Sunday, February 14, 2010
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Nancy asked me about the iBoss Router. iBoss is a router for your home that filters and monitors the internet on every computer that connects to the internet through it. I was intrigued so I decided to get my hands on one and try it out. After two weeks of working with it, I feel a little more confident to write a review.
The first thing I have to say about it is, while it works well and does a good job, if you have or plan on getting Windows 7 on your computers at home, then you may not need iBoss. iBoss costs only $40 to buy and then another $60 per year and while it does do several things that Windows 7 can't do, I personally wouldn't pay the extra money. BUT then again, I am technically saavy and can tweak my computer and internet settings on a regular basis to make sure they're safe.
iBoss is basically a plain old wireless router like Linksys or NetGear would make. Most wireless routers have parental controls built into their software but iBoss is better in two ways: 1. It is easier to setup and configure than most routers and 2. It offers many more options for filtering and monitoring content. Setup took about 15 minutes and was pretty intuitive. Unlike most routers, iBoss connects through the web to the manufacturers website to get definition and configuration updates on a regular basis. That means that the filtering capabilities will stay up to date, unlike a typical router which receives no such parental control updates.
iBoss lets you control every computer in your house that connects to the internet, provided they connect via the iBoss. You can configure each computer individually or use a preset level of protection for any and all computers. That means when someone brings a laptop or mobile device into the house, it will be filtered as soon as it connects to the internet (that, I liked). Many area high schools require students to have laptops and if your kid's buddy brings his/her computer over to the house, its internet connection will be filtered as soon as it comes online.
iBoss also gives you more options for filtering content than Windows 7. iBoss uses the same technology/software as most schools to filter content so it is fairly reliable. I could configure not only the type of content I wanted filtered from each computer, but I could also add specific websites to my "blocked" list. I could also set certain times of day that I didn't want computers to access the internet. So if my kids were home for an hour or so before either parent, then I could block the internet during that time. Windows 7 allows this as well but it was nice to have all the features rolled into one package.
As a parental control device, I was impressed with iBoss but as a general wireless router, I was a little let down by it. It was slow, especially when multiple computers were connected. I tested 4 consecutive connections and it definitely had noticeable performance issues when all 4 were accessing the internet. It also had a more limited range than a typical router. I can put my Linksys wireless router in my basement and still access the internet on the second floor with no problem. The iBoss didn't have such a range. If you need three stories of coverage, it's not going to cut it. At best you'll get two floors out of it. It also did not work well with mobile devices like the iPhone or iPod Touch that use wireless to connect to the internet. It still filtered the content that these units received but the pages didn't render correctly and sometimes not at all. It was definitely frustrating trying to browse the web with a mobile device using the iBoss.
So what is my advice? It's definitely a good unit. It does its job well and is easy to use. As long as you can deal with speed, coverage, and mobile device limitations, it's worthwhile. I personally wouldn't buy it but I can do the work to get the same results without it. However, most parents may not be able to roll up their sleeves and work with each computer to set the parental control options. OR, you may not want to mess with configuring 4 machines individually and enjoy the convenience of a single interface to control all content in your house.
So Nancy, I think you bought a good product and it was worth the money. But the techy geek population may be let down by it's limitations.
Here is a link to a review on Cnet: http://reviews.cnet.com/routers/iboss-home-parental-control/4505-3319_7-33669195.html#cnetReview.
And here is a link to the iBoss website: http://residential.iphantom.com/