WiFi as a Service: Understand the Benefits
Business owners are required to wear a number of hats, from sales manager to accountant to operations director. With rapidly changing technology, growing risks, and a limited budget, the most challenging role to step into might be the IT director. As the importance of wireless in business continues to grow, many business owners find it beneficial to switch their WiFi management to WiFi as a Service.
Why You Need Secure WiFi
Guests entering your business expect to have access to WiFi. Most people are accustomed to being able to connect regardless of their physical location. In retail stores, customers want to check prices and reviews online. Corporate guests expect access to check their email while visiting your offices. WiFi is an essential part of business today. Unfortunately, guest WiFi is not without risk.
You may have invested in extensive training to help your employees navigate WiFi safely, but you have none of the same influence over customers or guests in your building. You'll need to have detailed policies for proper WiFi usage and use filters to block any potentially risky sites. Guests can compromise your network in many ways, from mistaken copyright infringement to accidentally downloading malware or ransomware.
With the right security strategy, you can protect your company from phishing emails, malware downloads, or man-in-the-middle attacks.
Secure Your WiFi with Five Necessary Steps
If you're going to offer WiFi, you can't treat security surrounding it as an afterthought. Implement the following measures to create a secure network:
- Segment the network: Your visitors should not be able to access the same areas of the network that your employees are using. Your guest network and internal network should be segmented, preventing guests from viewing confidential files or network assets. A network firewall or a separate virtual local area network (VLAN) plus software firewalls should protect workstations and servers from guest network traffic. The other benefit of taking this step is the ability to limit the damage of a cyber attack.
- Use complex passwords: Passwords should include letters, numbers, and special characters, and they should be changed often. You should also have a frequently-changing service set identification (SSID) named for your business. The risk of not attending to these security measures is most likely a man-in-the-middle attack.
- Update firmware: Firmware updates are critical because they fix vulnerabilities that could be easily exploitable by hackers to gain access to your network or devices. It is essential to establish policies that require timely firmware updates and have monthly checks to verify all devices are updated.
- Wireless signals require encrypting: WiFi Protected Access II (WPA2) and WiFi Protected Access 3 (WPA3) make it easy for guests to access your WiFi network and challenging for hackers to spy on your guests. If your equipment won't support this level of encryption, it's time to upgrade, or at least buy a modern router that will support WPA3 encryption. Otherwise, be prepared for your bandwidth to be stolen at a minimum.
- Filter content: Not all content is appropriate for the office, and some files could do more than violate your internal policies. Hackers are skilled at hiding malware or ransomware in online downloads. Limiting the types of content accessed through your network could save your business from disaster. You might also consider a web-based filter. It doesn't require any additional hardware for purchase, and it can be configured and managed remotely.
Five Reasons WiFi as a Service Makes Sense
While it's not a secret that public WiFi is full of security vulnerabilities, there's an option that can go a long way to give you peace of mind. WiFi as a Service comes with some inherent features that make it far more secure than managing your WiFi in-house:
- Scheduled hardware replacement: For most businesses, you need to squeeze as much life from your IT infrastructure as possible. Extending a laptop or desktop purchase by a year or two probably won't be detrimental to your business. The same approach applied to WiFi hardware can have serious consequences. Your WiFi hardware is likely suffering through the dust, heat, humidity, power surges, and sags, but its intended life is only about four years. After this point, you are risking downtime, missing out on newer efficiencies, and likely not receiving all the necessary security protections. WiFi as a Service takes care of the essential hardware updates for you.
- Software updates: WiFi as a Service will apply ongoing software updates that boost performance and address any potential vulnerabilities. Just as you need to update the software on your laptop or desktop, WiFi networking software requires routine updates. With WiFi as a Service, you don't need to take this step; it is automatically done.
- Managed network: Let's face it; IT is only growing in importance to business operations. There is always more work and more responsibilities than there are hours in a day. Staying on top of WiFi security is particularly daunting for busy IT teams. WiFi as a Service gives you dedicated network managers to ensure network security is covered, and this option is consistently more cost-effective than hiring an expert in WiFi network infrastructure for each location.
- WiFi design: Despite what you're told on wireless router packaging, designing a wireless network may not be straightforward. You need a tailored solution for your business. A WiFi as a Service provider delivers a design that takes in to account your device types, application usage, environmental interference, and physical building walls to create a high-performance network.
- Customizable dashboard: Depending on the WiFi as a Service provider you select, you'll likely have access to a centralized dashboard that keeps you up to date on network performance and any potential threats. You'll also have access to data and analytics on your network.
Running a business requires you to wear a lot of hats. Fortunately, becoming a WiFi network manager isn't a required one.
Contact us at BlackPoint IT Services to learn more about WiFi as a Service and the benefits it can offer your company.