How to Set Up a Wi-Fi Network for Your Business

Posted in Guides, Radius, Wi-Fi, WPA2

US businesses continue to flourish – it’s a known fact! There are close to 30 million businesses in America, and about 80% of them are self managed. If you’ve been thinking of escaping the 9-to-5 race, this article will help you understand what’s needed when it comes to building a Wi-Fi network for your business.

In a nutshell, you will need a router – be it wired or wireless – and maybe a few wireless access points, a.k.a. APs.

First of all, you will need to determine the areas where Wi-Fi coverage is needed. If your business is supposed to run using several computers, some of them may not need Wi-Fi or even Internet access at all. It’s best to keep your accountant’s computer disconnected from any network, if possible, for example. In some computers will definitely work even better if you can plug them into the network using wired connections.

So, think about the computers that will access the network using wires, and then focus your energy on the ones that really need Wi-Fi. Then, try to map out the areas where you’d like to have a stronger Wi-Fi signal. You’d like that to happen for computers that are supposed to do video conferences, or any other computer that will either stream, or work with large amounts of data.

It’s time to evaluate the number of wireless access points that will be needed. For best results, consider adding an AP for each 1,000 square feet surface. This is just a rough estimation, of course, because it all depends on the type of building and walls, the size of the room, the electronic equipment in the area, and so on. Still, my recommendation should serve as a good starting point and will cover most people’s needs.

You don’t have to purchase lots of APs at once, of course. Just buy one, and then move it around, placing it in each room and seeing how well it performs. Use your cell phone, a tablet, or a laptop, and then walk around the building and see where the signal drops to a level that is not acceptable for your business. Then, you will be able to determine the needed number of APs.

It’s time to verify if each of the desired devices that is supposed to connect to the Wi-Fi network has a Wi-Fi adapter. Most smartphones and tablets would include one, but older laptops, or even newer laptops may not have a working Wi-Fi adapter. If this is the case, you can purchase USB Wi-Fi adapters. Some of them include detachable antennas, so you can easily boost their range by replacing them with antennas that have a higher gain.

Choose a wireless standard; pick one that is supported by all the devices. Some wireless adapters support both bands, so they can also work using the much less crowded 5 GHz band.

Some businesses attract customers by providing free Wi-Fi access – think coffee shops, for example. If this is the case, consider purchasing a router that can create a guest network.

Pick a security protocol. Go with WPA2, which provides the strongest encryption. You could use the PSK (pre-shared key) mode, which was built with the end-user in mind. However, if your business will have lots of employees, and if one of them loses his or her device or leaves the company, you will have to change the passwords on all the access points, computers, tablets, smartphones, and so on.

The enterprise security mode requires a RADIUS server, which will generate a custom key for each Wi-Fi client. If you’re just starting out, you will be happy to discover that there are several hosted services which will save you money and make things much easier on your end.

Will you want to have a centralized storage system? If the answer is affirmative, consider using one of the computers – one that has a large hard drive – to store all the files. The better alternative is to purchase a NAS, which stands for network attached storage. It’s also a computer, but one that’s compact and was built especially for network file storage purposes.

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