In today's world, business is increasingly driven by computer technology and the internet. With that in mind, it is important to understand the various advantages of Wi-Fi for businesses, including implications for employees and customers alike.
In-Office Wi-Fi Advantages
Having internal Wi-Fi within your office or business location can provide a number of productivity benefits. It can also help you save money.
- Mobility within the office: An internal Wi-Fi network means the end of employees being tethered to their desks to do excellent work. Internal Wi-Fi allows employees to work at their desk, in a conference room, or in any other location.
- Increased collaboration: Because employees can be located anywhere in the office and still access key documents and information, they can work in teams or groups very easily. This can help reduce delays and enhance productivity.
- Simpler infrastructure: When your office goes wireless, it's simpler to organize your staff. Desk locations, adding new employees, and office layout are no longer dictated by wires and cables (which can be quite expensive to purchase and maintain). You probably don't want to eliminate cables altogether, but relying on Wi-Fi can simplify your office setup significantly.
Benefits of Public Wi-Fi Networks
Studies have shown that 60% of people say they cannot go without an internet connection for more than one day. 75% of Americans have said that a week without Wi-Fi would leave them grumpier than a week without coffee! Providing Wi-Fi access for customers to use when they are at your location can provide a host of benefits.
- Marketing: On-site Wi-Fi that's accessible to customers can have a positive effect on marketing. For example, you can require customers using your Wi-Fi network to sign-in via a splash page that showcases your expertise, services, and much more. You can also use your company name in the name of your Wi-Fi network to help build your brand.
- Draw in customers: Offering Wi-Fi can result in increased foot traffic for businesses like restaurants and retail locations by attracting people who might not otherwise come in. Once they've come in the door, they will see your marketing materials and products - and they just might buy while they are there!
- Customer engagement: Customer-facing businesses, such as stores, restaurants and boutiques need to find ways to engage with customers to encourage them to visit more often, stay and make multiple purchases. Offering free public Wi-Fi access to customers increases the time folks spend at your location and can significantly boost sales as well!
Mobile Wi-Fi Advantages
Mobile devices offer many benefits to businesses, including the fact that some service plans make it possible to use them as Wi-Fi hot spots. Whether you provide mobile devices to employees or allow a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy, using a mobile device as a wireless hotspot can allow your employees to work from anywhere.
- Out-of-office productivity: When your staff can securely access your network from outside the building, they are less likely to experience barriers to completing work or participating in key meetings. This is especially important for employees whose jobs require travel.
- Increased security. Having employees use a mobile hotspot when working remotely helps protect your data. An open Wi-Fi network at a hotel, coffee shop, or conference is not secure from hackers. A dedicated mobile hotspot is easy to use and the network cannot be spoofed to steal information.
- Better remote access. With more and more business professionals working on the road or out of the office, a dedicated hotspot via a mobile device can help your staff avoid clogged, slow Wi-Fi connections. A hotspot also helps workers avoid Wi-Fi access fees at hotels, conferences, and more.
Business Advantages of Home Wi-Fi
The fact that people are able to have their high-speed Wi-fi access available at their homes also can have a positive impact on businesses.
- Flexible work arrangements. Allowing employees to use home Wi-Fi some or all of the time allows companies to offer flexible work structures that include the ability to telecommute part (or even all) of the time. This can help attract and retain top talent, as well as to reduce expenses related to office space, absenteeism and more
- Virtual workforce: Home-based Wi-Fi access is critically important to companies that rely primarily on home-based workers. For example, businesses that utilize the services of virtual assistants, freelance writers, or home-based telephone customer service representatives would not be able to operate as they do if the people who work for them did not have access to this type of technology.
- Entrepreneurship: Just as companies can benefit from hiring workers who have Wi-Fi at home, this technology also makes it possible for people to start and operate successful home-based businesses.
What Is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is a method of accessing the Internet or a private network from your computer using radio waves rather than a physical cable. A more technical definition is: "An industry term that represents a type of wireless local area network (LAN) protocol based on the 802.11 IEEE network standard." The term is trademarked by the Wi-Fi Alliance, and equipment bearing the Wi-Fi Certified logo has been certified to standards set by the group.
A variety of terms are important when discussing Wi-Fi technology. A few of the most common are:
- Access Point: Often abbreviated as AP, an access point is a device that acts as the bridge between wireless clients and the wired network.
- Bluetooth: A standard for short range wireless connectivity between devices, Bluetooth can be used with mice, keyboards, mobile phones, printers, speakers, and more.
- Open network: An open wireless network permits association and authentication without requiring a password, certificate, or credentials. Open networks are often called hot spots and provide free Internet access to anyone within range. Many coffee shops and restaurants will deploy these to attract customers. They may still incorporate a captive portal.
- Transport layer security (TLS): A protocol designed to encrypt and authenticate all kinds of network traffic at the transport layer, TLS is the successor to Security Sockets Layer (SSL). It uses certificates to exchange public keys, which are then used to encrypt session keys.
- Wireless local area network (WLAN): A wireless local area network (WLAN) is a wireless distribution method for two or more devices that use high-frequency radio waves and often includes an access point to the Internet. A WLAN allows users to move around the coverage area, often a home or small office, while maintaining a network connection.
- Wi-Fi protected access (WPA): Wi-Fi Protected Access is a security protocol for wireless networks that was designed to replace WEP. It uses TKIP to encrypt data and is much more resistant to attacks that WEP is, but still has cryptographic vulnerabilities that make it undesirable for use.
- WPA2: Wi-Fi Protected Access v2 is currently the strongest encryption protocol available to wireless networks. It is the current 802.11i standard.
Powerful Tool for Business
Wi-Fi has become widespread and is an important resource for many organizations. Wi-Fi is a powerful tool that makes it easier for people to work without being tethered to a specific desk within a particular location, therefore enhancing their ability to be productive and helping the company succeed.