Guest wifi is a courtesy offered by many different types of business, and for different reasons. Hotels and restaurants offer guest wifi to keep their customers entertained. Offices provide guest wifi for the convenience of visiting business partners and clients. No matter what industry you're in, the basics of providing a high-quality and secure guest wifi network are the same. Today, we're here to highlight the best practices to make your guest wifi network a joy for customers and business partners to access without creating a security gap in your private business network.
Separate the Guest Wifi Network
The first step is to make sure your guest wifi network is completely separate from your business' internal network. Guest wifi is inherently less secure than the internal network and hackers are not above using infiltration techniques to gain access to your guest wifi network. You also can't be sure a guest won't check their email and get phished while using your guest network. For these reasons, your guest wifi network(s) should always be separate with no way for local data to cross the line between the internal business network and any guest network.
It's important to double-check with your IT provider that the networks truly are separate, as it's often easier for admins to spin off a sub-network rather than creating a separate network. You may also need additional hardware for complete separation.
Instant Backup Recovery
Once you've set up your network, the next trick is to make sure your guest network recovery protocol is near-instant. This can be done with a clever backup-recovery plan. It's best to assume that your guest network will get infected every now and then. And that, in response, you will want to wipe it clean and bring up a fresh uninfected guest network any time that happens. In fact, refreshing your guest network weekly is not a bad idea.
To do this, work with your network admin to create a 'save' of all the configuration settings so that a new identical network can be created at the drop of a hat. This way, if anything is suspected about the guest network's integrity, or on a schedule, you can completely refresh it with less than five minutes delay. Possibly only a few seconds depending on your recovery process.
Two Types of Guest Network: One or Both?
When planning your guest wifi configuration, put some thought into who will be using it and what they will need most. Customers need quick and easy access without the delay of security procedures. They want their phones to connect automatically and, barring that, they need your security measures to be quick and thoughtless. Customers want to browse their email and social media, play movies and music, and do homework or work.
Business guests, on the other hand, care more about security because they, too, are on the job. A guest wifi network for clients and business partners needs to be much more secure, and your guests won't mind the security measures as they are relying on your wifi to keep their devices safe. Many even appreciate seeing some security barriers as an assurance that you have put in the effort. Business guests will need to check their email, give presentations, and transfer paperwork digitally.
Depending on your industry, you may be offering customer-guest wifi, business-guest wifi, or even one of each.
As you may already know, the bandwidth of a wifi network can be allocated to ensure that some tasks or connections get high performance even if other connections need to be limited to make that happen. Businesses do this to, say prioritize VOIP call quality over email-checking speed. This kind of prioritization can matter for your guest wifi as well.
You may, for example, provide VIP connections to visiting business partners so that their presentations and streamed communications are smooth while web browsing slows down if necessary. Or, for crowded guest wifi networks, you may choose to de-prioritize video streaming in order to prevent one customer from using up everyone else's bandwidth by watching Game of Thrones on their phone.
Wifi Passwords and Security Alternatives
Guests care a great deal about your security procedures for accessing and re-accessing the network. If you want your guests of either type to be satisfied with the experience, you'll want to hand-tailor how they gain access and are assured of network security.
Customer Wifi Security
For customers, you want to make security fun. For the most 'foot' traffic, you want an open wifi network (no inherent wifi password) so that devices can connect automatically. From there, build security out from the landing page level. Do not provide external internet access to devices until they have successfully passed your security protocols to reduce hacking instances.
Make your login both easy and memorable. One great way for venues to work with customers is to post the wifi password physically so only in-venue customers can full connect. Write it on the specials board, print it on the menus or table cards, or even paint it in a mural on the wall.
You can also use mini-game-like puzzles and visual passwords and many customers today will tolerate being texted an access code if the process is snappy and bug-free.
Business Guest Wifi Security
For business guests, security can be much more strict. In fact, it may be expected depending on your industry. Business guest wifi can branch in two directions. Quick access and secure access. For quick access, allow guests to connect automatically. For secure access, you will want a real wifi password and business-class security measures.
For guests in your lobby or arriving for short meetings, consider offering a quick-access network that resembles a customer guest wifi. Something that can allow your visitors to check their emails at limited bandwidth and high-security protocols just for courtesy.
However, for connecting business computers for the purpose of presentations and serious meetings, your business partners won't mind one or two extra layers of network security. Mobile code confirmations are stock standard in the business world to ensure that each device connecting is fully authorized. You may also consider rotating business-guest wifi passwords so that the password is different each time a guest visits. This ensures that your secure network password can't 'get out', allowing hackers to tap in from the lobby or the office next door.
Customize Your Wifi Landing Page
Finally, put some real thought and design into your wifi landing page. The landing page is a unique locally hosted web page that opens the moment a guest accesses your network. You can use this page to provide information and manage security once a guest has connected. Your wifi landing page is where you brand the experience, control password access, and provide information to visiting guests.
Your landing page can be single-page or a fully built local website. It should start with security and then unfold into an entire connection experience. For customer-facing venues, your landing page might feature a virtual menu, a schedule of your venue events, or even a table-order tool that interacts with the venue itself. For business-guest wifi, your landing page is the perfect place for customized security followed by helpful resources. Your landing page can be where guests go for guides on giving presentations with your conference room technology, maps of the offices, and a directory.
After security, the most important think about your wifi 'landing page' is that you create a branded experience. For business guests, they may never leave your local wifi site if it's useful enough. And you can bet they'll remember the company with guest wifi that does tricks. For customer guests, you can turn your local site into a complete in-venue experience. Consider the wifi password on your specials board, only more in-depth. You can use the landing page to play games with the customers, to hold contests, to interact with mobile apps. The technology is available, waiting for savvy brands to ride the cutting edge.
Providing guest wifi is more than just setting up a network and allowing guests to connect. You must consider security, guest priorities, and guest experiences all in one carefully delivered package. Guests should be able to connect to the network, but not to the internet, before entering a password. Password alternatives and mobile codes make security less tedious than typing difficult passphrases. And you can blow the top off the competition by customizing your on-network amenities through the landing page feature.
For more cutting-edge insights into business wifi provision or to consult on the guest wifi design your business needs, get in touch with us.