Basic Steps of Setting Up a RADIUS Server
Before you dive headfirst into installing and configuring, you should review the overall steps to setting up your WPA-Enterprise network using an 802.1x RADIUS server:
- Choose and download the server software: Youll need to choose which server you want to use and download the software from the vendors Web site. The Elektron, Evolynx, and ClearBox servers all offer 30-day fully functional free trials. This is great if you want to compare products or if you arent sure you want to make the financial investment of hundreds of dollars. If you are comfortable working within the Linux platform and have more time on your hands than money, you could consider using the open source FreeRADIUS server.
- Prepare your server PC: First youll have to prepare the computer on which you want to install the server software, which well discuss further in the next section.
- Install the server software: During the initial installation of the server software, through setup wizards, or by manually configuring settings through the admin utility, youll need to perform these general tasks:
- Install a digital certificate: If you arent purchasing a certificate through a third-party CA, this involves using a wizard that comes with the RADIUS server to generate a self-signed certificate. Then you would add the certificate to the RADIUS server, if it isnt already done automatically. Next you would export the certificate to a file and install it onto each computer thats going to be connecting to your wireless network.
- Input RADIUS client (AP) details: Youll need to create a RADIUS client entry for each wireless router or AP on your wireless network. The two main attributes are the IP address of the router or AP and a password, called the Shared Secret, for the particular device. For optimum security, use a long password with mixed case and character types; just dont forget it, as youll have to input this password into the particular router or AP.
- Set up an authentication realm or domain: This is a setting on the server that tells it how to handle the authentication process. For example, it tells the server what database to authenticate users against. For small networks, the most youll likely have to do is edit the default realm or domain to check against the servers built-in or default database.
- Add users to the database: If you dont already have a database containing your user information, such as Active Directory, youll probably need to populate the servers built-in or default database with usernames and passwords.
- Setup your wireless router and/or APs: After you have your RADIUS server all set up, you can configure your wireless router and/or APs with the WPA-Enterprise encryption method. Youll likely only need to input two pieces of information into the Web-based configuration utility of each AP: the IP address of the device and the password or Shared Secret you inputted into the server for the device.
- Configure your computers: Lastly, you would set up your computers with the appropriate settings for WPA-Enterprise encryption, according to the settings youve specified when setting up your RADIUS server. If you are going the self-signed route for your digital certificates, you must install the certificate on all your computers, if you havent already. Otherwise configuring your computers wont require more than a little fiddling around with the settings for the preferred network entry in Windows.
Thats it in a nutshell; now well go step-by-step through the process.
Preparing Your Server PC
The server PC will need to be hooked directly into the network via an Ethernet cable rather than wirelessly. In addition, the PC should have a static IP address as opposed to having an address assigned automatically to it by using DHCP. This is because youre going to be inputting the IP address of the server PC into your wireless router and/or access points (APs), thus it needs to remain the same. You can either assign a static IP address to your computer in Windows (on the TCP/IP Properties window of your network connection) or use a DHCP reservation feature on your router to ensure your server PC always receives the same IP address.
Stay tunedthe next installments will take you through the remaining steps to get a RADIUS server installed and WPA-Enterprise security running on your Wi-Fi network.
Eric Geier is the Founder and President of Sky-Nets, Ltd., a Wi-Fi hotspot network. He is also the author of many networking and computing books, including Home Networking All-in-One Desk Reference For Dummies (Wiley 2008) and 100 Things You Need to Know about Microsoft® Windows Vista (Que 2007).
Adapted from Wi-FiPlanet.com.
|Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!|