Depending on the type of business you are in, a Wi-Fi hotspot for employee or customer use may be considered the industry standard. For other companies, providing a Wi-Fi hotspot could help to set you apart from your competitors by attracting a loyal customer base and a better talent pool of potential employees who appreciate the convenience that free Wi-Fi connection provides. If you’ve been considering how to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot for your small business, the process can be simple and effective if you take the time to plan effectively.
Determine Your Wi-Fi Hotspot Needs
Before looking into equipment and service plans, it’s important to consider who will be using the hotspot and how it will be used. For example, if you intend to allow your employees to use the hotspot to conduct official company business, there are security concerns that will need to be addressed to protect sensitive data. If your plan is to provide public Wi-Fi access to customers, take the time to consider how your client base is likely to use this perk. Customers who spend more time in your location may be more likely to stream data, requiring high speeds and significant bandwidth, while those who only intend to be there briefly will likely have less intensive needs. Once these questions are answered, you’ll have a better idea of your equipment and service needs.
Equipment and Service Plans
When choosing between equipment and service plan options, remember that a slow or spotty connection can sometimes be worse than not offering Wi-Fi at all. Customers who expect a positive connection can easily become frustrated if they experience lagging downloads and weak signals. If your business does not already have an internet connection available, you’ll need to invest in a quality modem and wireless router. The number of customers or employees you serve will dictate how powerful these items need to be. Some wireless routers are built to accommodate a large number of users and even have the capability of providing guest access for mobile devices both Android and iPhones, offering separation between your business and customer needs. This is advisable to keep your professional network security without sacrificing a quality experience for your patrons through your wireless network. If you spring for a high-end model, you may even enjoy additional features such as a Terms of Service Agreement for users, bandwidth management, and content filters to prevent access to unapproved sites.
Once you’ve decided on your hardware, your next step is choosing a service plan that covers your needs. You’ll need to decide whether to work with a local or national internet provider and will have to explain what you require. The IT consultants at the company you choose will be able to help you sift through their offerings to find a plan that fits your requirements and your budget.
Secure Your Wi-Fi Network
Although using the same network for employees and customers seems like a budget-friendly option, it definitely poses a significant security risk. There are a number of options to separate the two, but you should at least secure your professional ethernet network with WPA or WPA2 encryption in addition to setting up a guest network name for your clients. Setting up a separate Wi-Fi access point provides the most security, preventing paying customers from accessing sensitive business information. It’s also a good idea to have a wifi password for guests to use your Wi-Fi signal and consider only distributing this to those who are actively engaging in business with your company. This reduces the number of people on your private network and gives you greater control over who has access.
Work With IT Security Professionals
If setting your system up seems a bit advanced, there are IT professionals available who can help you optimize your available networks by pinpointing the best equipment for your needs and providing an installation that maximizes your signal. These professionals can often be found working for companies that sell the modems, broadband, and routers or may be available through the internet service provider you choose. Once your network is up and running, it’s also a good idea to have them configure and test your security features to ensure your business information is safe as you provide internet access. If weak points are found, they will have the knowledge to resolve the issue, getting you up and running in the safest way possible for your business and your customers.
Whether you choose to bring in a professional installer in your coffee shop business or set up your network on your own, setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot for your business offers benefits to your customers and can improve productivity by providing convenience to your staff. As long as you take the time to determine your needs and are willing to pay for the IT security features that protect your interests, creating a Wi-Fi hotspot for your business is a simple process that can provide a great return on your investment.