Guest WiFi: It's a No-Brainer

30th Mar 2016

Guest WiFi – Of course it’s a good thing! Your WiFi network (and your wired network for that matter) is to be cherished and protected from all those external users out there who might cause trouble – right? Maybe. More likely ‘No’ and almost certainly not ‘Yes’.

Before we dive into the more interesting 'why’s' and 'wherefores', it’s worth trying to separate this topic into two broad scenarios; one where the guest (for want of a better term) actually needs access to your network; the other where the guest simply wants to use your network to get somewhere else (e.g. the Web) or perhaps a guest facing portal on your network.  The former may well include, for example, network competent contractors working on the network configuration, facilities, etc. and hence needing access possibly using their own equipment.  This brings us into the world of BYOD – a topic for another day.

The latter, though, looks at the world of why you should let guests access your WiFi. Rather than getting overly analytical, let’s take a look at some straightforward scenarios.

Corporate guest access

You’ve invited a group of customers (or prospective customers) to a full or half day seminar on your products and services.  We all know that no-one can stay away from their e-mail for that long so let them connect to your wireless and access their e-mail that way. Depending on where you’re located, that may well provide a faster service than rural mobile services.  In addition, you can steer them to a portal to reinforce the topics of the day, download case studies and reinforce their relationship with your brand.

Restaurant & hospitality guest access

In the restaurant side of the hospitality industry, there is plenty of evidence that providing customers with free (!) WiFi increases the dwell times at tables and, during that time, the customers are likely to buy extra drinks, snacks, etc., generating additional revenue. Of course, you don’t want people occupying a table all day for the price of a coffee so there’s a balance to be struck – limiting the free time is one approach.

Retail guest access

In the retail sector, allowing your customers to access to your WiFi is hugely attractive. With the right analytics systems in place (we recommend you take a look at Aruba ClearPass and Purple WiFi)  you can track where they are in the store and what they spend the most time looking at, as well as providing fast access to your online catalogue, online ordering, online stock checking, and so on.

Add in online marketing, through which you are able to identify returning customers and select to offer loyalty rewards, additional incentives, bonuses, etc., and the value really begins to build. More on that here...

Marketing Nirvana

Allow guest access via social networking credentials opens up a whole new world of information on your customers and is, in many ways, a marketer’s Nirvana. Social WiFi (as it has been termed) eliminates the requirement for multi-field login pages – the last thing your mobile users want – totally simplifying the process and building your brand at the same time. Enabling your guests or customers to log-in this way can help to increase social engagement with your brand and increase overall visibility with more page ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘check-ins’.

Sound unsafe?

At this point, there are no doubt cries of ‘security’, ‘risk’, and so on echoing around…and rightly so.  But, today’s wireless and network security systems are more than capable of making sure all this guest or customer traffic is comprehensively separated from your core systems, giving you all the benefits without the sleepless nights…

As ever, it all comes down to figuring out what you’re trying to achieve and the associated business benefits. Once those are understood then the appropriate solutions can be defined to help you reach those goals.  So much better than the ‘let’s buy this and see what it can do’ approach – that can only end in tears…

What Next?

If you are planning to deploy an enterprise-grade wireless network or are experiencing problems with a existing setup, please feel free to contact Ensign Communications for a chat with our technical team.