Finding the right Wi-Fi solution for your small business can be challenging and confusing. That's especially true since not all business models are the same. While some businesses might expect heavy foot traffic through a modest retail space, others may rarely see an in-person client. Others may have customer volumes that fluctuate widely throughout the day. Yet all rely on Wi-Fi to operate and provide services.
Small business owners often find themselves choosing between Wi-Fi solutions marketed toward home and enterprise users. While some internet service providers (ISPs) have solutions packaged for small businesses, they still might not have what you need. A Wi-Fi solution should fit your unique needs, be cost efficient, and scale well for future growth. Fortunately, you have options other than classic ISPs. Here are three creative options for your Wi-Fi needs.
1. Adaptive Wi-Fi
Adaptive Wi-Fi is an AI-based solution that learns how your business uses its internet connection. It can track where there's higher internet usage in your office or store. And among different devices and adjusts the bandwidth accordingly.
For example, your downstairs waiting room may have more activity than your upstairs office. The platform will monitor this and send more bandwidth to the wireless access point on the lower level.
Likewise, a coffee shop may experience an influx of customers during the early morning and lunchtime. Adaptive Wi-Fi technology will learn to allocate increased bandwidth to the customer seating area during these times. It will track and react to peaks and valleys in customer volume.
Some adaptive Wi-Fi solutions do more than just adjust wireless service capacities. For example, Plume Workpass can provide network security and monitor the number of daily customer visits. You can gain insights into customer habits and employee productivity. Plus, you can check your upload and download internet speeds to troubleshoot any service problems.
Adaptive Wi-Fi platforms can also reveal whether there is suspicious movement in or near your business when you're closed. This can give you added security while everyone's off the clock.
2. Wireless Hotspot
Wireless carriers can provide Wi-Fi to your small business through hotspot service plans. If your storefront is compact, you may even be able to use a hotspot on your smartphone. Depending on the service plans your cellular carrier offers, you may already be able to give this method a shot.
If your phone doesn't have an existing hotspot solution, contact your carrier. They may let you add additional hotspot data to your account for periods of high volume or use. Others will let you bank any data from your daily allocation that goes unused. This unused data rolls over for use at a later time.
One of the drawbacks of using a hotspot from a smartphone is that it can quickly drain the device's battery. You'll want to leave your smartphone plugged in so that you don't lose your Wi-Fi. You'll also have to provide customers and employees with the network name (SSID) and password so that they can connect. These are usually automatically generated by the phone and remain the same no matter where you activate the hotspot.
Some people may see this as a security concern. If you decide to use your hotspot somewhere else, others may be able to use your phone's data allocation. People who used your hotspot while at your business can jump on elsewhere if they're in range. They can connect and piggyback off your data allocation without your consent.
For this reason, wireless carriers sometimes offer hotspot-only plans with separate devices. The device works the same way as your smartphone by broadcasting an SSID for customers. However, you won't have to worry about draining your phone's battery. More importantly, you'll have a separate Wi-Fi network name and password dedicated to your business. With hotspot-only plans, you can add lines of service and devices if you move to a larger space.
3. Fixed Wireless Internet
One in five people in the U.S. live in a rural area. In these regions, small businesses provide the majority of jobs for community members. The digital divide between urban and rural areas can limit the number of high-speed internet options small businesses have. If you're part of a rural community, fixed wireless might be a great choice for you.
Fixed wireless internet uses cellular frequencies from network towers to deliver services to homes and businesses. An antenna installed at the business establishes a connection with the nearest transmitter. The transmitter then sends internet signals to your business. Small businesses in remote areas can use fixed wireless internet with a router to provide Wi-Fi to customers and staff.
This equipment is usually available through the wireless carrier since they act as an ISP. Depending on the service provider, small businesses may be eligible for higher speeds than residential customers. This will enable your business to handle more concurrent activity. You won't experience as much congestion as you would with lower speeds.
Keep in mind that fixed wireless internet does require a line of sight between your business location and a tower. If you're located near tall trees or other obstructions, fixed wireless internet may not be an option. Also, similarly to other choices like satellite or cable, you may experience slower speeds and buffering during peak usage times.
Despite these drawbacks, many small-town business owners consider fixed wireless internet one of their most reliable options. Until fiber and other broadband network expansions reach smaller communities, fixed wireless and satellite continue to fill the gap.
Because of the overlap between Wi-Fi options for home and small business users, choosing an optimal solution can be difficult. Plus, small business owners' needs vary according to their unique sizes, operational goals, and locations. Despite these differences, most businesses need a Wi-Fi solution that is dependable, cost-effective, and scalable. Creative solutions like adaptive Wi-Fi, wireless hotspots, and fixed wireless internet can meet those objectives.
No one knows your business better than you do. Consider your needs and goals, and pick the solution that will work best for you. In a tech-focused world, Wi-Fi can make or break your business.