05 Nov 2013

Should Your Business Offer Guest Wi-Fi Connectivity?

If you’ve ever taken your laptop to Starbucks to do a little work before, you know how convenient and nice it is to be able to make use of Wi-Fi to boost your productivity. For what amounts to a small additional investment in IT, businesses are able to better engage with almost all of their customers (after all, who doesn’t have devices that use Wi-Fi when they’re out and about?). But offering Wi-Fi access in your business is something that takes careful planning. Wi-Fi networking allows your users to work from any location within reach of a Wi-Fi signal. While this is great for productivity, it can also open you up to potential security issues if you allow outsides to access your Wi-Fi connection without protecting your information. So if you allow business customers to utilise your company’s Wi-Fi connection while you’re in the office, you’ll want to set up a Guest Wi-Fi Network. A guest Wi-Fi network is a portion of your company’s wireless network that’s set up for use by temporary visitors. Within this sub-network, your guests enjoy full internet connectivity without being able to access your internal network information, including your intranet. You isolate and protect your confidential company information while still providing your corporate guests access to the internet during the time they are on your business premises. Not only are you protecting confidential company information from prying eyes, you’re also protecting your entire network from potential infection by viruses or malware that your visitors may be harbouring on their devices. Keep in mind that there is no rule that you must offer visitors access to your Wi-Fi. It’s simply a nice gesture upon your part, particularly if you have customers or business partners who bring their devices into your business with the expectation they will be able to access the internet. Setting up guest Wi-Fi access makes your business friendlier to guests and visitors and demonstrates that your business is serious about IT security. While setting up a secure and reliable Wi-Fi service doesn’t rank that highly on the list of great IT challenges, for some businesses with busy IT staff (or no IT staff at all), it is potentially a hassle. Speak to your service provider about a Managed Wi-Fi solution that can provide you with the following benefits:

● Easy Set Up

A good managed services provider will send a preconfigured Access Point to your business. You just need to plug it into your cable modem, DSL, or Ethernet connection, and you’re away.

● Easy Management

A web-based portal allows you to set your configuration options and have those implemented immediately. It’s possible to set up timed connections, bandwidth-limited connections, serve ads, or set up a credit card portal. You’ll be able to customise your Wi-Fi service to suit your target users, and support is a simple phone call away if something isn’t working the way it should by default.

● Easy Security

With any commercial Wi-Fi network, it’s critical to keep the security patches up to date, but it is all-too-easy for a business to forget to monitor the network, and as Murphy’s Law states, that’s when things will go very wrong and suddenly your IT is compromised. A service provider will handle that side of things for you, and in fact it can be written into the service level agreement (SLA), to put the responsibility for security completely back on the provider.

● Easy Branding

Commercial organisations can easily use the Wi-Fi network to deliver coupons and advertising, and the investment will then pay for itself. Further, a service provider can offer in-depth analytics and insights into your customers based on their use of the Wi-Fi that would otherwise take a great deal of work to manage in-house.