It once was the stuff of sci-fi: The idea that workers could roam freely around a workplace using all sorts of cordless devices. But it’s not so futuristic anymore.
Many small companies are ditching wired workstations and installing equipment that allows their employees—and their customers—to access the internet using their laptops, tablets and smartphones from wherever they want around the workplace. This greater mobility means employees can more effectively collaborate by bringing their devices to meetings. It can also mean lower costs (because wiring new employee workstations can be expensive) and happier customers. One study found that 62 percent of business owners said customers spent more time on their premises after free Wi-Fi was introduced.
“Nobody wants to be tethered to their desks anymore,” says Eric Hobbs, president of Technology Associates, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based IT consulting firm. “But you see too many small companies that think ‘going wireless’ means going out and buying a cheap router. With all of today’s cybersecurity threats, you have to be a lot more thoughtful about it.”
Before you run out and buy a wireless router for your business, here are a few tips to going wireless the right way:
Step #1: Don’t cheap out
Too many business owners think they can simply buy a $50 wireless router designed for homes and set it up in the office. But this could lead to spotty wireless coverage and poor security, says Greg Scott, a longtime independent IT consultant in Eagan, Minnesota. The most secure and hassle-free way to implement Wi-Fi is to work with a full-service business solutions provider that offers Wi-Fi solutions, such as Spectrum Business, which provides the modem, router, installation and round-the-clock support, should you need it.
Step #2: Consider your wireless capacity needs carefully
How many routers and access points you need will depend on various factors, including whether you also want to offer wireless internet access to your customers, Hobbs says. You need to consider three main things: First, the coverage area (the physical space that requires coverage). Second, the number of devices or how many people will be in the coverage area. Third, what type of usage is expected—whether it’s live video streaming or just occasional internet access.
Your wireless system should be designed so that access points are in the strategic locations (close to where your employees typically work) and the routers can handle all of your company’s internet needs. Also, consider whether employees are likely to be using personal devices at work, such as streaming music, which could put strain on your bandwidth.
Step #3: Separate internal Wi-Fi from customer (“public”) Wi-Fi
Allowing anyone who walks into your business to use your internal Wi-Fi network is asking for trouble. They may be unwittingly carrying viruses on their devices. “It’s like standing in a crowded elevator, and somebody has the flu,” Scott says. “If a customer brings in a computer that’s infected with a malicious software package, it could infect your network and all the devices on it.” Moreover, someone with experience could hack into the wireless network and steal sensitive business data.
Allowing anyone to use your internal Wi-Fi network is like standing in a crowded elevator, and somebody has the flu.
To be safe, it is better to have modems for private, internal networks used by employees separate from the public network used by customers and vendors. Spectrum Business provides a separate modem for public Wi-Fi at no additional charge.
Step #4: Institute the right employee policies
Consider how to prevent employees’ personal device usage at work from compromising your internal Wi-Fi. Hobbs recommends requiring employees to use the public Wi-Fi network when they use personal devices at work, to reduce the odds that a virus on, say, their personal laptop infects work devices. This also reduces the risk that personal device usage will sap bandwidth that should be devoted to the business.
Going wireless makes sense for many businesses today, but make sure you do it with care. If you don’t, you could end up doing more harm to your business than good.
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