In our last post, we discussed the growing importance of Wi-Fi networks in businesses of all sizes. Once a luxury, wireless network connectivity has become a necessity to support growing numbers of mobile devices. The upside is that a robust Wi-Fi network can increase productivity by giving employees ready access to applications, data and collaboration tools.
Wi-Fi isn’t just for employees, however. Today, everyone with a mobile device has come to expect Internet connectivity wherever they are. And from a business perspective, providing wireless access to guests can be more than a matter of courtesy and convenience. Here are a few examples of the many business benefits of guest Wi-Fi:
- At the most basic level, guest Wi-Fi is a valued amenity that creates a positive view of the business and enhances the customer experience.
- Guest Wi-Fi can boost sales by enabling customers to get product information and place orders right on their mobile devices.
- The wireless network can add value to a customer loyalty program by enabling businesses to send coupons and offers directly to customers’ mobile devices.
- Hospitality venues can use wireless connectivity for wayfinding and other location-based services, and to promote products and services.
- Retailers can collect anonymous data via guest Wi-Fi to track shoppers’ movements through the store and gauge the effectiveness of displays.
As the name implies, guest Wi-Fi is separate and distinct from your company’s internal wireless LAN. Obviously, you can’t allow everyone who comes into your business to have the same level of access as your employees. A guest wireless network is an isolated segment of your wireless LAN that provides visitors with Internet connectivity while preventing unauthorized access to sensitive data and applications and reducing the risk of malware reaching your company network.
Many wireless network devices have built-in guest network capabilities that can be configured to control the amount of time a guest spends on the network or the amount of bandwidth used. Firewalls will have to be configured to allow guests to access the Internet but not see any devices or resources on the company network. Content filtering should be used to block access to inappropriate sites and materials that could damage the organization’s brand or bring legal liability. Traffic should also be managed to ensure that business-related activity is given priority over guest activity.
Properly securing the guest wireless network is especially critical if your organization is subject to government or industry regulations. For example, organizations that accept credit and debit cards must ensure that the guest wireless network is properly segmented from any sensitives that transmit or process payment card data.
At the same time, it’s important to provide a high-quality user experience. The guest wireless network should be easy to access and use, ideally through a web portal login page that can capture anonymous guest information. The network should also be engineered to handle peak bandwidth usage, and monitored to detect performance issues and security threats.
Done right, guest Wi-Fi enables you to meet visitor expectations for reliable Internet connectivity and leverage the wireless network to increase sales and customer loyalty. SSD can help you maximize these benefits while protecting your company network from security threats.