Offering free Wi-Fi to customers - the dos and don'ts

By: Nathan Hill-Haimes

Date: 3 October 2018

Offering free Wi-Fi to customers - the dos and don'tsCustomers and clients have become accustomed to accessing free public Wi-Fi while visiting almost any place of business. Public networks are a brilliant way to attract people to your business, and once they're in the door they're more likely to stick around and start spending.

So what do you need to do to set up your own secure public Wi-Fi network? Here are my tips to guide you through the process.

DO ensure your broadband can handle the traffic

Making your broadband public is not as simple as just handing out a password. You need to ensure your business broadband package can handle the potential traffic on a day-to-day basis.

Even a generous sounding data limit is likely to be used up quickly if lots of people are logging on each day, so it's best to choose unlimited data. Ensure you also choose a package offering very fast speeds - a frustratingly slow internet connection will discourage customers from using your service in the future.

If you own relatively small premises, a fibre-optic connection should do the job. In larger premises you may find that a faster leased line or Ethernet connection is a better solution, due to the large volume of users.

DON'T let the public use the same network as your team

Make sure you set up a separate personal Wi-Fi network for you and your employees, and a 'guest' one for your customers, as this will ensure a higher level of security for both parties.

You can allocate a certain amount of bandwidth for each network; your personal network shouldn't need very much, whereas the guest one is likely to require much more. Allocating a larger bandwidth to the guest network creates a better, faster internet connection for them.

Set up a password on your guest network, so that only legitimate customers can access it - and keep your personal account protected with a second, non-public password.

DO consider offering a hotspot gateway

Hotspot gateways are a safer way still of offering public access to Wi-Fi, requiring your guests to access your customer network via a virtual portal. This gateway creates an additional barrier for cyber criminals, and is an opportunity for you to put firewalls in place.

The hotspot gateway requires guests to accept terms and conditions, and covers you with some legal protection while they are on your network.

The easiest way to install a hotspot gateway is to buy dedicated hardware, which costs between £50 and £1,000 and radically simplifies the process for you. The hardware you require depends on how many people you expect to be accessing your network at any one time.

DON'T neglect your network security

You may think that separating your networks and putting a gateway in place will secure your network against cyber attacks - but you would be wrong. With open access, you need to make doubly sure that you have the right security measures in place to protect yourself as much as possible from cyber criminals.

WPA2 is the most up to date Wi-Fi security, and comes as standard with all modern routers - just make sure this is switched on. You should also take other precautionary steps, such as:

  • regularly changing your passwords;
  • adding additional firewalls;
  • keeping the router completely private and away from public access;
  • ensuring that the strength of the Wi-Fi covers only your premises;
  • switching off WPS.

Hotspot gateways offer their own levels of protection, but each one is slightly different - so take the supplier's advice on this.

Once you have a good level of security on your Wi-Fi, you can start handing out the password and satisfying customers both new and old.

Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Nathan Hill-Haimes, founder of Amvia