I was talking to a friend over the phone. He was constantly whining about Internet connectivity issues — that he faces problems configuring the router, updating the firmware, sharing files, and so on.
My limited technical knowledge had solutions to most of his problems, except one — the annoyingly slow speed.
In my previous articles, I talked about similar hassles that users face due to their ISPs being cheapskates. They can offer you decent speed, but only when you’ll pay them extra. Tethering is not unsolicited, but only when you’ll move to the premium subscription plan.
Small businesses are at a greater risk than home users. Unlike a home user, they can’t rely on a guest WiFi network because such networks are not secure. Moving to business-grade technologies translates to bundles of money being shelled out, a dreaded proposition for most bootstrapped small business owners.
But luckily for them, the situation is not as bleak as it looks. With these WiFi industry updates there are opportunities.
Google’s WiFi Hotspot
Since its inception, the search engine giant had been infiltrating into all online (and some offline) industries. It’s 2015 now and Google has a presence in multiple industries such as online advertising, cloud computing, video hosting, mobile OS development, CDN, driverless car manufacturing, etc.
There’s no reason for the networking and connectivity vertical to be left out.
And it’s not left out.
Google Fiber was launched to provide location-specific broadband and cable TV services. In 2013, Google announced its expansion, and by early 2015, deployed 1Gbps Internet and TV service across many new areas.
Google’s latest move is to set up WiFi hotspots for small businesses, so they can render best services to their customers. The takeaways for small businesses will be the following:
- Access to enterprise-grade WiFi APs at discounted rates.
- Being able to connect to other hotspots, operated by Google’s partners.
- Receiving specialized WiFi hardware for customized connection.
I don’t have enough details on Google’s initiative. It’s not clear whether Google itself will manufacture the APs or its hardware partners will, and whether there’ll be a separate sign-in system for the enterprises.
Maybe the readers won’t believe it, but I came across small businesses that operate with consumer-grade routers. When I asked them why they are not moving to business-grade routers, they pointed at the following enterprise specific benefits:
- Integrated firewall to ensure security.
- Lightweight VPN support to facilitate remote access through a secured pathway.
- WiFi protected setup through encryption.
- Support for RADIUS server (not all consumer routers offer this).
And don’t forget, consumer routers cost less.
What I found disappointing is those business owners forget enterprise-grade routers consist of features that are way more robust.
Following are some of them:
- DMZ port: A router with a dedicated DMZ port can create a subnetwork and make a client machine operate under it after insulating it from the main network. It has security benefits.
- Virtual networks: You can create a separate network for each department, and use virtual networks or VLANs to restrict the traffic to the department it belongs.
- SSL portal VPNs: Employees may have to access VPN. An SSL portal VPN creates a gateway through two separate web pages. The first pops up to receive their login credentials. The second one opens after the credentials receive authentication, and functions as a portal to other services on the same network.
- IPv6 support: IPv6 support is essential for an enterprise. Since the protocol supports 128-bit long IP addresses, it can accommodate a huge pool of traffic. Besides, IPv6 accounts for better routing and packet processing. If a router has only IPv4 support, each passing of data packets would require IP-level checksum. But IPv6 eliminates repetitive checksum, thereby simplifying the process.
- Efficient VPN: A business-class router can create a robust virtual private network. Such a network can accommodate up to a hundred users without compromising security.
- Content filtering: Studies have shown accessing social networking sites from office wastes valuable work hours. An enterprise-grade router lets the administrator filter content. He can prevent employees from opening selected websites, so their focus on the work remains intact.
Purchasing a router for business use may require a hefty investment, but it does make sense considering the long-term benefits.
“Fog” in the Locality
In one of my earlier articles, I explained the boost that cloud is giving to WiFi.
Fog, built on cloud, falls in line with my analysis.
It’s a service, developed on a cloud-driven WiFi engagement platform. The platform is called Cloud4Wi, and the service is offered exclusively for local businesses. A mobile app accompanies Fog. It enables businesses promote themselves via smart devices, and capture consumer details.
Fog is just one service. Plenty others are in the pipeline. Since cloud-based enterprises can access them whenever they need to, and build a powerful analytics based on the data seized. Such applications of WiFi can be immensely helpful for local businesses, the majority of which are small.
The up-and-coming developments in WiFi and recent WiFi industry updates will keep dishing out opportunities. It’s up to the small businesses how they can best utilize them. Their focus should always be on understanding the consumers and their WiFi deployment plan should work towards that.
WiFi Zone Sign Photo via Shutterstock