More than 85% of Americans own a smartphone, research shows. And every day observations tell us that, when out and about, large numbers of U.S. smartphone owners spend considerable amounts of time using their mobile devices. In fact, surveys show that nearly half of Americans spend 5 to 6 hours on their smartphones each day.
American consumers also love the fast and reliable connections that Wi-Fi delivers, leading ever-growing numbers of businesses to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots to their customers and employees. The data exhibits why this trend among today’s businesses is so pronounced. Research shows that 96% of consumers favor shopping at stores that provide free Wi-Fi while nearly 60% of them demand in-store Wi-Fi.
Reasons to set up a business Wi-Fi hotspot
Whether using a smartphone, a laptop or any other type of portable computing device, many American consumers have grown to expect free Wi-Fi service at the businesses they frequent. This is especially true when, due to the nature of the business, customers can anticipate spending a significant amount of time waiting for a service to be completed or otherwise lounging in the location’s reception or common areas. Such is often the case for business locations like medical offices, auto-repair shops, coffee shops and hotels, and offering free Wi-Fi has become the industry standard for each. But the consumer expectation for free Wi-Fi service also increasingly applies to other types of businesses, such as grocery stores, bookstores, malls and entertainment venues.
The reasons behind the Wi-Fi hotspot’s allure among modern businesses are plentiful. Below are some of the advantages that offering free Wi-Fi can deliver for a business that chooses to do so:
- Wi-Fi hotspots can attract people to a business location and keep them there longer. To maximize this benefit, it is important for a business to let consumers know about the availability of its Wi-Fi hotspot, which is often achieved via such tactics as advertising, in-store messaging and listings in online Wi-Fi directories.
- Offering free Wi-Fi can help businesses generate additional revenue. Possibilities here include the added sales that are realized as a result of new people coming to and staying in the business to use the Wi-Fi. Advertising revenues could also be generated by placing advertisements on the free Wi-Fi network’s splash screen/welcome screen that users see when they first connect to the hotspot. (This is also a great place to include marketing-focused messages for the hotspot-hosting business itself, resulting in even more hotspot.)
- With the infrastructure for a Wi-Fi hotspot in place, businesses can also set up a private network for employee use. With the proper security measures put in place, the private and public networks can easily share the same connection. When correctly configured, the two networks can be independent of one another, with the private network secured against any unwanted public intrusion.
How to set up a business Wi-Fi hotspot
Setting up a Wi-Fi hotspot for a business involves much more than simply grabbing an access point, plugging it in and turning it on. Additional steps are critical, largely because business and consumer security can be compromised if the steps are not taken.
Businesses looking to establish a hotspot should consider these important steps when setting it up:
- Evaluate network needs: Before making any decisions regarding a hotspot’s setup, businesses should consider who will be using the network and how it will be used. Questions that need to be answered include:
– How many people are expected to be on the network at peak times?
– What kinds of actions will those on the network be doing and how much bandwidth will they require?
– Will both employees and guests be using the network? And if so, will separate guest and private networks be established?
– How much square footage will the network need to cover?
The answers to all of these questions can help a business determine its specific equipment and network needs.
- Choose the proper equipment/service plan: Customers can become frustrated when a business’s network signals are weak or connection speeds are slow, driving a negative impression of the business. So, when choosing an internet service plan for its Wi-Fi network, a business should keep in mind that providing a slow or spotty connection could be worse than not providing a Wi-Fi hotspot at all. Further, if the area that the network needs to cover is a sizable one, decision-makers will want to ensure full coverage, which will help eliminate “dead zones” and dropped signals. To properly cover a large area space-wise, businesses might want to consider installing a mesh network.
For all of these reasons, it is important to be sure the service plan and equipment put in place for a hotspot are a fit for the environment. This means confirming the network and equipment provide broad, strong Wi-Fi coverage, along with sufficient speeds and bandwidth. (One extremely helpful tool for evaluating network-speed needs can be found in FTC’s Internet Speed Calculator.)
- Ensure adequate network security: To keep sensitive business and customer information protected, many establishments choose to set up both public and private Wi-Fi networks. For the public/guest network, including password protection can give added access control to the business. In doing this, the business can reduce the number of people on its public network by limiting password provision to customers who are actively engaging with the company. Security options worth considering for the private network, to which employees will connect to do company business, include WPA or WPA2 encryption, managed firewall services and hosted antivirus and spyware services.
- Consider leveraging the help of IT security experts: Especially for companies that handle sensitive customer information or proprietary business data, it is never a bad idea to enlist professional IT help when setting up a hotspot. This can helps ensure that proper levels of security are in place to protect consumers and the business itself from unwanted intrusions by hackers and other cybercriminals. These IT professionals can also assist the business in optimizing its equipment and signals to provide the best connections possible to all users of the on-site Wi-Fi network, helping o boost both employee and customer satisfaction.
Ready to tap into the long list of benefits that offering a Wi-Fi hotspot can deliver for your business location? The experts at FTC are glad to help, and they can even handle the network setup!
Visit ftc.net/business to explore FTC’s business internet plans with speeds up to a blazing-fast 1 Gig available. And to get local, expert IT help in a number of tech-related areas, including Managed IT, Cybersecurity, Hosted Services and more, visit FTC IT Solutions today.