Disclaimer: Develop CENTS has been hired by Torch to provide technical support to their customers over the next several weeks. However, this blog post is written independently of our arrangement with Torch.
Update: Unfortunately, as of spring of 2017, Torch is no longer in business.
You are a tired, burned out parent. You want your kids to have a good, fast internet connection at home. So you pay your monthly internet bill, hired the geek in your neighborhood to setup a wireless network for you, and your kids are learning new things, and playing educational games, online every day.
There’s an issue, though, and you’re worried. You don’t know the first thing about routers & firewalls, but you don’t want your kids to wind up on an inappropriate website. “If only there were something I could easily setup that doesn’t require a doctorate degree in Computer Science to figure out,” you muse to yourself.
Torch (https://mytorch.com/) is a new wireless router that is “made for families.” The device purports to “let parents pause the internet, set bedtimes, block out bad content, and see browsing history.”
The rest of this blog post will be a brief review of Torch’s features.
When you first receive your Torch and turn it on, a default SSID (wireless network name) will appear. You’ll connect your computer to that wireless network using the default wireless password printed in the small setup guide included with the Torch. But you must go through a setup process before Torch will let you browse the internet.
Unlike most routers, which have their own configuration webpage, a Torch router is configured through a special website that is hosted on Torch’s servers. Once configured, Torch’s servers automatically send the appropriate configuration back down to the router, and the settings are applied automatically.
The process guides parents through setting up an account on Torch’s servers, creating a new wireless network password, and creating a profile for the kids.
You can setup different profiles to block content, and place different devices (like a phone or computer) into a specific profile. Torch also comes with a default “Grownups” profile that doesn’t block anything. The different profiles can be setup to “turn off” internet at specific times and to block different types of content.
Torch’s method of configuring the router through a public-facing website (with a login) isn’t unique, but it is uncommon. It solves some very common security issues, such as forcing users to create a password for the router (by setting up a user account on Torch’s website), and by automatically keeping the router software up-to-date.
On the other hand, parents will need to make sure that they use a good password to setup their account on Torch’s website, and will need to trust that Torch’s systems are secure. There are a lot of security considerations that a company needs to keep in mind when maintaining an online user management system, and Torch will need to ensure they keep not only all of their customers’ routers up-to-date, but also their own website software.
Network administrators and IT consultants will probably want more features and more control over their own network.
On the other hand, Torch is great for a family that wants to easily block content based on a category (such as adult content), and it is also great for “turning off” the internet at a certain time. Due to its simplicity-first approach, non tech-savvy users needed these features will love it.