Security · June 24, 2021

How to Safely Offer Business Wi-Fi to Your Customers

Whether it's to check your online bank accounts, upload content to social media or order supplies, you probably rely on your small business Wi-Fi connection to keep your business humming. Many businesses also add a public Wi-Fi connection for customer access. This is particularly the case in places where people spend an extended amount of time, such as restaurants, gyms and salons.

It's a great perk to provide, as customers will appreciate not having to use their mobile data. But it's important to do so safely to protect them and your business. Here are some key considerations before you open a public Wi-Fi network.


Setting up the network

To offer public Wi-Fi, you'll first need a robust connection. Otherwise, the spotty or slow service could backfire and create a negative experience for customers. In fact, it might be better to not offer free Wi-Fi at all than to put a subpar system in place. If you do, choose the highest-speed, highest-bandwidth package available in your area from a reliable internet provider, and consider hiring a professional to recommend and install the equipment.

Be sure to add a second, guest network instead of opening your own connection to the public. If you allow the public to access your private network, it could open the door for hackers to obtain banking details, credit card information and other sensitive data. In fact, you'll want to turn the service set identifier, or SSID—the name of your network—to private so customers can't even see it when they search for available networks. It's also a good idea to enable WPA/WPA2 encryption for added security.

It goes without saying that your public Wi-Fi signal should be password protected. Choose a secure password that's only available to customers inside your business, and change it regularly. This will eliminate the chance that someone outside your business can piggyback on your network, which could slow down the connection for your customers.

Creating rules for users

Before giving users access to your public network, point them to a captive portal webpage that displays terms the customer must agree to for access to the internet. For example, it may ask them to accept responsibility for their use and prohibit any unlawful or inappropriate purposes. You can also use the captive portal webpage to advertise your products and services, which could generate sales.

Although you want customers to enjoy their time at your business, there can be too much of a good thing. Consider setting time limits to discourage loitering. And block access to streaming sites that use up a lot of bandwidth, such as Netflix. A headphones-only policy may also prevent customers from distracting others with loud music, videoconferencing or games.

Monitoring usage

If your business Wi-Fi becomes popular with your customers, you'll want to monitor your usage and adjust your plan as needed. You may need to upgrade your equipment or add signal boosters to ensure the connection is strong throughout your business.

You may also glean some good information by analyzing Wi-Fi usage, determining peak times or identifying high-traffic websites. This information could help you improve operations, such as adding more staff at certain hours or finding opportunities to engage with customers on their favorite social media platforms. And you may identify new sites you need to block.

Offering free Wi-Fi is a great way to show your customers you appreciate their business and encourage repeat visits. Be sure to advertise on your social media platforms, website and within your business that you offer free Wi-Fi, as that could be a deciding factor for potential customers. By taking these steps and doing it securely, you'll satisfy your customers' needs and protect your business, too.

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