The Risks And Benefits Of A Guest WiFi Connection

Ron Cochran is Help Desk supervisor for Tech Experts.

In today’s day and age, everyone wants or needs to be connected to the Internet. Whether a person is at your place of business for a teeth whitening session or eating their favorite club sandwich, the need to be connected is ever present. Here is where innovative thinking comes into play.

Giving your customers or clients a WiFi connection can increase satisfaction. It can be aggravating to wait around because the doctor is running late, the repair is taking longer than expected, or any other unexpected inconvenience that eats into your personal time.

However, if they can work, surf the Internet, poke around on Facebook, or catch up on their favorite TV shows, they’ll be less likely to track the passage of time or complain about the wait.

By offering your visitors WiFi, you can also gather data about them. If you require customers to sign in via a social media service to access your WiFi, you can get customer information that will allow you to interact with them and promote your business.

Setting up a WiFi connection doesn’t mean that the users have access to your company’s main network. You can keep all of your business data safe and secure.

First, you’ll want a separate router or WAP so that you can isolate their connections from your business network.

While setting up Internet for your customers might seem like a breeze, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks. Sometimes, customers may abuse public WiFi and use it to download inappropriate images or pirated software and media. This will slow down your Internet and network connection.

Fortunately, these issues and concerns can be addressed if you use the right kind of hardware-software combination and you have a knowledgeable IT company set it up for you.

The cost of setting up a guest WiFi connection doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either.  Another plus to offering free WiFi to your customers is that it costs almost nothing to supply it. You’ll want to have an additional router to keep customer WiFi separate from your business Internet to prevent any security issues, but a $50 router will easily allow you to provide customer connectivity.

Depending on customer usage, you may need to increase bandwidth or add a separate Internet account, but you can address that when the need arises.

Now that you’re getting ready to offer free WiFi to your customers, you need to consider how much bandwidth you’ll need. Bandwidth determines the speed of the Internet, so it is important to have enough of it for customers to be able to browse without frustration.

Offering free WiFi is great, but it means nothing if the connection is too slow to be useful.

You can also control the speed of their connection which will also keep your Internet connection from becoming slow. I would plan on giving each user 1.5 megabits of speed.

You can also limit usage to a certain radius, restrict the times of day it’s available, and limit their time on it to a certain number of minutes before they have to reconnect.

Overall, the thought of offering a WiFi connection at your place of business is an easy, cheap investment to stay up on the changing times. Just remember to keep the client/customer connections separate from your business network, lock down the security, and restrict bandwidth hogging applications — and you’ll be right on track.

Which Is Better – Ethernet Or Wi-Fi?

Luke Gruden is a help desk technician for Tech Experts.

To physically plug in your computer to the Internet or to use the air waves to connect to the net — more popularly recognized as Wi-Fi — is a good question to ask with many good answers, but it comes down to what you need out of your Internet connection.

An Ethernet connection is a wired connection from one network device (like your computer) to another network device. This wired connection is usually made of copper with some form of shielding.

Some Ethernet wires are even designed to take harsh weather conditions. Ethernet connections come in many different sizes and can be cut and made into any length you want, with 329 feet usually being the limit of a single long Ethernet cord.

A Wi-Fi connection is where one network device connects with another network device by sending wireless signals.

The distance that a Wi-Fi signal can travel is based on the strength of the signal, type of signal, and the objects and walls between both Wi-Fi devices. There are different type of wireless signals like N signal, G signals, and AC signals which can have a large impact on distance and quality of signal.

The benefits of using Wi-Fi are that you don’t have wires restricting where you can place your computer. This is especially useful if you need to move to different locations in a home or office without losing your Internet connection.

Wi-Fi is easy to share with others as you don’t need an Ethernet cord for each device that wants access. Your router can still have a limit of how many connections can connect, however.

The disadvantages of using Wi-Fi are that it can be very unsecure and have performance issues with maintaining speed or connections.

Public Wi-Fi connections can be compromised or falsified, causing everyone using the signal to have their data stolen. I avoid using public Wi-Fi signals as it can cost me all my credentials for websites I use. The benefits of using an Ethernet connection is that it is the most consistent and fastest connection you can have with another network device, providing consistent speed.

