How to set up guest WiFi in your business

Published: 16/12/2020

Us Brits have become a nation of internet users, with a whopping 87% of all adults in the UK using the internet daily or almost daily, and over 50 million active smartphone users. 

In fact, 80% of all smartphone users reportedly used their device on the go last year, a figure that’s steadily rising year-on-year, so it’s little surprise consumers today not only want but expect internet access wherever they are. 

As a result, businesses that don’t offer guest WIFI could be losing out to their competition who do - after all, what’s the point in making the best pumpkin spiced latte in town if your customers can’t take a selfie with it and post it on Instagram?

Why offer WIFI?

Consumers today aren’t accustomed to waiting for things, they want access to everything all the time whether that’s work emails, social media, or even booking a holiday, and small businesses need to keep up to maintain a competitive advantage.

For some cafe owners, whether they offer WIFI or not is a decision-maker or breaker for consumers wanting to escape the confines of their home and get some work done over a frothy macchiato, and that’s never been more true than in 2020 when many workforces are still banned from their office. 

So why offer WIFI? To stay one step ahead, keep your customers happy, and help your business succeed. 

How to set it up

You’ve got options for setting up guest WIFI, and which one your plump for will depend largely on your budget, but also how urgently you want to get the ball rolling. 

Let’s take a look at the positive and negative elements each option has to offer.

#1: Let customers on your existing network

If you’re feeling daredevil, at the most basic level you can allow customers to hop on your existing WIFI network using the equipment you already have set up. 

Why daredevil? Because it allows strangers direct access to your personal data which could potentially put your business at risk if said stranger comes with malicious intentions. 

This method also doesn’t allow for high user numbers meaning if too many people try and use it at one time it’ll run super slowly and unreliably - not tantamount to a happy customer experience. 

We said we’d list the positives too, and the big upside to this option is cost - it’s super cheap - so if budget’s a big concern then there are a couple of things you can do to try and overcome the above issues

  • Adjust your router’s security settings to a high level of encryption - this is called WPA2. It won’t fix the issue but adds a layer of security by blocking users from viewing the network traffic.
  • Go down this route as a short term option - a temporary fix - until you’re in a position to upgrade your equipment.

#2: Buy a new router

...and configure it for your guest network. This option might sound easy enough, but while the purchase itself is a piece of cake, setting it up to allow a room full of eager internet users comes with its own challenges. 

No doubt your business is already heavily reliant on the internet for things like your EPOS till system, card machines, security cameras, etc., and so you need to make sure the functionality of these pieces of equipment isn’t tarnished by offering guest WIFI.

Your customers need to be able to make their purchase before they can photograph it to their heart’s content, and so your existing equipment can’t be compromised. 

The solution? Put some thought into your router purchase, and consider the following

  • Choose a router that allows different access points (APs) to be set-up. Business-class routers are a great option for this.
  • When enquiring about routers, ask if they offer multiple Service Set Identifiers (SSID) - this will allow you to create different WIFI IDs.
  • If you’re likely to want WIFI hotspot or hotspots, you need to check your router has the relevant software.
  • Consider buying a router with a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) as this works alongside your SSIDs to set up different security protocols for every ID.

How to set up a guest network

So your brand-spanking-new router has arrived in all its glory, now it’s time to get the show on the road. Setting up the network properly is key - get it right and you can set important features for each access point, get it wrong and you could find yourself in a bit of a pickle. 

So, first things first, locate and access the router’s settings, and then:

  1. Create separate networks - one for you and your staff and another for guests.
  2. Create access points for each.
  3. Allocate a portion of the bandwidth to each network - this will allow you to ensure the network you use for your payments equipment, for example, is sufficient (2-3MB should be ample).
  4. Set up passwords for each of your networks - keep it simple and relevant to your business for the guest network, and more secure for the business network.
  5. Run a test of the networks to check they’re a) secure, and b) separate.

Top tip: if you’re not a WIFI whizz-kid remember you can always contact your router provider for help during the setup process. 

To hotspot or not to hotspot

The above steps in setting up a guest WIFI network might be enough for you, but you may also want a level of control over how your customers log onto your network - for example, what details they’ll need to input in order to join, or what information they need to log in. 

You can set up a free hotspot for your guests in two ways:

  1. Install software onto your router, or
  2. Purchase hotspot hardware.

Common examples of hotspots in action are when customers are asked to read some terms and conditions before joining the network, or blocking adult content (always a good idea in public spaces). 

Something else you’ll often find is businesses asking for customer details before they’re given access - and this can be a pretty nifty marketing tactic when it comes to your email campaigns in the future - but just remember you need to be mindful of GDPR laws if you go down this route. Customers must:

  • Opt in to receive marketing emails
  • Be aware of what you’ll use their details for, and
  • Have consented.

Is it worth the extra effort?

This will probably boil down to cost - hotspot options can be a pricey add on and some of the hardware needed to create a hotspot costing as much as £1,000. Our advice? Put some time into thinking about how much you’ll get back from such a big outlay.

If you’re not hoping to drive in remote workers and see a substantial benefit from offering a hotspot, it may well be an unnecessary luxury and a bare-bones guest network will do the trick for keeping your customers sweet.

Top tip: keep an eye on how your customers use your new guest network and put the hotspot on the back burner until you see some worthwhile results - that way you won’t unnecessarily waste resources.

Maintenance

No doubt your efforts will result in some pretty happy customers, but it’s not enough to set up guest WIFI and leave it to its own devices - maintenance is key.

To avoid any security breaches it’s a good idea to regularly change your passwords as well as check for the latest updates on your router software and encryption to ensure you’re up to date with the latest developments.

And remember, hackers are relentless and always working on new ways to access data. Your router provider will be working on new updates to prevent this - so keep up with what they’re offering. 

Top tip: if you do intend to change your WIFI password regularly, avoid printing it on the likes of menus to save yourself the hassle of replacing them. Instead write it on a whiteboard so you can easily update it as and when. 

For more useful resources and guides for small businesses head to our dedicated blog, or to discuss your payment options, whether that’s EPOS systems, card machines, or otherwise, chat to our friendly experts today. 

Bryony Pearce

Bryony Pearce

Copywriter

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