These days, everyone seems to expect free Wi-Fi but as a facility manager, Amenity Wi-Fi (guest wireless) can be a painful proposition.
- When you offer guest wireless access, YOU are tech support! (“Hey, I put a wireless card in my Apple Newton… can you help me hook up to the Wi-Fi?”)
For those not in the IT support business already, tech support calls can be an expensive distraction.
- The potential for abuse is fairly high. On a wide open network, random anonymous users can camp out and conduct business which may have law enforcement knocking on your door – after all, you own the IP address, so you must know what’s going on… don’t you? In the area of network security compliance, this is a baseline requirement; some sort of access control must be in place.
- On a network requiring a simple pre-shared key for access, control of access lasts only until any user shares the key with a friend. Changing the key then requires that ALL of your users make the change – resulting in more support calls to re-issue the passkey.
- More robust schemes for generating user passcodes or accounts have two main drawbacks. First, there is a labor cost associated with generating, expiring and managing the accounts. Then, for most such methods, the user data collected at account setup must be managed in accordance with Canada’s privacy laws. Do you have a plan to verifiably purge guest user data? Do you have data loss prevention measures in place, with a notification plan in case of a breach?
- Most amenity wireless networks like those found in coffee shops or shopping malls don’t use any encryption. A simple browser intercept page is used to present terms of service, brand propagation for the provider and possibly advertising for daily specials or events. When the terms of service are accepted and the user is granted access to the internet, browsing can continue – but no encrypted session is initiated. Traffic is broadcast in the clear, and anyone with a packet capture app on a smartphone can listen in.
- And, of course, there really should be some method of managing access to objectionable content. Imagine a user accessing adult content in a public space, with younger patrons in the area.
Making the Right Choices for Your Guest Wireless System
The answer is to choose the right authentication and network management platform for your venue’s amenity wireless installation. The platform you choose should provide the following:
- A configurable splash page that allows the venue to provide advertising or other value-added content.
- An “onboarding” tool that will allow guests to self-register, perhaps with a cellphone app or SMS-delivered password, then manage and maintain the database of guest records based on pre-set policies.
- Network intelligence that can initiate an 802.1x encrypted session without intervention from IT support.
- Web content filtering, bandwidth controls and session management, perhaps with a “Premium” option for paid users.
- Credit Card processing integrated with account management, if desired.
- 800-number tech support, if possible.
These services are available from multiple vendors, as an appliance on the network or as a managed service.
FCi is a market leader in providing business wireless solutions in Ottawa, and of course, we can assist with selecting, commissioning and integrating the service on your network. As your corporate wireless experts, contact us anytime to see how we can help.