Ethernet connections are physical and can easily keep track of who is connected to the network and where. Ethernet speeds do not slow down with distance or obstacles. If you can plug an Ethernet cord in, the speed difference between a long cord and a small cord is negligible.

The disadvantages of using Ethernet cords is that if the cord is cut or damage, you most likely need to replace the whole Ethernet wire.

It can be tricky to conceal Ethernet wiring and require holes to be drilled throughout the building. You usually cannot move Ethernet wires along with you if you are using a laptop.

What it really comes down to between using Wi-Fi and Ethernet is if you favor security and speed or if you favor convenience and sharing.

If you need a secure environment with fast Internet speeds, you want to use a wired gigabit Ethernet connection.

If you need many strangers, family, or friends to connect easily and you need access in many rooms without hassle, you want to use a Wi-Fi connection.

Choose what is best for your business or home; if you have any questions, reach us at (734) 457-5000 and we can help you narrow down your choices.

Why It’s Important To Change Your Router’s Default Log-in

Mike Simonelli is a network technician for Tech Experts.

It’s a pretty common scenario: a small business wishes to add Wi-Fi to its existing network infrastructure. A quick trip to the nearest big-box store reveals several Wi-Fi capable routers or access points to choose from. Grabbing up the mid-priced model, the business owner heads back to the shop and uses the included Ethernet cable to plug the new device into an existing switch and, just like that, instant Wi-Fi.

There are a couple of concerns regarding the above scenario that the savvy business owner should be having. The first and most obvious: “I plugged it in and now everyone with a laptop has unrestricted access to my network.” How do you control who can connect to your Wi-Fi?

The answer is to enable a wireless security protocol on the router or access point. WEP is an acronym for Wired Equivalent Privacy (or Wireless Encryption Protocol) and it was designed to provide the same level of security as that of a hard-wired Ethernet connection.

Because wireless networks broadcast messages using radio waves, they are subject to eavesdropping. WEP provides security by encrypting the data to protect it as it is transmitted from one point to another. Almost all wireless devices will support WEP and instructions for enabling it on a particular device should be readily found in the documentation.

Enabling WEP will keep people without the correct password off your Wi-Fi and also prevent unauthorized eavesdropping of network traffic.

Another often overlooked concern is changing the default credentials that are needed to login and administer the new wireless device.

I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve connected to a wireless network and browsed to the default gateway I was assigned (normally something like http://192.168.0.1) and typed in “admin” and “password” on the login form that is presented and gained access to the router’s configuration.

The username “Admin” and the password “password” are typically the default credentials as they come pre-configured on Linksys routers, as well as some other brands.

If these credentials work, then potentially anyone can have unrestricted access to your router’s configuration. At this point, no wireless security protocol such as WEP will protect you since it can simply be turned off in the router’s administration interface.

Worse yet, an intruder can set his/her own password and change the admin password to something else. Once this happens, usually the only way to regain access to your own Wi-Fi network is to factory reset the device, which removes all of your configurations.

The bottom line – never leave a wireless device at its default settings when you connect it to your network. By taking the time to follow these simple guidelines, you will make your wireless device a worthwhile addition to your infrastructure, as well as making your network that much more secure.

If you have any questions during your router set-up or if you’d like to find out how to increase your office’s security using your current router, give Tech Experts a call at (734) 457-5000, or email support@mytechexperts.com. We’d be happy to help.

Guest WiFi: Improves Security And Customer Satisfaction

Mike Simonelli is a network technician for Tech Experts.

One of the first things I look for when I enter any establishment is the WiFi network. My laptop needs it. My phone needs it. I need it. It comes as a shock to me in the rare circumstance that I can’t find one or, worse yet, when I do find one but I am denied the network password.

Usually when this happens, I am there as a consumer. This annoyance is even more frustrating for people that are visiting for business such as vendors, consultants, and clientele.

Such people rely on Internet access to communicate with their own offices via e-mail and instant messaging or remote access to product databases and other information.

