It’s difficult to anticipate what you’ll find when you begin working with a new managed services client, and one area where you’d be smart to expect the unexpected is guest Wi-Fi. Jeff Hoffman, President of ACT Network Solutions, and a member of CompTIA’s Executive Council, says it’s not unusual for a business’ management to trust an employee or anyone who can “talk the talk” to set up guest Wi-Fi, resulting in a variety of mistakes.
Here’s a heads up from members of CompTIA’s Executive Council on some of the errors you may encounter — as well as how not to make mistakes that can limit the opportunity guest Wi-Fi can create for your managed services business.
1. Not asking who the “guest” is
Chris Johnson MSP Security Consultant with Pinpoint Solutions says the first question he asks is who the “guests” are. Guest Wi-Fi can provide network access for a business’ customers or visiting partners, but other businesses want guest Wi-Fi to enable employees to use their mobile devices without putting the business network at risk.
Johnson says if you’re working with a new client, not to take anything for granted. If your client already has a guest network, it may not be set up to prevent guest users from accessing the corporate side. You may need to set up a VLAN or physical segregation to keep guest traffic separate. Johnson adds that you also need to counsel your client to establish rules that prohibit sharing the password to the corporate network: “If you don’t properly structure the network from day one and set expectations, then it gets abused. Businesses need to think through what those policies will be.”
2. Sacrificing security to give clients what they want
Hoffman says your managed services clients don’t always understand that Wi-Fi doesn’t end at the walls of a facility. “People may be able to access it from a parking lot or a neighboring building. You need the right level of security – and you need to gently explain what they can’t do what they want to do,” he says. “MSPs need to make solutions palatable enough for clients, but still secure.” Hoffman says you should also counsel your clients to change the password to the guest network often — even daily. “Otherwise someone can come back and sit in the parking lot and do whatever they want,” Hoffman says.
3. Not prioritizing traffic
Hoffman adds that it’s also important to prioritize business-related traffic over guest traffic so employees can get their jobs done. He points out that guests streaming YouTube or Netflix could use so much bandwidth that the corporate side of the network slows down.
Kevin Rubin, president of Stratosphere Networks, adds that this is a challenge that you may have to continually revisit. “Always prepare for growth as bandwidth is getting less expensive to consume. It is a must to have software and hardware that can limit the amount of bandwidth for any one user.” Rubin says based on this per user limit, use simple math to determine the maximum number of users you would expect at peak-hour usage, purchase the appropriate amount, and then monitor and adjust as necessary. “Understanding what other wireless devices are planned for on the horizon is important,” he adds, “In 2019, the Wi-Fi standard will improve, and end-user devices will continue to push businesses to improve Wi-Fi every couple of years.”
4. Using consumer-grade technology
Raffi Jamotchian, president/CTO of Triada Networks, says one of the mistakes he encounters is the use of consumer devices or using the ISP’s Wi-Fi. “The reason it’s a problem is because you have no visibility into who’s connecting on them,” Jamotchian explains. He says consumer solutions have weak security protocols, and when they reach end of life, “they often just sit there and run.”“At home, universal plug-and-play solutions are easy to use, but in a corporate environment, it’s tricky. They open up access to internal resources,” Jamotchian says. “Pick a solid vendor that does frequent updates and offers solid support.”
5. Staying out of sight, out of mind
Johnson says one guest Wi-Fi mistake that MSPs make is not using it as an opportunity to have regular contact with your clients. “The number one flaw in managed services is staying out of sight, out of mind. Services like guest Wi-Fi force a constant dialog — it keeps the conversation going. There’s always a new device on the network that needs to be investigated, and we have a paid engagement to monitor for that very thing.”
Remember to Communicate Effectively
The sixth mistake to avoid when providing guest Wi-Fi is something you need to be careful of when providing any managed service: “Speak English, not geek,” says Hoffman. “The key is being able to stress how your solutions will make their lives better and safer, explain it without terrifying them, and let them know you can fix it and fix it affordably.”
“You need to be able to convince them of what they really need,” Hoffman says. “Your customers need to be able to see you as an advisor. If you’re just an MSP, you’ll get lost in the noise. Anyone can update a PC. Not everyone can secure a network.”