Offering access to a network can increase dwell-time, but there are some dos and don’ts, writes Nathan Hill-Haimes of Amvia
TODAY’S public are accustomed to having access to free wi-fi in almost every space in the country.
Public networks are a fantastic way to draw more people into your place of business, and once they’re in the door they’re more likely to stick around.
Setting up a public wi-fi network is more than just plugging in a router, however. There are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to setting up a secure wi-fi network:
Do make sure your network can handle the traffic.
Providing public broadband is about more than just handing out a password. To allow customers to make proper use of your network, you should ensure your business broadband is able to handle the potential traffic that it will see on a day-to-day basis.
Even a seemingly large data limit can easily be used up quickly if lots of people are logging on to your account freely, so it’s best to choose a package that offers an unlimited amount of data. For businesses with relatively small premises, a fibre optic connection should be enough.
Make sure your package offers very fast speeds, as a slow internet connection will frustrate customers and discourage them from using your service in the future.
For larger premises, a faster leased line or ethernet connection may be a better solution due to the fact there will likely be a high volume of people wanting to access the internet all at the same time.
Don’t give customers access to your team’s network.
By creating separate wi-fi accounts for your team and your customers, you can ensure a higher level of security for both parties. Each network can be allocated a certain amount of bandwidth in order to meet their demands; your team account shouldn’t need very much, while the guest account is likely to have much higher demands.
Allocating a larger bandwidth to your guest network provides visitors with a better, faster internet connection. By setting up a password on your guest network you can limit access to users that actually enter the premises.
Do consider creating a hotspot gateway.
Simply put, hotspot gateways require your guests to access your customer network via a virtual portal, providing a more secure wi-fi connection for both you and your guests. The gateway creates an additional barrier for cyber criminals while also allowing you to put firewalls in place across your network.
Guests will have to accept terms and conditions in order to access your hotspot gateway, and in turn this covers you with some legal protection whilst they are connected to your network.
One of the easiest ways to install a hotspot gateway is to purchase dedicated hardware; this can cost anywhere between £50 and £1000, depending on how many people you expect to be accessing your network at any one time, but will radically simplify the whole process for you.
Don’t forget about network security.
While separating your networks and putting gateways in place are all essential steps for securing your network, this won’t be enough alone to keep your business safe.
When making your wi-fi open access, you need to make doubly sure that you have the right security measures in place to protect yourself from cyber criminals.
WPA2 comes as standard with all modern routers and is the most up to date wi-fi security – just make sure it’s switched on!
It’s also good practice to take the precautionary steps of changing your passwords often, ensuring the router is located in a private location away from public access, adding additional firewalls, ensuring that the strength of the wi-fi covers only your premises and doesn’t leak into other locations and turning off WPS.
Hotspot gateways offer their own levels of protection, but each one is slightly different so follow the supplier’s advice on this.
Once you’ve made sure your network is up to a high level of security, you can start handing out the wi-fi password and take your customer satisfaction to new levels.
• Nathan Hill-Haimes is founder of data service provider Amvia.