Do you provide free wifi to your customers or guests? You’d be surprised how many businesses offer this useful service but don’t think through the dangers or consider the marketing potential of it.
There are several things you need to consider when providing guest wifi access.
- Security – Can they access your internal network e.g. your tills, your PCs or your router?
- Throughput – Can they use up all your bandwidth causing you to be knocked offline?
- Legality – Are they accessing inappropriate or illegal content on your internet connection?
- Marketing – Do you know who has used your free wifi?
Let’s start with the one that scares most people when we point it out. If your wifi access point is simply connected to your existing network or, worse still, it’s just the wifi provided by your router, you may be giving your guests access to your whole network. This means they could get onto your computers, printers, router or even your tills! This is how many small businesses have their wifi setup and it can be very dangerous.
The reason for this is that they just read the wifi name and key off the back of their router and put it on a board in their shop or pub. When a guest connects, they have the same rights as anybody else using your network so they can see anything connected to it. If the security isn’t very good on anything connected to your network then the guest may be able to login to it and misuse it. You’d be amazed at how many wifi networks I have connected to in pubs and found a till with the password “till1” or a router with the username “admin” and the password “admin”.
To resolve this we can install access points that have multiple wifi networks on them. This means you can have a private network that only you and your staff use, and a public network which is for guests. The guest access is restricted so they can only get on the internet and not anything on your network. It also means you can make the wifi network name and password a lot more friendly e.g. “Our free wifi” instead of TK194jh%7g!
These days we are all getting faster and faster broadband connections so running out of throughput isn’t such a big problem. However, you still don’t want a guest user sitting in your pub downloading films of the web while you are trying to send your latest beer order!
Using a guest network as described above, we can restrict the maximum throughput for guests to discourage them from using all of your internet connection. Often all they need is enough access to check email, surf web pages and leave reviews on your Trip Advisor page. You really don’t want them uploading funny cat videos onto Facebook! In this way there is less chance of all your connection being used up.
If there is still an issue with running out of connectivity then you can consider adding a dedicated internet connection for your guest wifi or we can install a special router which prioritises your private connection above the guest one so that you will always have a connection even if you have a lot of guests.
If you’re allowing people to use your internet connection then you may be taking some responsibility for what people use it for. At the very least you may be facing some awkward questions if your connection is misused. If you are simply allowing anyone to use your network without getting any information about who they are or requiring that they agree to some basic terms and conditions then you may be drifting into the area of being negligent about your responsibilities.
If you use a hotspot controller like ours then you can require that guests create an account using an email address and also agree to some simple terms and conditions, either our template ones or ones you write yourself. When they connect their device it stores this information which can go towards demonstrating that you made a reasonable effort to control access to your network.
If all these people are coming into your business and using your free wifi and you don’t know anything about them then you’re missing a trick! You are giving them something for free and they are giving you nothing in return.
Let’s start by requiring them to sign in and agree to receive marketing emails from you. Is it GDPR compliant? Well if they want to use your free wifi then it’s perfectly fair to ask them to sign up for your emails. They don’t have to use it and they can always unsubscribe later if they don’t like what you send. As long as you are up front about the facet that the cost of using the wifi is signing up to your marketing emails then it’s fair.
You can also use the wifi sign in pages as marketing tools. Why not consider offering a special deal when people sign in? Maybe a 10% off your dinner or a free coffee voucher when they first sign up. Alternatively you might want to use it to promote upcoming events or special deals.
With our hotspot controller you can customise the logo and messages on the pages as often as you wish. We can also send you daily or weekly emails with the details of new guests or integrate with several external systems, such as Mailchimp, so that you can send marketing messages.
We’re happy to give advice about how we can help with your wifi system and maybe setup our hotspot controller for you. All you need to do is get in touch and we’ll help you out.