These frustrations can be avoided by the addition of a guest WiFi network and can even benefit your own existing WiFi network. Adding a guest network to an existing WiFi infrastructure can be a cost effective way to improve the overall security and privacy of your network.

wifiSegregating your network will keep your workstations, servers, printers, and other network devices secure while keeping your clients, vendors, and other guests off your main network. Allowing visitors unrestricted access to your company’s primary WiFi network can be a costly mistake. These unmanaged mobile devices can carry all types of sophisticated malware, trojans, viruses, and network probes, just waiting for a chance to attack your network.

Keeping these devices segregated to their own guest network will, at the least, add a layer of protection to your own equipment.

Not only will a guest network keep visitors off your primary WiFi, but it will also keep you from having to give out your primary network’s password to a multitude of strangers. A complex, never changing password can be used for your employees, while a short and simple password can be given out to guests upon arrival, and then changed frequently.

In addition, you can configure your equipment to only broadcast the network ID of your guest network and keep your primary network ID a secret, adding an additional layer of security.

Finally, some of the higher-end WiFi access points and routers will allow you to limit the amount of bandwidth that is allocated to your guest network or control the type of traffic that is allowed to pass through it. Doing so will prevent your visitors from inadvertently bringing your network to a halt with bandwidth-hogging traffic such as streaming video and torrent downloads.

If your business is already allowing visitors access to the primary WiFi network, then there is simply no downside to configuring a second WiFi network for guests, especially if your wireless hardware already supports the option.

Doing so will make your network more secure by allowing you to keep the network IDs and passwords a secret, as well as make it easier for your visitors to connect. Once connected, your guests can then be limited as to how much of your resources they can use, ensuring that your normal business operations aren’t interrupted.

If you have any questions about WiFi permissions or how you can increase both security and customer satisfaction in one go, contact us today by calling (734) 457-5000.

(Image Source: iCLIPART)

Is Someone Using Your WiFi? Here’s How To Find Out

There’s no doubt about the convenience of using wireless in your home or office. However, you don’t want just anybody hopping on your WiFi, using your network, and breaching its security. Having a unique password doesn’t mean you are immune to this problem.

If you ever notice that your connection is much slower than usual, it’s worth taking a peek at just how many devices are connected to your wireless network.

You can download and install a program aptly called “Who Is on Your WiFi” to know if there are other people connected to your hot spot who should not be. The free version is sufficient to detect intruders, but there are also paid versions with extra features like text notifications, audit logs, etc.

Once you install the application, all you have to do is follow the tutorial to run a scan of your network and review information about devices that are linked to your connection.

Initially, you may not recognize which MAC and IP addresses correspond with which device, but there’s an easy way to identify them. Turn off all of your devices, then turn them on one by one. If you only have one known device connected to your WiFi, and the “Who Is on Your WiFi” application is showing more than that device, it’s a safe bet someone is sharing your Internet connection. Take the appropriate measure of immediately changing your wireless password and only share it with family or designated individuals you want to have it.

For future scans, you can label each of your devices as something easily recognizable, such as My Phone or Dad’s Laptop, to facilitate the identification of intruders.

Wireless Fidelity Expands Its Broadcast

Every day, technology advancements are changing the way we live our lives.

From the way we communicate with family, friends and co-workers to the way we shop, provide healthcare, and even land that dream job.

Now, thanks to advancements in the standard known as “WiFi” or wireless fidelity, we can now add the way we watch television to that list.

A recent study shows that by the end of 2011, more than 20 million television sets equipped with WiFi connectivity will have been shipped worldwide to mainly North America, Western Europe, and a handful of selected Asian countries.

So you might ask yourself, “What is WiFi equipped television?” To better understand this new rising technology, we need to take a look at what WiFi is.

WiFi, which stands for wireless fidelity, is a communications standard that allows WiFi enabled devices such as laptop computers, MP3 players, smart phones, and soon televisions to connect to an access point (a wireless router or hotspot) which then connects your device to the Internet.

From there, the possibilities are almost endless as to what you can access.

