It’s common these days for businesses to offer WiFi to their guests. For better or worse, many customers, vendors, partners, and contractors may expect to be able to access WiFi when they’re in your store or office.
There is, however, a right and a wrong way to set up guest WiFi. The right way ensures that guests can access the internet on their devices with minimal hassle, without exposing your internal resources. Setting up guest WiFi the wrong way, however, can create serious security risks.
So, what’s the “right way” to set up WiFi for your guests to enjoy? Read on to find out!
The First Step: Make a Business Decision About Guest WiFi
While guest WiFi has become a common amenity that many businesses offer, it certainly isn’t a requirement. We recommend that decision makers weigh the pros and cons of offering guest WiFi. The advantage of providing guest WiFi is the social capital you can build with guests, particularly customers, and also the ability to allow contractors and other collaborators to access the internet on your premises. The disadvantage is that internet connection isn’t free, and guests’ internet activity can put strains on your bandwidth if it isn’t limited properly (more on this below).
So, if you don’t have many guests on your premises, or if providing amenities like guest WiFi isn’t a priority for your business, then you may not need to provide it at all. If you do want to provide it, though, it’s crucial that you set it up in the right way.
The Wrong Way: Giving Access to Your Company WiFi
We get it – the easiest way to give guests access to WiFi is to give them the password to your company WiFi network. But this creates grave security concerns.
First of all, giving your guests access to your company WiFi could give them access to everything that is on your network, including company data and other resources. With a little technical know-how, an untrustworthy individual could do a lot of damage just by logging onto your WiFi.
Secondly, each device connected to your network is another potential target for malware or cyberattack. If you’re security-savvy, you’ve invested resources in training your staff and implementing safeguards to prevent risk on company-owned devices. But you can’t necessarily be so sure about your guests and their devices, meaning that you could be making your network vulnerable.
The Right Way: Creating Separate Guest WiFi
Thankfully, modern networking technology makes it possible to create a guest WiFi access that is completely separate from your company network. There are a few different ways to do this. One involves implementing a separate wireless access point that connects directly to your ISP connection, bypassing the rest of your network. Others involve using existing hardware to carefully create virtual separation between your network resources and the guest WiFi. Which method is best for your company will depend on your unique needs.
Other Considerations: Limiting Bandwidth Usage and Employee Mobile Devices
Even when guest WiFi is set up to be separate from the company network, it still uses your ISP connection to give guests access to the internet. This means that if guests engage in activities—such as streaming video—that put a strain on your bandwidth, your company’s users might experience slowness. Thankfully organizations can address this problem by limiting the bandwidth usage allowed on the guest network, which we recommend at least considering.
Creating a limited guest network can also be a handy way of limiting the access that employees have as well. With all of the connected devices that we carry with us today, from smartphones to wearables, it’s not difficult to see how even well-meaning employees might put a strain on the company network by connecting with their personal devices. One way around this issue is to require employees to connect only to a guest WiFi connection with bandwidth limits configured. In fact, this kind of policy can create added security by ensuring that only company-owned devices can connect to the company WiFi, and thus the company network.
Ready to Give Guests WiFi the Right Way?
If you’re giving guests access to your company’s WiFi network, or even if you have a separate guest login but aren’t sure it is separate from the rest of your network, your data—and your business—could be at significant risk. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to take a look at what you’re doing and make sure you’re on the right track.