A Guide to Superb In-Office Guest Wi-Fi

photo of cell phone showing available wi-fi networks

Many companies are now offering free Wi-Fi access to their guests. This can be a huge benefit to your company. Although the benefits apply to any business, those with waiting rooms or lounge areas will certainly make their guests happy if they can get connected to the outside world while they are with you. In this post, we'll take a look at some of the best practices for setting up a Wi-Fi connection for your guests.

Create a Separate Network

Every major router manufacturer gives you the option to set up a separate network for guests. This is an important step to take. Without a separate network, guests would have access to any internet-connected devices you have. They could peek in on security cameras, potentially access sensitive data on your computers, or engage any a large number of other nefarious activities that you probably do not want them engaging in.

Having a separate guest network allows you to grant your guests access to the internet while keeping your own network of devices separated and secure. It is also important if you do not plan on password protecting your guest Wi-Fi. Many places allow unrestricted access to a Wi-Fi connection, and if you are one of them then you want to make sure that you are not also providing unrestricted access to everything else on your network.

If you want to be extra secure, you should consider setting up an entirely separate router for the guest access. This will effectively make it impossible for any of your guests to hack their way into your private network. Unless you have a huge facility, you do not need a super high-end router for this purpose. You are providing a free service, and with that in mind, consumer-grade hardware will more than meet the expectations of your guests. Be aware though that if you want to use a landing page, discussed below, then a consumer-grade router might not have that option available.

About Passwords and Access Codes

As mentioned previously, most places do not have a password on guest Wi-Fi networks. This might seem insecure at first, but since your guest Wi-Fi has been isolated from your private network, there is no harm in leaving it unprotected. In fact, although it sounds counterintuitive, doing so can aid in your security. By providing a network without a password you are minimizing the chances that people will be snooping around secured networks trying to get access to the internet.

Minimizing the chances of snooping does not mean completely eliminating them, however. If you have guest Wi-Fi, there is always a chance that some unscrupulous person will feel the need to snoop your other networks while they've already got their devices out. To prevent this, you should always tell your router to hide the SSID of your private network. The SSID is the ID name that shows up in the list of available Wi-Fi hotspots on Wi-Fi enabled devices. This means that guests will not even see it and will have to go out of their way to find it.

In addition to hiding the SSID of your private network, you should be extra careful to make a complicated password for it. Unlike some other passwords, you only need to enter your Wi-Fi password once per device. This infrequent usage makes it an ideal candidate for a super long and annoying to type password. Just be sure that you write it down someplace secure so that you do not forget it. Keep in mind, the easier your password is to remember, the easier it is to guess.

Creating a Guest Landing Page

Some business-grade routers include an option for what is called a 'captive portal.' This is just a fancy way of saying that the router will direct users to a landing page when they first log in. This can be a fantastic resource for your guest Wi-Fi setup. Depending on the type of business you are running, there are a variety of ways that you can utilize a custom landing page to enhance your guest's experience.

The most bare-bones of landing pages might just include a set of rules for accessing your Wi-Fi connection. These can include things like reminding people not to bully others, not to download illegal content, and things of that nature. The benefit of this bare-bones approach, aside from laying some ground rules, is that it gives you an opportunity to put your branding out there. A well-designed landing page with your logo on it can increase a guest's perception of your business.

You certainly do not have to limit yourself to just a list of rules though. Your custom landing page can be used to promote your business as well. By using it to guide guests towards specials that you are having, or direct them towards products and services that you'd like to get some extra eyes on, you've now turned your Wi-Fi network into a mobile billboard for your company.

Even if you do not have something to sell, a landing page can be a great way to keep your users informed. Are you going to be closed for an upcoming holiday? You can tell them that. You can also include basic evergreen information such as your hours of operation, website, phone number, or whatever else you might want them to know.

Like everything, a landing page isn't the right solution for every business though. In more relaxed areas, the landing page can provide nice branding and will not be too much of annoyance to customers. In more time-sensitive or fast-paced environments, the extra delay might just annoy them. Before deciding on using a landing page, consider the type of guests that will be using it and how they will likely react to it.

General Network Security

We've talked a little bit about general network security already. You want your guests on a separate network. You want a highly secure password. But there are some other best practices that you should keep in mind when you set up a network for your business. The most important of those is to check for router upgrades frequently. By logging in to your router's admin page, you'll be able to quickly see if new firmware is available. Most security exploits are caught and patched quickly. It is the failure of end-users to upgrade their routers that allows most security breaches to happen.

While you are in the process of setting up your guest network, it could be a great time to think about what other forms of segmentation you can do. If you have Wi-Fi enabled security cameras or internet-of-things devices that you do not want every employee to have access to, then those things could all go on their own network. The idea is to limit access to wifi-enabled devices to only those people who need it in order to perform their duties.

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