C'mon now, do you really think you're in charge of your home network? Really? Not when you've got disobedient kids visiting Web sites you'd rather be off limits. Not when they're streaming videos on Netflix or YouTube when they should be doing their homework. And certainly not when they know more about tech than you do.
But it's not just about your brat's insubordination.
Did you ever stop to consider just how many devices in the house are arm-wrestling for bandwidth? Sure there's the obvious ones -- computers, tablets, smartphones. But then you also have media boxes and entertainment consoles, Apple TV, Chromecast, DVR, Roku, PlayStation and Xbox. It doesn't end there. You've got light switches and thermostats that connect to the Internet, and even own a bathroom scale that communicates via Wi-Fi.
All these devices periodically weigh on the Internet connection that you rely on to get work done, or to stream your own online entertainment without the hiccups that can spoil the fun. The burgeoning Internet of Things trend in which practically every household object or appliance is eventually going to want to exploit an online connection suggests network congestion will only get worse.
Skydog to the Rescue
When it comes to policing your family's cyberactivities or just taming your home network, the outlook appears bleak.
It need not be.
I've been testing a robust home-networking solution called Skydog from PowerCloud Systems, and while it won't solve all of your Internet or parenting concerns, it can help put the digital winds at your back. Yes, I've got a few reservations -- Skydog can be more intuitive to use, and it doesn't currently take advantage of the latest flavor of Wi-Fi, 802.11ac.
But I can also recommend Skydog to parents concerned about their youngsters' Internet usage, and really to anyone who wants to better manage the connected devices in their homes. You pay $149 for the router, which includes three years of service, after which Skydog will charge $30 a year.
On the surface, Skydog is just another geeky Gigabit Dual-Band Wi-Fi router, a small black box with blinking blue and amber lights. But Skydog combines that router with a customizable cloud-management service and Web-based app that really sets it apart. Colorful charts within the app give you a quick view into your home Internet activity. You can see which devices are hogging bandwidth and, having assigned devices to specific family members (or guests), see who is using those devices. (continued...)
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