3 Reasons a Guest Wi-Fi Network Makes Sense

You can’t beat the convenience of a wireless network. In fact, Wi-Fi is so popular and effective that some new small businesses have opted out of a wired network altogether in favor of the fast 802.11n wireless standard.

However, small business owners should also consider creating a Wi-Fi guest network. A guest network uses a different SSID from the wireless network that you and your employees access. It’s designed specifically to provide visitors with Internet access while keeping your main Wi-Fi network separate and secure.

We look at three reasons why you may want to consider adding a guest network for your business.

The Benefits of a Guest Wi-Fi Network

1. Improve security and privacy

The primary advantage of deploying a guest network is the increased security it offers. By segregating the network in this manner, you can control who has access to your company’s network of computers, servers, storage appliances, printers. This is crucial since sophisticated Trojans and malware can use a visitors’ laptop or mobile device as a launch pad to probe or attack machines on your network.

Moreover, setting up a guest wireless network for visiting clients, customers and vendors lets you keep your primary network’s security password secret. This is an important consideration given that many small businesses likely rely on a static passphrase for internal users. The alternative is to change the passphrase after each group of visitors—which is not a practical strategy.

2. Increase convenience

While the security of a wireless transmission is primarily related to the type of encryption algorithm used, the length and complexity of the password is another key influencer. As you can imagine, attempting to key in a 25-character passphrase correctly can be an error-prone and frustrating experience.

On the other hand, it is much easier to key in an 8 or 10-character code. Though more susceptible to a brute force attack, the segregated nature of the guest network serves to keep risks to a minimum. For better security, change the passphrase for the guest network regularly, print the latest code on slips of paper, and then hand them out to your authorized guests as needed.

3. Control network usage

A guest Wi-Fi network also lets you limit the Internet resources available to visitors. Instead of allocating guests the same priority in bandwidth, it makes sense to restrict the guest network to a speed that offers reasonable access without affecting the network performance available to your employees.

It is important to note that not all Wi-Fi access points support the capability to deploy more than one network, though this shouldn’t be problem in business-grade Wi-Fi systems.

If your company doesn’t have business-grade Wi-Fi and you’re not keen on changing your existing Wi-Fi infrastructure, you can consider deploying a parallel network for guests.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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