Offering a wireless hotspot and internet access to guests can open up new avenues for a business. Regardless of whether it is a restaurant, café, or some other kind of business, customers are quite likely to stay longer, buy more items and also visit more frequently with the knowledge that they can enjoy free Wi-Fi connection there. Wi-Fi is a deciding factor when it comes to
Wi-Fi Can Boost Your Business
Wi-Fi is perfect for attracting prospective customers. Starbucks, McDonalds, or Buffalo Wild Wings, top businesses in the U.S, are beginning to realize the value of providing their customers with free Wi-Fi. If utilized properly, you will get the advantage of not just pleasing your customers, but earning loyalty and increasing revenues as well. Moreover, it:
- is a great way to collect customer feedback
- works as a perfect marketing ploy
- spreads the word about your business
Now, let’s have a look at the ways to set up a public Wi–Fi hotspot.
Don’t Use Open Networks
The simplest strategy to share internet connection with the world is through making your wireless network unsecured. This will allow other devices within the range to connect.
Using an unsecured Wi-Fi connection?
It has a number of perils. To start with, an unsecured Wi-Fi network lets in the unwanted users who can connect and use the internet. They might even get hold of the data on your computer by entering through the Wi-Fi connection.
Better Not to Sacrifice Privacy
If you are not using the Wi-Fi connections prudently, there’s a high chance that you are sacrificing your privacy. This is not even recommended for individuals, much less for businesses. Even if there are no shared resources, allowing the anonymous outsiders to connect with the primary network opportunes them to try out compromises and exploits.
Here’s a simple example.
Even if you only allow the trusted visitors into premises, you stand the risk of being hacked by someone standing right outside on the pavement.
It’s almost the same with the Wi-Fi networks as well.
As network traffic on open wireless networks is not encrypted, there are possibilities of getting your online activity intercepted as well as spied at real time. In case you own a business holding confidential information, you run the risk of getting sued for failure in customer data protection.
You can minimize the chances of trouble through usage of a firewall and filtering software. This will block the most popular modes of copyright infringement and potentially obscene content. However, even if you adopt this precaution, it is pretty hard to recommend running an open network.
Set up a Guest Network
A better way of sharing connection is through the creation of a guest network. This refers to setting up another wireless network that is separated from the main LAN. This approach, primarily used by bigger organizations, allows the visitors to access just the internet connection and nothing else. It’s supported by several routers designed for small business or home usage. In addition to the main wireless address, it is sometimes implemented by allowing to specify a secondary SSID.
As long as the resources on the primary network are isolated and well protected, this approach offers the would-be attackers little scope to harm business or compromise privacy.
You can use WPA2 encryption on the guest network. In this way, the opportunists will not even be able to connect. If you want to opt for this route, you can consider investing in a router that allows you to manage access. Some recent models include control apps for iOS and Android that grants guest access from tablets or smartphones.
Hotspot Equipment to Make a Provision for Better Features
Running a guest network is far from being the ideal way to share the connection with the wider world. The same contractual issues appear here, as was the case with the open network. Moreover, since there aren’t any real user management, in case you find yourself at the wrong end during a police investigation, it may be hard to bring the guilty party to the forefront. Depending upon the router, you may also lack several useful features in the guise of bandwidth control.
A Dedicated Hotspot for More Features
If you need more features than can be offered by a regular router, the best bet surely is a dedicated hotspot gateway for managing access to the connection. Purchasing or setting up wireless hardware specially designed to offer access has several advantages. The APs and traditional routers do not come with these features.
For example, you may ask the users to accept the Terms of Service before they begin accessing the internet. You may also need to impose bandwidth as well as time limits or charge for Wi-Fi access. For features like these, you will need to buy or set up additional hardware that is chiefly designed for Wi-Fi hotspots.
Upgrade Router with Third-party Firmware
If you are eager to handle the job all by yourself, you can upgrade a compatible wireless router with free third-party firmware. This will replace the software of the router and add a few features. If you are not comfortable to make the customizations, you can connect the router to a separate internet connection or a guest VLAN. This is possible only if the existing equipment supports it. You can also purchase and use the hotspot gateways. These are actually routers that are designed to offer hotspot access. And these include several hotspot features and functionality. Besides, they are chiefly used in bigger deployments like hotels.
Make sure to keep your private network alienated from the public network and encrypted with WPA2 security. If you want a simple public access, check out whether the current wireless router or the APs include a guest feature or support multiple VLANs or SSIDs for the business class products. If you are ready to take the challenge, you can also upgrade a wireless router with a third-party firmware to acquire hotspot features. Regardless of the hotspot set up adopted by your company, enable content filtering, so that the visitors do not end up surfing inappropriate websites.
Images: “The word Hotspot in magazine letters on a cork notice board. Hotspots are locations in the community that provide wireless internet access or wi-fi for mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones/Shutterstock.com“
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