How to Provide Secure WiFi: 4 Challenges SMBs Face and How to Solve Them
There are four main obstacles SMBs face when trying to provide secure WiFi:
SMBs that fail to overcome these challenges and meet their customers’ WiFi needs will have a hard time staying competitive, no matter the industry.
For example, according to a report by JiWire, almost half of all shoppers say that availability of in-store WiFi influences their decisions on where to shop.
Similarly, in the hospitality industry, free WiFi is the number one amenity guests desire when choosing a hotel. Take a look at the infographic posted on Refinery29 from Hyatt Place for more hospitality stats.
Customers, diners, shoppers, and guests nowadays have the same expectations for ubiquitous WiFi no matter where they go, so companies of all sizes need to step up their WiFi game.
Adding to the pressure are crowdsourcing websites like Yelp.com and hotelwifitest.com, which make it impossible for SMBs to hide their subpar services, including slow, unreliable WiFi.
So, if there’s an obvious demand for SMBs to deliver fast, secure WiFi, then why are so many of them struggling to provide the infrastructure to be successful in this area?
Let’s look at each one of the four obstacles mentioned above and see how WiFi as a Service (subscriptions) can help SMBs overcome all of them.
Obstacle #1: Cost
Here’s the hard truth: enterprise-grade WiFi can be expensive. The hardware components, the software, and the personnel to design, deploy, and keep your network running optimally, all add up.
Traditionally, companies have purchased their WiFi networks as one large up-front expense—the CAPEX model—which might not be a problem for the big guys. But for many SMBs, cash flow is more like a cash trickle, and there just never seems to be enough in the budget to get the wireless network they need.
How WiFi as a Service Addresses Cost
Subscriptions allow every business (especially SMBs who are limited by a lack of capital and technical resources) to purchase and maintain a high-end wireless system through simple monthly payments.
This shifts your purchasing method from making a capital expense to an operational expense—just like other utilities and business systems that are in the cloud.
You’ll get all of the enterprise-grade hardware and software needed to provide a fast and secure WiFi network, as well as all of the managed services required to support it properly over time.
And as a happy by-product, you’ll be able to reinvest the money you saved on the front end toward other mission-critical areas of your business.
There are two options when it comes to subscriptions or WiFi as a Service.
First, you can purchase the hardware that will be placed on-site at your location(s) and then use a subscription to purchase all of the managed services to support your network. This option essentially combines the CAPEX purchasing method with the OPEX method.
Or second, you can bundle everything together into the subscription.
Both options will get you to where you want to be; however, we recommend option number two because it doesn’t make much sense to own hardware that is going to be worth pennies on the dollar in 3–5 years, especially for SMBs if you’re tight on up-front capital.
Obstacle #2: Performance
The first requirement for every fast network is having the right WiFi design.
Your system needs to be designed for and aligned with the devices and applications it will be supporting (smartphones, laptops, tablets, IoT devices, streaming video, cloud-based applications, etc.).
The second requirement is the ability to then measure that performance on an ongoing basis from both your network’s point of view and that of your end users.
Accomplishing both of these requirements is very difficult technically. It requires having either the right in-house personnel or partnering with the right company that has the necessary skill set, numerous specific certifications, and the experience to be successful.
Again, for many businesses, not even just SMBs, this is another obstacle that’s hard to get around.
How WiFi as a Service Addresses Performance
First, when you partner with SecurEdge, you get access to our experienced, certified wireless engineers who will accurately design your wireless network to match your organization’s unique RF environment and wireless requirements.
Second, a SecurEdge WiFi subscription will include ongoing performance measuring of your wireless network—not just from the network’s perspective (e.g., access points, switches, controllers) but also from that of the end user.
You need to know how your WiFi is performing for the employees, customers, or guests on the actual devices they’re using to access it, so that you can get ahead of any problems before they tank the user experience, and also speed up the time it takes to fix a problem should it happen.
Let’s face it: it’s very unlikely your SMB has the resources to do this sort of WiFi design and measuring in-house—honestly, a lot of large companies don’t even have the capability.
Properly trained wireless network engineers are hard to find and expensive to hire or train, so this is where a subscription can add a ton of value to your business.
Obstacle #3: Security
WiFi security needs to make up the foundation of any business’s wireless network—without proper security, providing WiFi at your business is pretty much pointless.
A Wi-Fi attack on an open network can take less than 2 seconds. Just think of what could happen if your company’s emails, financials, and customer database were accessed by a hacker. Ignoring WiFi security puts your business and your customers at risk.
Security needs to be factored in from the beginning, during the design phase of your WiFi planning.
You need to address questions such as:
- How do we onboard devices and register users?
- How do we ensure that our network is completely secure before we deploy?
- And, how do we protect our network against future attacks?
How WiFi as a Service Addresses Security
With a SecurEdge subscription, proper wireless security is baked in from the beginning, starting with your wireless network design and extending through to the ongoing support of your network.
We include hardware components like next-generation firewalls that are properly configured to keep security tight while not getting in the way of the user experience.
Role-based access control comes standard with our subscriptions, and we have the ability to add advanced network access control features when necessary.
Obstacle #4: Support
A wireless network requires three critical things after it’s been deployed:
Your environment is alive, and things ebb and flow from day to day and hour by hour. Everything changes: the types of devices being used, the number of devices, and the RF environment itself.
Once your network has been deployed you’ll have to have the ability to make any necessary adjustments to keep your network running at its best.
As we mentioned earlier, it can be costly to keep someone on staff who knows how to properly support your wireless network.
Many SMBs skip this step completely, and the result can be disastrous: your WiFi goes down, and you can’t do business until it’s up and running again.
Usually this involves many frustrating hours for your IT staff, and a hit to your bottom line.
How WiFi as a Service Addresses Ongoing Support (WiFi Management)
Once we’ve deployed wireless infrastructure, we use our proprietary SecurEdge Cloud to monitor it so that you don’t have to.
If there’s a problem with any of your components, we act as the go-between with the manufacturer and handle the repair or replacement.
We’ll do the latest firmware updates without interrupting your work flow, because we know that you can’t afford to lose even one day of business due to downed WiFi.
In addition, we provide detailed reporting about the health of your wireless network and how it is impacting your business.
SMBs face challenges that the big guys don’t. But that doesn’t mean your SMB can’t provide the same level of WiFi performance that a bigger company can.
With customizable WiFi as a Service packages, SecurEdge can help your business deliver a fast, secure WiFi experience more easily—and affordably—than ever before.
Dana Adams blogs regularly for SecurEdge and other tech companies. She believes technology should serve people, not the other way around. When she's not blogging, you'll find her enjoying the outdoors with her family and two rescue dogs.