Setting up a Public Wi-Fi Network – The Essential Dos and Don’ts

Public Wi-Fi networks are a fantastic resource for both consumers and businesses. They are a perfect way to draw more people into the business premises, and once they’re through the door they’re more likely to stick around if they have a good connection. However, setting up a public Wi-Fi network for your own business requires more than just switching on a router. Here, Amvia founder Nathan Hill-Haimes guides you through the process of creating a secure, stable and beneficial Wi-Fi network for your business.

DO ensure your network can manage the traffic

If you plan to simply hand out your password to anyone that enters your premises, then you’re sure to run into problems. In order for customers to make proper use of your network, you should ensure that your business broadband package is able to handle the amount of potential traffic that it will encounter every day. Even what sounds like large data limit may be used up quickly if there are lots of people logging on to your network freely – it’s therefore best to choose a package that provides you with an unlimited amount of data. For businesses with smaller premises, a fibre optic connection should be enough.

It’s recommended that you choose a package that offers very fast internet speeds, as a slow connection will leave customers frustrated and unlikely to use your service again in the future. For businesses with bigger premises, a faster leased line or Ethernet connection may be the best option as there will likely be a high volume of people trying to access the internet all at the same time.

DON’T put your customers and your team on the same network

Creating separate Wi-Fi networks for your team and your customers helps to ensure a higher level of security for both parties. It’s likely that each department will have different demands, but by creating separate networks you can allocate a bandwidth amounts as required; your team account shouldn’t need too much bandwidth, while the guest account may have much higher demands. Allocating more bandwidth to your guest network means your visitors get a stronger, faster and smoother internet connection. Setting up a password on your guest network allows you to limit access to only users that actually enter the premises, and not other users in the nearby area.

DO create a hotspot gateway

Hotspot gateways are a way of restricting Wi-Fi access by requiring your guests to access the network via a virtual portal – this means a more secure Wi-Fi connection for both your business and your guests. Hotspot gateways add an additional barrier to your network, making it more difficult for cybercriminals to get through, while also allowing you to put additional firewalls in place across your network. In order to access your network, guests have to accept terms and conditions – in turn this provides you with some legal protection whilst they are on your network.

One of most simple ways that you can install a hotspot gateway is by purchasing dedicated hardware; this costs anywhere between £50 and £1,000 and the price tag will depend on how much traffic you would expect to have on your network at any one time. It may seem like a costly expense, but it will radically simplify the whole gateway process for you.

DON’T go easy on network security

Adding gateways and separating your networks are all essential steps for making sure your business and data stays safe, but this alone won’t be enough alone to ensure you are fully secure. With an open-access Wi-Fi network, you must make doubly sure that the right security measures have been put in place to protect your business from cyber criminals. WPA2 is the standard security protection for all modern routers and offers the most up to date Wi-Fi security – just make sure you have it switched on! It’s also good practice to take additional precautionary steps including regularly changing your passwords, keeping the router in a private location away locked away from public access so that it can’t be tampered with, introducing additional firewalls, ensuring that the strength of the Wi-Fi covers just your premises and does not leak into other locations and turning off WPS.

Hotspot gateways offer their own levels of protection but each one is slightly different to the next, so it’s worth following the supplier’s advice on this. You should also regularly check that your security software is up-to-date and running properly, otherwise you could be unwittingly leaving yourself open to the latest hacking techniques. Once you have taken the steps to get your network up to a high level of security, you can begin handing out the Wi-Fi password and drawing in a whole new customer base.

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