Many studies have been conducted in the last few years that illustrate the importance, even necessity, of installing Wi-Fi in public spaces; we’ve covered many on this site already. It stands to reason that, if Wi-Fi is of such importance to customer facing businesses, the maintenance and optimisation of such facilities is also essential to continue being a popular choice for consumers.
In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the key ways businesses should be optimising their Wi-Fi networks to ensure a superior, safer user experience.
Getting up to speed
First things first, you’ll be wanting to get your network up to speed; there’s little point in having a Wi-Fi connection if customers can’t do anything useful with it.
A slow connection is little different from none at all
When it comes to a customer’s experience on your Wi-Fi network, you want them to be able to easily and quickly access the service that you offer. If not, they’ll take their business elsewhere. As an example of this, one study found that almost 40% of hotel guests would book elsewhere if no Wi-Fi was available and 36% would avoid a hotel if they’d experienced wireless problems there before.
The important thing to remember is that there will always be high demand from consumers for the latest content and online services; restricting access, whether intentionally or not, only serves to drive them away. Providing high speed, easy access internet services is the only way to ensure patronage.
Testing and baselines
The standard of broadband speeds continues to increase with time; the current high water mark is super-fast broadband, which delivers speeds up to 300 Mbps. The definition of super-fast broadband is a broadband connection that delivers download speeds of 25 Mbps or more, so there is a wide spectrum of speeds available throughout the UK. Generally speaking, broadband speeds in the UK vary between 512 Kbps and 152 Mbps; so anything in the upper limits of, or above that range, is delivering on or exceeding consumer expectations.
The key action to take here is to test the speed of your router/routers to see what your current output is. If it falls short of the higher level speed baselines, don’t fret; there may be some easy ways to get better functionality from existing equipment and broadband plans.
Getting bang from your buck with your router – or buy a bigger bang
Optimising your router is an easy way to squeeze extra performance from your network; allowing you to minimise the impact of other nearby networks, or simply improve the reach of your own. One of the biggest issues faced by Wi-Fi networks, especially as they are now so widespread, is the encroachment of other networks on their assigned frequency band.
Without going into excessive detail, most currently available Wireless routers operate in the 2.4 GHz range, which means that they are using one of 14 different shared frequency channels. If another nearby router is utilising the same channel, or a channel in close proximity to the frequency of yours, you could be robbing each other of bandwidth. There are a number of pieces of free software that allow you to check the channel of your router, and those of any other nearby routers, allowing you to change your channel to avoid as much competition as possible.
There are many other ways to speed up the Wi-Fi connection that you’re offering clients; some of the easiest alternatives to the above are to ensure that your Wi-Fi network isn’t being utilised by anyone unauthorised (that is, non-customers. More on security below!) or buying a new, more powerful aerial for your router, to better project your signal.
Keeping customer data under lock and key
Regardless of the speed of your Wi-Fi network, if it lacks security precautions, customers will still be avoiding it like the plague. If they’re going to frequent your establishment and use your services, they’re going to want assurances that they can do so safely; a requirement which isn’t really all that unreasonable!
Identifying the fakes
An immediate way to safeguard the connections made available for your customers is to keep a watchful eye out for fake networks; that is, networks claiming to be affiliated with your business, which exist for nefarious purposes. Upon connecting to such a network, it’s easy for malicious parties to gain access to a customer’s personal details.
This is easy enough to stop; ensure that your customers are warned of the dangers of fake networks, and keep track of the networks that you provide. When provided with a clear list of safe networks, customers will be able to easily avoid the fraudulent, more dangerous ones.
Maintaining a secure connection
Password protection is an essential step here for securing your network, and also acts as another identifier for the network in question being the ‘real’ network. If the password you provide customers with isn’t required to access a certain network, or the password you provide doesn’t work, the network must be a fake!
Password protection provides a number of benefits; one is that you’re better able to ensure access only by customers of your business, or at the very least, people browsing within it. This helps to increase speed for ‘legitimate’ users, as they’ll be sharing the network with fewer other people, while also encouraging use of your business. It’s an unfortunate inevitability that passwords will be passed around to non-customers sooner or later, and cycling passwords may only slow such a problem down; but it’s still better than just opening the floodgates!
However, non-customer usage still encourages proximity and interaction with your business on some level, and having customised landing pages for your Wi-Fi network, further promoting your services, actually switches non-customer use from a necessary evil, to another useful advertising medium. Providing key services, like having post offices or cashpoints within larger shops, have been used as promotion strategies for years in other businesses, and with good reason!
Education is key
Make it clear to any customers looking to access Wireless internet within your premises that such a process can be risky without the right protection. Many consumers still assume that they are secure when accessing networks or websites in public places; for their protection, and to further safeguard your network, it’s useful to have some measures in place to try and educate users, and prevent them from risking their data, or yours.
Posters around your establishment are a great idea, especially in the public areas most frequently used to access your network. Mandatory installation of anti-virus software when accessing your network is effective, but may anger users enough to stop them using your service. Blocking potentially harmful sites also bears a similar ratio of risk/reward. You can always customise the landing page for your network to have key security information, or recommended security downloads as well.
Ultimately, it’s about finding the right balance between providing sufficient security, and not excessively limiting customer freedom; and that’s a balance best tailored to the needs of each individual business.
Nick Bush has been writing since he could hold a pen, and has been working in marketing since graduating from the University of Portsmouth. He has a wide range of marketing experience, covering such fields as technology as well as business innovation and wrote this article on behalf of Every Cloud – a provider of wireless solutions for hotels.