring 2016.

On the Administration & Security sub-tab you can configure various settings, including the device’s admin password and remote access for it’s local web GUI. On the QoS sub-tab, you can set bandwidth limits and/or traffic priorities. On the Authentication and Policies sub-tab, you can assign that router additional router-specific user authentication schemes or Policies that it didn’t already inherit. The Advanced sub-tab, is for Session Queuing and is only available for Pro subscriptions.

The Execute Command tab from the top menu of the router settings, lets you send commands and scripts to the router. The Site Survey tab conveniently shows you signal info of any nearby wireless access points and connected clients to that particular router, allowing you to do some remote interference and connectivity troubleshooting. On the Graphs tab, you’ll find some graphs showing data on usage, performance, and content caching.

On the Portals page, you can manage or create the captive portals. There you can edit the internal splash page (although requires HTML code experience), configure walled gardens, apply user authentication schemes, create user surveys, and setup URL redirects.

On the Authentication page, you can manage how you want the hotspot users to authenticate. It supports a variety of methods, including via device MAC address, Facebook, guest, PayPal, prepaid, RADIUS, SMS, and username/password.

On the Polices page, you can manage the firewall rules. On the Media Page, you can upload images and code for branding the splash screens. On the CRM page, you can view the results of any user surveys you’ve created.

On the Clients and Sessions pages you can view the main details of current and past users and their connections. Under the Analytics category of the main menu, you can generate reports on the usage, surveys, and custom reports with the help from support.

We didn’t find any quick help shortcuts throughout the GUI particular settings, but there’s always a search field in the upper-right of the GUI to search the documentation. Tool tips or direct shortcuts to the documentation for settings throughout the GUI would be nice.

Overall, we found SputnikNet to be a solid choice for managing the public Wi-Fi access with plenty of hardware choices. Power users might enjoy all the bells and whistles of the DD-WRT firmware too. However, those wanting to manage private access as well would want to wait until after they add support for wireless security and multiple SSIDs.


Tanaza offers a 15-day free trial and then pricing starts at $9.50 per month for each access point, or $14 per month for each access point to include their social login features. They support 51 access points from nine vendors, with the most access points from Open-Mesh, TP-Link, and Ubiquiti. You can either flash these access points with the Tanaza firmware yourself or purchase pre-flashed access points directly from Tanaza.

To evaluate Tanaza, we flashed their firmware on an Ubiquiti UniFi UAP and UAP Pro. After figuring out what factory firmware version was running on the access points, the process consisted of connecting the access points to a computer with a static IP one at a time and performing an upload via TFTP. Once the access points rebooted, we entered their MAC address on our Tanaza Dashboard to add them to our test network.

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