When it comes to running a small business in 2018, and especially one that regularly hosts customers in its space, it’s critical to understand the importance of how your WiFi is set up, and focus on what you can do to ensure that the experience is optimized, both for you and your customers.
These days, simply meeting consumers expectations, very often isn’t enough. To establish long-term loyalty, you need to exceed expectations and create a memorable experience. For many consumers, WiFi has become a critical part of that customer experience.
Why Small Business WiFi Is Different
Some small business owners have experience setting up their own at-home network and may think setting up a small business network is not much different. However, a business network has different requirements and equipment. You have to account for not only your team but contractors, guests, and, depending on your industry, your customers. You need to make sure that everyone gets what they want and need: For customers, a strong connection makes them more likely to come back, and for your team and vendors, it helps them get more work done faster.
Yes, you can buy your own equipment and create your own setup, but you’ll have to deal with troubleshooting it yourself if something goes wrong. On the other hand, many ISPs, including Cox Business offer managed WiFi. They take care of everything from setup to problem-solving, letting you worry about running your business, not your WiFi network. You have somewhere to go if anything pops up, and their expertise ensures that things run more smoothly from the start.
Separate Network Configuration
Depending on what your foot traffic situation looks like, it might be a good idea to separate your network into two separate public-facing and private-facing systems. If you regularly host customers in your space then you’re going to see a lot of turnover when it comes to authentications and certificates.
At the same time, your business network needs to be able to operate independently of whatever is going on with your public-facing WiFi. If your core business operations are threatened because someone has decided to suck up bandwidth by binge-watching their favorite show, then you’re going to have some problems. You also don’t want to give anyone and everyone a crack at your internal network.
Instead, you want to find a way to separate your guests from your employees on your WiFi. This is another great reason to go with managed WiFi. Public-facing networks can pose unique security challenges, but an ISP can make sure that everything is set up with the protection of your business in mind.
Upgrading Your Network
One other thing to keep in mind about WiFi for small business is that what works today might not be the optimal solution tomorrow. Technology evolves at a rapid pace, and the WiFi setup that worked great even a year ago may not meet your business needs today.
As your business grows, you need a network that is designed to grow with you and scale to your changing needs. You should be able to swap components out easily to expand connectivity or improve security, and stay on top of patching any devices as new vulnerabilities are discovered.
With managed WiFi, you’re working with a vendor or ISP that is completely focused on industry best practices for devices, configuration, and security. They can remotely patch your devices to make sure that security holes are addressed quickly. They can design your network to be built to grow from the ground up because they have experience doing it for multiple clients, in almost every scenario, and they know what works, and because they own the equipment, you can swap things in and out more easily to keep up with growing needs.
What Do You Have That’s Worth Stealing?
When it comes to security, the main question you have to ask yourself is pretty simple: what do I have that’s worth stealing? For many small businesses, the answer may surprise you. Tax records, payroll, health information, data on your customers, even user logins and passwords can all fetch a pretty penny if they end up in the wrong hands. In the age of Big Data, there’s a lot more information on your customers online and seemingly endless ways for someone to use that information for nefarious purposes.
In 2015, the number of data breaches in the U.S. rose by roughly 500 percent more than the number recorded over the 10 years prior, while the number of records compromised shot up over 250 percent. All this cost about $205.94 million. In 2016, data breaches rose another 40 percent. The risks are only going up, and you need to be thinking about security with everything that you do. And as the primary point of contact between your data and the outside world, your network needs to be built with security in mind.
Managed WiFi services often come with 24/7 network monitoring and threat response. That means that if you get attacked, you have someone to call for backup.
Keeping Your Small Business WiFi Secure
There are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to security. First of all, offering free public WiFi is basically putting an invitation sign on your door for hackers to take a crack at your network. Setting up separate networks insulates your data against these attacks, and lets you double down on security for your actual business router.
On the other hand, you also need to be thinking about the physical security of your equipment, not just the digital security. The wrong person with access to the right system can potentially do a lot of damage. Make sure that your network is physically secure inside your place of business. What’s more, investing in surveillance security isn’t a bad idea to give you 24/7 monitoring.
Creating the Perfect Layout for your WiFi
You’ve probably noticed this at your home, but WiFi signal reception can vary a lot from location to location. Certain types of material in a wall can really be a headache when it comes to getting a good connection. Water pipes in the wall can really interfere with your signal, not to mention specialty materials like lead lining that can be found in some medical offices. There also could be competing networks from the neighbors, a microwave, or some other source of signal interference in a particular part of the room.
Professionals can create a heat map to help them figure out what’s going on with your business’s layout, and where the signal faces interference the most. You basically use specialized software to gauge your signal strength as you walk around to various places in the room. This can get very complicated because there are a large number of factors that play into signal interference, but a managed WiFi service will have the tools to get the job done.
Small Business WiFi for Marketing
We’ve already been over why WiFi is key to the customer experience, but it’s also important to understand how it can help you with your marketing efforts. If you have a branded portal, you can capture your customer’s email address and other contact information. You’ll still need their permission, but it removes the friction from getting someone onto your mailing list, and from there you can offer discounts or promote events to get them back in the door.
You can also use general network data to get a clearer idea of your customers habits and make a plan around that. Comparing which devices accessed your network when can tell you if people typically show up on a particular day of the week or at a specific time. You can use that to craft promotions to get more people in the door on your off-peak hours, or plan a special event that just so happens to take place when the largest number of people will be there.
What You Can Do Right Now
WiFi for your small business is a fundamental part of the customer experience and a decisive factor in how fast and productive your team can be. It’s important to remember that it’s a fundamentally different challenge than setting up a home network. Managed WiFi is a great option to leave your network in the hands of a professional who can help you figure out what works best for you.
There’s a lot to cover when it comes to your small business’s WiFi needs. Here’s a few of the things you can do right now.
- Take a second look at your data and think about what a hacker might want to steal so you can protect it accordingly.
- Insulate your network from the general public.
- Make sure that your network is physically secure.
- Consider using a managed WiFi service to let you focus on your business, rather than serving as your own IT department.
- Use your WiFi for marketing to boost business.
- Prioritize great WiFi as a part of the in-store experience.
- Separate your public-facing and business WiFi.
- Use managed WiFi to handle all of the details so you can focus on your business.
- Make sure your network is designed with room for growth.
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