Wifi is everywhere today. Whether for your home or your business you should be sure that your wireless network is properly secured and sized. If you don’t take the time to secure your wifi you could be putting your business at risk. Also, a well optimized network can greatly improve your experience and productivity. Let’s walk through the steps for installing great wifi for your small business.
The initial consideration for your small business wifi solutions will be to identify your clients. There are two aspects to this step and they are both important. This step will have a significant impact the implementation of your wifi solution. Identifying your wireless users and devices should drive your decisions for security feature support, access point placement and network architecture.
Identify WiFi Users
First, you need to consider the actual users that will access the wifi in your business. Will it be just you and your employees? Will you allow your customers to connect to your wifi network? If you do provide guest wifi will it be just internet access or will they need to access local network resources?
Anticipate Wireless Devices
Once you have identified your intended wifi users you should have an idea of the type of devices you will need to support. Whether you are providing the devices or just specifying what employees are allowed to use, you should have direct control over their devices. If you can insure that all clients are capable of 5 GHz you could leave out 2.4 GHz altogether. The advantage is that 2.4 GHz is more prone to interference and its slower. That said, 5 GHz penetrates wall better. Everything is a trade off.
Once you have an idea of the users and devices that you expect to see on your business wifi network you should be able to make some security implementation decisions. You will need to decide if you need to separate traffic with VLAN’s. What SSID’s will you implement. No matter what choices you make I would recommend that you follow a couple of basic guidelines. Even if you don’t think you need to secure your business wifi with a password do it anyway. You really don’t want just anyone on your network and enabling the password also provides encryption for your users’ traffic. When you encrypt and password protect your wifi network use WPA or WPA2. WEP is not secure and the key will be long and confusing. Just don’t use it!
Access Point Placement
Placement of the wifi access points is very important. You do not want to place more access points than you need. This will cost extra money and can actually have a negative impact on your wifi performance. However you also need to ensure that you cover all required wifi areas in your business.
If you have a small building to cover you may be able to place a single wifi access point near the center of the area you wish to cover. Considerations when planning will include the availability of power and internet access in the area that you plan to place the wifi access point. You may also want to make sure that the device can be secured or at least not in your customers’ way.
Placing too many access points too close together can cause cross channel interference. Wifi works on both the 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz spectrum. 5 GHz wifi will be faster and can provide more available channels to place multiple access points. 2.4 GHz wifi may be slower but will support a wider range of clients. It is also limited to 3 channels so you will experience interference when implementing more than 3 access points. You will actually experience interference with less than 3 if you have close neighbors that are also using 2.4 GHz wifi in their business or home.
The best way to ensure a successful wifi is to hire a trusted expert to perform a site survey and ensure proper access point placement. However, for a small install with low or non-critical usage you can simply try setting up an access point and testing with your phone or laptop. Then, make adjustments as needed. Just remember that poorly performing wifi is not always because of weak signal. Check for interference, try changing your channel if the access point doesn’t do it automatically when interference is detected.
So now that you have been through several considerations for your small business wifi implementation let look at some of the hardware that you may need to purchase and install. Obviously you will need a wifi router or access point. You may also need a power over ethernet switch or injector. If you have multiple access points and already have a switch in place you may consider a midspan. This is multi-port PoE injector that sits between your switch and access points to provide power.
Whatever your business scenario, WiFi is a valuable asset for you. Even if its not beneficial to you for your clients to have access you will benefit from the flexibility provided to your network. Be sure to evaluate the indirect affects of WiFi as well. In some cases, guest wifi could draw customers in or retain them longer. No matter what you decide, please take the time to consider the options and plan for a secure and intentional WiFi application in your small business.