Offering consumers free Wi-Fi access can be a boon for almost any customer oriented business. If you operate a restaurant or cafe, customers are far more likely to stay longer, purchase more and return again, all because they know that a good Wi-Fi connection is available.
In a retail store setting, customers can comparison shop and solicit the opinions of others (which shoppers do love to do) while businesses can, with the right set up, discreetly suggest purchases and even offer on the spot the discounts, often resulting in the kind of ‘impulse buys’ retailers love. And for a hotel, motel or guest house free Wi-Fi is something that travelers actively seek out and is often a deciding factor when they are choosing where to stay.
Doing Free Wi-Fi the Right Way
You may think, especially if you run a smaller business, that the easiest way to set up a free Wi-Fi network is to simply allow access to your existing business set up. But while that is a possibility, it’s a terrible idea that could have some very negative consequences.
Not only should your customer access be completely separate (more about that in a moment) you should actually beef up security on your day to day business network as well. Allowing outsiders to access it immediately opens you up to hackers and spammers, so implementing a minimum of WPA2-Personal security a must and for businesses expecting more than a handful of Wi-Fi seeking customers a day WPA2-Enterprise security is a must.
Can You Use Your Existing Equipment?
That depends upon how sophisticated your current set up is. If a small business is making use of a standard, bought from Best Buy router the answer is probably no. Some routers designed for small office specifically do include a guest feature. This, when set up, offers a new network name (technically known as an SSID) that is displayed to customers to connect to that can be ‘separated’ from the main business SSID. However, such things are not very hard to hack by someone who really knows what they are doing, and there are more of those folk around than you might imagine. Therefore you may want to look into upgrading your equipment.
The Advantages of Setting Up a Dedicated Hotspot
Purchasing and installing wireless hardware that is specifically designed for offering Wi-Fi hotspot access provides some useful features that most traditional routers lack. For example, for legal purposes you may want to require users to accept Terms of Service before accessing the Internet (many businesses quite wisely do).
You may also want to impose time and bandwidth limits, and to get features like these – and a better level of security – you’ll probably need to opt for hardware specifically designed for Wi-Fi hotspots. Finally, it’s a sensible move to enable some form of content filtering to prevent visitors from using your connection to access inappropriate websites, something else that dedicated equipment does better.
Consider Going Pro
If you have a dedicated IT department they can, of course, set all of this up for you. But most small businesses, especially restaurant and retail concerns, do not. They rely on a daily basis on telephone and online tech support and that one employee who ‘knows quite a lot about computers’. In this case however, rather than trying to ‘DIY’ your way to offering free Wi-Fi, call in the professionals to give you a hand. They’ll not only get the job done the right way but they can help you configure things perfectly to suit your unique needs.
Don’t hesitate to give us a call at 800-730-3468 for immediate tech support.