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Providing WiFi to your customers

June 6, 2011

Free WiFi builds customer loyalty, but are you being safe?

As you travel around you come across coffee shops, restaurants, and even auto repair shops that boast of FREE WIFI. Some customers are drawn to those businesses because it allows to work, socialize, and fend off boredom. This can be a great boon to some businesses, but it brings with it some concerns that should be addressed.

The Problem


The primary concern with providing this service to your customers is making sure you are not endangering your company in the process. The quickest and easiest way to provide WiFi is to not require a password on your own businesses WiFi equipment. This can allow someone on the WiFi to connect and use the internet, but it also provides the same free access to your companies internal resources like servers, workstations, printers, and other equipment. This is often very undesirable and that risk may not be fully understood.

Another concern is, are you protecting your customers? There are certain types of attacks on computers that require someone be connected to an "Open WiFi" connection. An Open WiFi connection is one in which passwords are not required. An attack like this may allow someone on the WiFi to see what other people are doing on the internet, as well as log in to their accounts, such as Facebook, and possibly even banking websites. Are you really providing a service to your customers if someone else can use that service to prey on them?

A WiFi connection can be used by individuals or businesses that are not your customer. This one may or may not be a concern, depending on how you feel about it. It really is a personal preference. Providing internet costs money, and depending on how it is used you may want to be sure that you can control it, so that it is not abused.

The Solution


So lets address each of the problems individually and we can review at the end how it all comes together.

To make sure that your business network isn't compromised we want to make sure that the WiFi access point is connected to a different network than the workstations and servers. This may sound complicated, but it often means changing a setting in your existing router or moving a cable from one spot to another. You can share the same internet connection without sharing the same local network.

Protecting your customers is also pretty straight forward. All of the known attacks that could allow your customers to be compromised through open WiFi are thwarted by simply having a password on your network. Now you may ask, how are they going to connect if it requires a password? The easiest way would be to put a sign up in your shop or store saying what the password is. You may also decide to have it printed on the bottom of receipts. This also solves the third problem. If someone has to enter your store to get the WiFi password, you know they are already your customer. Getting people into your business is the hard part right?

If you find that you want to provide WiFi, safely and securely, but are not concerned if non customers access it, there is a simple solution that meets your needs. Simply put the password in the network name. Anybody who can see the network will know the password, but your not putting you clients at risk at the same time.

Conclusion

So you want to provide WiFi to your customers, but this sounds complicated. The good news is, these steps can be taken quickly and often without the need for additional equipment. This is where finding a trusted partner is important. Providing free internet can be done safely and effectively if these things are kept in mind.

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Canyon Networks, Inc. (HQ)
8 Main St, Suite G
Newport, ME  04953

Canyon Networks, Inc. (Bangor)

154 Maine Avenue, Suite 9
Bangor, ME  04401

Call:
207-518-8638
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