Business WiFi: What You Need to Know to Get Up and Running
Looking to have a secure wireless connection available in your offices or storefronts? Business WiFi can be a good thing for employees and customers alike. After all, employees are more productive with flexible connectivity options. And it’s smart to give your customers the hotspot options they’ve come to expect.
Whether you’re a small business owner or part of a large IT team for a multi-billion dollar corporation, getting the right business WiFi network up and running is important. Here’s what you need to know about WiFi setup and when to hire outside services.
Determine how your WiFi network will be used.
The first step to getting the right business WiFi network is to evaluate how you’ll use it. Think about who will use it, how often they’ll connect, and with which devices. For example, will it primarily be for mobile devices and laptops when needed? Are customers using the network? Will any business-critical functions depend on the wireless network?
Also think about the kinds of data that will be shared over WiFi. For example, will there be any personal or confidential information shared over this network? And, are there any regulatory restrictions that you would be held responsible for?
A simple WiFi setup can usually be handled in-house.
If your business WiFi network will mostly be used for internet access by corporate and guest users, your setup should be pretty simple. See if your network meets the following basic criteria:
- You will have less than 20 users on your network at any given point.
- Your wireless network is only going to be used for internet access.
- The network will not require any advanced security due to the fact that it will not carry data that falls into any regulatory compliance categories.
- You either only have one location or all the locations will be independent of each other and you will not need a centrally managed wireless network.
- Your WiFi can be down for several hours or days without any business impact.
- You won’t have any advanced VLANs or SSIDs configured beyond basic internal and guest access.
If the above sounds right to you, that means you’ll require a simple setup. You can likely handle that on your own or with your own in-house IT staff. If not, skip to the part where we suggest hiring outside professionals.
Consider wireless access points and get the right hardware.
Setting up your own WiFi network requires figuring out how many wireless access points (WAPs) you need. Think about how many locations will be using the network as well as the square footage of each site. Also consider how many users will be at each location and if you want separate guest and corporate networks.
Which hardware best suits your needs will depend on those and other factors. Ubiquiti Pro, TP-Link, and Netgear consistently make the many “best” lists for business WiFi access points, like this one. But which ones will work for you depends on your environment and requirements.
When to hire outside professionals.
If your WiFi network isn’t installed correctly from the beginning, it will almost always have to be reinstalled, reconfigured, or completely replaced. Nobody wants that. Not to mention the pain of troubleshooting and losing productivity while your IT staff tries to fix chronic issues.
So if your business WiFi needs go beyond the basics, it’s best to hire a service provider with specialized wireless technicians. Consider getting outside help if:
- You will have more than 20 users on your network at any given point.
- Your wireless network requires advanced security and carries sensitive, regulated personal data.
- You need a centrally managed wireless network.
- A WiFi outage would significantly impact business.
- You need advanced VLANs or SSIDs configured beyond basic internal and guest access.
- You want your phone systems to run on WiFi.
Look for a local partner with a good understanding of today’s WiFi technologies as well as your business requirements. A good wireless installer will provide detailed heat maps showing all areas of your buildings that need coverage. They’ll also provide insight into all available hardware to help you understand which products suit your needs. And, they’ll be able to install your network on time and within budget.
How much does business WiFi cost?
If you hire someone like Hyper, the cost of business WiFi will vary depending on several factors. However, if you just have a couple of access points and a cloud-based controller, for example, you could potentially get the whole setup for under $800. A more complex network with, say, five locations, 15 access points, and basic firewalls would run you closer to $5,000.