While Joni Mitchell may not have been singing about wifi when she wrote the line “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone,” the sentiment certainly applies to wireless internet access. No one thinks about wifi as long as it’s working but as soon as its performance drops you can bet its absence is felt instantaneously. Sadly, the dream of uninterrupted wifi is one that few businesses experience.
Having recently surveyed 1,000 UK businesses, NETGEAR, the multinational networking company, found that 89% said they’d experienced at least one problem with their wifi, leaving them unable to meet business needs. This included slow connections, coverage problems and dropped connections, which was felt by 38%, 18% and 33% respectively. And those were just some of the issues they encountered.
However, a good wifi connection isn’t only important for your staff. In fact, 82% of the people polled said it was important for their companies to offer clients a good wifi connection too. The business case for doing so is clear, with 52% going on to say they relied on wifi for customer retention. This alone is compelling, but the survey presented further evidence of the business benefits of customer wifi. This included 16% saying it increased footfall and 24% indicating that customers spent more time on the premises as a result of offering good wifi. Furthermore, 32% said that wifi was important for attracting new customers and 70% said wifi was important for improving customer service.
As a small business owner, these are likely to be issues that you identify with, which means you could also be among the 87% of UK businesses that were unaware of a solution that could mean saying bye bye to bad wifi – namely mesh technology. A mesh wifi system, such as the NETGEAR Orbi Pro, uses a router and one or more satellites to extend high-speed wifi coverage to the far reaches of your office. For instance, the Orbi Pro router works together with the Orbi satellite to transfer data to one another via a dedicated wireless backhaul using patented Fastlane3 technology, creating a wifi blanket that covers up to 10,000 square feet with high-performance AC3000 (3Gbps) wifi.
Employees and customers simply connect to the Orbi Pro router or Orbi satellite that offers the strongest signal. This is seamless and all happens automatically, ensuring everyone has fast, reliable access, no matter where they’re working. You could even extend wifi to communal spaces, such as gardens or terraces to provide a range of working environments, or to allow people to check Facebook while they’re on a coffee break.
Luckily, there are even more ways you can improve your business’ wifi.
Find and eradicate wifi dead spots
It’s likely that some locations in your office or business premises will have a weaker wifi signal than others. Moreover, it’s possibly some areas may have no signal at all – so-called dead spots. A full wifi site-survey will reveal these problem spots, but small businesses can also use tools such as the NETGEAR WiFi Analytics app to locate areas with poor signal strength or crowded wifi channels. Use this data to strategically locate a wifi repeater or mesh wifi system to extend signal to all areas of your office.
Locate your router optimally
The placement of your wifi router can dramatically affect the strength of the coverage in different areas of the business, so the location of your router and satellites needs careful consideration. Avoid corners and windows, which will mean a large percentage of the signal is absorbed or beamed out into open space. Also, avoid placement inside cupboards, especially metal cupboards as this will seriously reduce signal strength. Instead, aim for a central placement or ceiling location so that the signal is not obstructed or wasted in areas where your workers are not located. You can even strategically place a satellite to provide coverage to a customer area to ensure a good service.
Create multiple wifi networks
Network admins, employees and customers all need different levels of access, so separate your wifi networks into admin, employee and guest networks. Even better, create a guest portal to offer customers free wifi internet, without allowing them access to the rest of your network. This also provides marketing opportunities, such as immediately re-directing customers to webpages with deals or offers.
Ensure your router is secure
Regularly check and update your router’s firmware to ensure your device is protected against recent vulnerabilities that could threaten your network’s security. Also, ensure your wifi networks use the stronger WPA or WPA2 security protocols and avoid the more easily hackable WEP standard.
Use the latest wifi technologies
Congestion and interference can be a major problem if all of your employees connect to a 2.4GHz wifi network. This is especially the case if neighbouring businesses are also using 2.4GHz networks, which may be operating on channels that overlap with the one used by your router. Upgrading to 802.11ac or better wifi and ensuring features such as MU-MIMO and beamforming are enabled on your router will lead to faster speeds and less congestion. Another benefit is that if all your staff can use the 5GHz band then you can dedicate the more widely compatible 2.4GHz network solely for customer wifi, helping to ensure an optimal experience.