TV industry producers now understand the power of this technology. They are also realizing how many people would love to be able to stream their favorite media websites such as YouTube, Metcalfe, CNN, Facebook, and MySpace directly to their television sets.

One of the big trends this year has been the rise of Netflix, (which seems to be why we’ve seen the fall of Blockbuster and any other video/media rental business).

Why would you ever leave your home if you could simply connect to a site like Netflix, or any of the other super popular media sites, and browse their thousands of movie titles right from the comfort of your own home, without having to leave the couch? You probably wouldn’t.

This is why giants like Sony, Samsung, and Toshiba are working closely with technology gurus to make what could be the next big thing in television. As of right now, the people who already have this technology in their homes are pretty limited to what content they can stream to their sets.

However, as this begins to boom in the marketplace, the evolution of full web browsing on your TV is something I’m sure we can look forward to seeing in the future.

Best Steps To Secure Your Wireless Network

Do you have a wireless router or wireless access point (WAP) set up in your home or business? If so, is it secured and locked down from hackers and snooping eyes?

There are three basic steps you can take to secure your wireless network.  I recommend performing all of them.

By default, most routers have no security set up right out of the box. This means that your neighbors or anyone close enough to pick up your wireless signal can connect to your wireless network without you knowing it.

They can freely browse the web and without the proper security in place, your router and any network device connected to it (computer, cell phone, etc.) becomes visible to anyone that can see your wireless signal.

From that point on, it is  easy for a hacker to connect to your computer and see your files or steal and delete your data. If you’re not comfortable making changes to your network, then have a trusted IT company such as Technology Experts to make those changes for you.

If you are computer savvy then follow these three basic steps to make your network more secure.

Change Your SSID
Your SSID (Service Set Identifier, which is simply the name of your wireless network) is what you connect to for Internet access.

You want to change the SSID from open security to “WPA2.” This is the most secure setting currently available on most routers. You’ll also need to assign a security key commonly called a pass phrase.

Do not use something common such as your name, child’s name, or any other name that is associated with you. Use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and characters.

Don’t Broadcast Your SSID
Who needs to know the name of your wireless network? No one other than you. Not your neighbor next door or that guy driving down the road trying to connect to a non-secured network.

There is a setting in your router to disable the broadcast of your SSID.  Again, if you are unsure, then have a trusted IT company perform these changes.

Change Your Router’s Login Password
The last thing to do is  change your router’s management interface username and password.

All routers come with a default user name and password that is easily available on-line for anyone to find.

If you don’t change it, a hacker who gained access to your wireless network (or someone you allowed access), can simply log into your router and play havoc with your network. Be sure to change the password.

Following these three basic steps will make your wireless network much more secure from hackers and from intruders accessing your internet connection.

While a very skillful hacker can still get around even this security, they won’t bother trying.

There are too many unsecured networks out there, so hackers would not waste their time trying to break a network that is configured securely.

Remember, if you need assistance or would like a great IT company to perform these changes, give Tech Experts a call at (734) 457-5000.

Michigan Man Fined For Using Free Wi-Fi

A Michigan man has been fined $400 and must work 40 hours of community service for using a local café’s Wi-Fi connection from his parked car to check his e-mail and surf the Web.

He got off easy, according to the local TV station that reported the case: under Michigan computer access law, using a Wi-Fi connection without authorization is a felony, punishable by as much a $10,000 fine and five years in prison.

But the story raises more questions than it answers, including whether the café’s Wi-Fi connection was a fee-based service, which would imply authorization was required, or a free service that, without any security restrictions, could be accessed by anyone within range, including someone outside the restaurant.

The story also doesn’t say whether the defendant, Sam Peterson II, of Sparta, Michigan was convicted of the crime or pled to the charge.

Peterson routinely drove to Sparta’s Re-Union Street Caf, to check his e-mail but never went into the coffee shop.

His regular routine drew the attention of Sparta Police Chief Andrew Milanowski, who asked Peterson what he was doing. Peterson told him.

After checking the Michigan statutes, the chief swore out a complaint of fraudulent computer access, and Peterson was charged.