If you own a business, like a café, a restaurant, a salon, a spa, or any place that people frequent, you can draw in more customers and retain the ones you already have by making free Wi-Fi available for your guests. Just think; if you run a café and offer wireless Internet access to customers, they would more likely stay longer. When they do, they would order more items and would make your café a regular stop since they know they can always connect to the Internet while there.
So now the question is, how can you make your business a Wi-Fi hotspot? This is a tricky process, because if you do it wrong, it can backfire.
Choose Which Connection to Offer
Most probably, you already have an existing connection in your place of business. If you intend to turn this into a hotspot, you need to consider if you have sufficient bandwidth to support extra users. Keep in mind that when you advertise free Wi-Fi, almost everybody would scramble to connect to the network. If your bandwidth were not enough, customers trying to access the Internet would find the connection virtually useless. It would be a good idea to set up the hotspot in such a way that requires your customers to enter a passcode, which you would provide to them. This way, you’re able to control the usage and overall performance of the hotspot.
However, there is a downside to letting people connect to an existing network. Since this is unsecured, you’re practically rendering your network open to data theft and hacking. Hence, it’s better to have two networks—one public and one private. Just make sure your private wireless network is kept separate from public access. You can do this by encrypting your private network with WPA2-Personal security to prevent others from accessing your own network traffic.
Use the Right Hardware
Having decided on a separate network for public use, the next thing you need to do is look for hardware to share the Internet to your customers. You need a modem and a wireless router that would be most suitable for your needs.
Actually, setting up wireless hardware that is specifically meant to offer Wi-Fi hotspot access is the best option. Most wireless hardware offer some useful features that conventional routers and access points don’t have. For instance, when customers try to access the Internet, they would be taken to a page called a “captive portal” that would require them to accept Terms of Service (or TOS).
These days, you can up and purchase a hotspot gateway, which is a router specifically designed to offer hotspot access. Some vendors to keep in mind are Intellinet, Handlink, 4ipnet, and ZyXEL. These specialized routers offer features and functionality that would be useful for full-on deployments of Wi-Fi signal.
This isn’t about limiting your customers’ actual access to the Internet, but rather, limiting the sites they access through the free Wi-Fi you’re offering. For instance, if you don’t want customers to be able to access adult, gambling, or casino sites, consider content filtering. This would prevent people from accessing objectionable sites using your network. This would also help you control access to websites that hog the most bandwidth like video streaming sites. A highly recommended site for this purpose is opendns.com.
Before deciding to make your place of business a Wi-Fi hotspot, contact your ISP and tell them about your plans. Your ISP would be able to tell you everything else you might need to set up a Wi-Fi hotspot for your business.