Wi-Fi for SMB - Things to Consider

I came across a good little article 1 earlier in the week about setting up guest Wi-Fi and I think it should really hit home with many small business owners. Simply throwing up a wireless access point and connecting it to the rest of your network so guests can have internet access is a great way to cause yourself a whole lot of pain. Not only does doing something like that have harsh PCI compliance ramifications, your systems are wide open to anyone connecting to your Wi-Fi. Depending on the range your access point allows you could have a data breach without the attacker even setting foot on your property giving any physical controls you may have in place a zero chance of working.

The article had a few key points that can quickly help even the smallest organization properly implement guest Wi-Fi.

  • Create a formal Wi-Fi policy- You can't expect people to follow policies and procedures that don't exist. Without a formal company-wide policy, individual sites will end up doing whatever they find easiest or most efficient which can leave big holes in your security.
  • Take proper operational planning steps- If the Wi-Fi is just going to be free internet access for guests while they eat, or wait for others this becomes less of an issue. On the other hand though, if you plan to integrate the Wi-Fi into your business model, such as with online ordering it would be a good idea to make sure your Wi-Fi offering can handle substantial traffic before advertising it.
  • Maintain security- As mentioned above simply plugging a WAP into your network is a bad idea. Proper steps need to be taken to make sure Wi-Fi users don’t have any access to your internal network. They should go straight out to the internet and not pass through any part of your LAN.
  • Make sure your Wi-Fi solution is scalable and performs as expected- Like just about anything, if people don't know something is there they won't use it. When you first start offering wireless to your customers it won't get used much but as more and more people realize it's there it will start to get used more and become a bigger strain on your access point. It's smart to make sure the WAP can handle all the traffic it might be getting during peak hours, and if it can't it couldn't hurt to add an extra one or two to help spread the traffic out a bit.
  • Be mindful of the layout prior to installation-Restaurants have lots of big appliances and usually the walls of the kitchen area are covered in metal. Having access points in strategic locations is key to provide the best signal possible for your guests.
  • Prepare for the future- Customers are only going to use their mobile devices more and more and it's important to realize the power within them. Being able to offer customers mobile ordering apps, or other services will put even more strain on your local Wi-Fi offering but it can also come with great rewards. Making it as easy as possible for people to spend their money at your location can easily increase sales and therefore profits.


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