Internet access and provision is essential for nearly every successful business these days. Customers and clients love fast and reliable guest Wi-Fi. But if you’re just starting out, or you’re upgrading your Wi-Fi, getting your head around the jargon can take up time better spent running your business. Here’s an explanation of the terms you may come across to help you provide the best Wi-Fi for your business and customers.
ISP – Internet Service Provider
An Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a company that supplies the Internet connection into a venue. The router provides the gateway between the Internet and all the devices via this connection. The ISP is often referred to as the ‘provider’. Every organisation or home with Internet access has an ISP.
Broadband is a type of high-speed Internet connection which is now the standard way to connect to the Internet. Broadband packages come in different forms including cable, ADSL, and mobile.
Cable broadband is provided through fibre-optic cables. These provide faster broadband speeds than ADSL. Landline and digital television services can also be provided through the cable. Your ideal speed depends on your business. You should consider fast fibre-optic cable with a package that includes unlimited downloads if you are providing guest Wi-Fi in premises such as cafes and bars.
In the UK, ADSL broadband is provided through existing BT phone lines. The speed depends on your distance from your local telephone exchange. The closer you are to the exchange, the faster the broadband.
Mobile broadband is transmitted via mobile phone networks. Users need a mobile phone signal to access the broadband.
LAN – Local Area Network
A local area network (LAN) is when two or more computers are connected together in a building using software or hardware. A LAN can be wired or wireless. The administrator of the LAN will decide what can be shared and what can’t be on the network.
You can set up multiple networks on the same broadband connection, with different bandwidths for each one. For example, you might have one network for staff and one for customers. You’ll need plenty of bandwidth for your customers! You set these up through the router.
Your router sends data from the Internet cable to a device and acts as a wireless access point so that the data can be shared through radio signals instead of another cable. It is plugged into your land line or cable line. When running a business with guest Wi-Fi, you’ll need a router that allows for multiple networks. Routers may come with various security tools, for example firewall management and intrusion detection.
IP means Internet Protocol. There are two types of IP address: internal and external.
An internal IP address is a series of numbers that identifies your router connection. 192.168.1.1 is a common one used for routers. To change your router settings, you need to know your IP address. The easiest way of finding it is to look at the back of your router. Most have a sticker or card with all the information you need for logging into its settings, including the IP address.
An external or public IP address is used across the entire Internet to locate computer systems and devices. Your Internet service provider assigns you an external IP address when you connect to the Internet. When your web browser requests a webpage, it sends the IP address along with it. Your provider uses external IP addresses to determine which customer uses which website.
Bandwidth refers to the volume of information per unit of time that an Internet connection can handle. Bandwidth is expressed in bits per second (eg, 50 Mbps is 50 million bits per second). However, it can be expressed in other ways and it’s important to check which unit is being used.
Businesses will vary on how much bandwidth they need. If you’re providing guest Wi-Fi, you must get this right. Customers will not tolerate poor Wi-Fi connections and your reputation will suffer. Monitoring usage is essential in understanding how much bandwidth is being used, and when.
WAP and Hotspot
A wireless access point (WAP) is a hardware device on a local area network that allows Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. The WAP usually connects to a router although it may be included in the router itself. WAPs feature radio transmitters and antennae.
The hotspot is the physical location where Wi-Fi access is available. Putting up signs with a Wi-Fi symbol is a helpful way of letting customers know how and where they can log on.
Your WAP can come with a hosted cloud controller service. Cloud computing simply means that you store and access data over the Internet rather than on your hard drive. A cloud controller lets you manage your Wi-Fi system from anywhere as well as managing multiple sites with a single log-in.
Wi-Fi mesh networking kits are often sold to businesses and consumers to address Wi-Fi ‘dead zones’ because they blanket a building or home with Wi-Fi. Having a mesh network means that you don’t need to use range extenders or extra access points.
The kit, which normally replaces your existing router, includes nodes. One node or router connects to the Internet through your modem. This node and each of the other satellite nodes then communicate with each other. Cover is expanded with each new node. Mesh networks are easy to set up. You manage the system, for example to set up a guest network, by using an app.
If you want to set up guest Wi-Fi, you’ll need a captive portal. A captive portal is a webpage that a user needs to view and interact with before being given access to a public Wi-Fi network. It is mainly used for authentication purposes and is usually in place for free or chargeable Wi-Fi hot spots e.g. business centres, cafes, bars and hotels.
The captive portal may feature a branded log-in page, conditions of access, surveys, and payment options. The page with the log-in details is sometimes called the splash screen. The landing page is the page the customer or guest gets put through to after they log in.
The trick to a great captive portal is making it easy for the user while getting benefits for your business or service. Through your captive portal, BLACKBX can turn your guest Wi-Fi into a money making asset for you. It will also give your customers a great Wi-Fi experience. You can grow customer loyalty, stay compliant with the law, increase your social media presence, and build your brand.
Wireless security, sometimes referred to as wireless network security, protects a wireless network from unauthorised access. Understanding the common acronyms will help you choose the best security for your network.
WPA2, WPA and WEP are the three encryption protocols you will probably come across. WPA2 is the most secure of the three. When it is enabled with its strongest encryption option, data traffic is scrambled with the most up to date encryption standards. This is the one you should use. If you are providing guest Wi-Fi through a captive portal, you have to use it.
WEP, introduced in the late 1990s, is easily hacked and should not be used. WPA replaced WEP, and is an option if a device does not support the more up to date WPA2.
WPA3 will replace WPA2 and the transition has already started, although it will take time to roll out. WPA3 has significant new security features and will be important for open public Wi-Fi networks. However, a WPA3 enabled router will need WPA3 compatible devices (laptops, phones) to take advantage of the new features.
MAC Address – Media Access Control Address
A media access control address (MAC address) is a unique code assigned by a manufacturer to every piece of hardware that connects to the Internet. A MAC address ensures each device is unique and allows data to be passed among hardware devices.
Many people will never need the MAC address to use their devices. However, some providers may require registration of the address to ensure those who are paying for the service are the only users who can connect. If you do need it, you can normally find it on a sticker on the device. The address is composed of six pairs of numbers/letters separated by colons. If the device is portable, it may be printed inside the battery compartment.
Contact us at BLACKBX
If you’d like more info on how to make guest Wi-Fi work for your business, we’re ready to help. Whether you’re a major business or just starting out, you’ll be in good hands. BLACKBX is the smart guest Wi-Fi for any venue, from independent coffee shops to global brands with thousands of sites. We provide a level of customer insight previously only available to large corporations. If you’d like to grow your business and build brand loyalty, get in touch. We’d be delighted to chat.