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.

7 Tips For Working Securely From Wireless Hotspots

Thomas Fox is president of Tech Experts, southeast Michigan’s leading small business computer support company.

Wireless hotspots are changing the way people work.

These wireless networks provide high speed Internet access in public locations—as well as at home—and require nothing more than a notebook PC with a wireless card.

From coffee shops to restaurants, airports to hotel lobbies, hotspots are ubiquitous. They range from paid services, such as T-Mobile or Boingo, to free connections at your local restaurant or library.

But they all have one thing in common: These are all open networks that are vulnerable to security breaches. And that means it’s up to you to protect the data on your PC. Here are a few tips to make working in public locations more secure.

Encrypt your files.
You can protect your files by encrypting them, which requires a password to open or modify them. Because you must perform this procedure on one file at a time, consider password-protecting only the files that you plan to use while working in a public place.

Choose more secure connections.
It’s not always possible to choose your connection type—but when you can, opt for wireless networks that require a network security key. The information sent over these networks is encrypted, which can help protect your computer from unauthorized access.

The security features of different networks appear along with the network name as your PC discovers them.

Make sure your firewall is activated.
A firewall helps protect your mobile PC by preventing unauthorized users from gaining access to your computer through the Internet or a network. It acts as a barrier that checks all incoming information, and then either blocks the information or allows it to come through. All Windows operating systems come with a firewall.

Monitor your access points.
Chances are, there are multiple wireless networks anywhere you’re trying to connect. These connections are all access points, because they link into the wired system that gives you Internet access. So how do you make sure you’re connecting to the right one? Simple—by configuring your PC to let you approve access points before you connect.

Disable file and printer sharing.
File and printer sharing is a feature that enables other computers on a network to access resources on your computer. When using your mobile PC in a hotspot, it’s best to disable file and printer sharing because when enabled, it leaves your computer vulnerable to hackers. Remember, though, to turn this feature back on when you return to the office.

Make your folders private.
When the folders on your mobile PC are private, it’s more difficult for hackers to access your files.

Consider completely removing sensitive data from your PC.
If you’re working with extremely sensitive data, it might be worth taking it off your notebook PC altogether. Instead, keep it behind the corporate firewall and use your company’s VPN to access it when necessary. This way, you have multiple safeguards in place.

A few simple precautions can help make working in public places more secure. And by selecting the best connections and adjusting settings, you can enjoy productive and safe work sessions no matter where you are.