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Small Business Wi-Fi Woes

Posted by Todd Mersch on 17 October 2017

You own a small business and know that your work force and potentially your customers rely on Wi-Fi. Your employees are increasingly reliant on mobile devices and the freedom of a laptop. It’s also cheaper than wiring the office for ethernet and should be easier to maintain. Potentially, providing Wi-Fi is an attractive offer to your customers. It’s already hard enough for the small, independent café to compete with Starbucks, so the least you can do is provide free Wi-Fi access. So, you get online and order a router, or potentially take the router from your internet provider. You set it up and give everyone the credentials to connect. Done, right?

I’m sure you just said in your head, “not so fast.” We have all experienced Wi-Fi issues at work or in public, so it certainly is not that simple. Unfortunately for many small businesses, the beginning and end of their Wi-Fi networking is exactly the scenario above. A recent survey by Linksys found that 50% of all small businesses use nearly a decade old Wi-Fi technology. Not only does deploying old technology lead to performance issues, but it also opens a myriad of security vulnerabilities, putting your employees and patrons at risk.

Why is this the case? Clearly the business owner realized Wi-Fi was important, otherwise they wouldn’t have deployed it in the first case. Most small businesses cannot afford, or really require, a dedicated IT resource. With most business applications available in the cloud, gone are the days where a small business needs IT to manage local hardware and software. This means the Wi-Fi engineer is most likely the business owner – and on the long list of things to do, upgrading the Wi-Fi is likely to not even be  on the white board.

This is not a new problem either. More than a dozen enterprise Wi-Fi vendors provide easy to install, cloud-managed Wi-Fi systems aimed at enabling small businesses to provide a cost-effective, reliable Wi-Fi experience. However, if these solutions where the answer, the Linksys survey should have said, “majority of small business have the latest Wi-Fi technology.” But it did not. In the end, if the small business owner has not had a chance to order a new router from Amazon, they certainly wouldn’t think to find a cloud-managed enterprise Wi-Fi product. This creates an excellent, latent opportunity for operators to fill the void.

Business owners have active and regular relationships with their internet service provider (ISP). If the ISP steps up to proactively offer a managed Wi-Fi solution as part of their broadband, it not only simplifies the business owner’s life, but also reminds her she needs to do something about the slow, unreliable Wi-Fi. On the other hand, if the business is suffering from poor Wi-Fi they are more likely to complain to their ISP than anyone else. Customer calls and truck rolls are not only expensive, but once a customer has had enough of an issue that they are calling the relationship is in a damaged state.

A managed service should include automated provisioning, service assurance, and visibility tools so the business owner can turn Wi-Fi into a value creating asset and not just a basic necessity. Through automating the resolution of much of issues that cause a poor Wi-Fi experience, the ISP avoids care calls and a disappointed customer. Additionally, the ISP is incentivized to make sure the small business traces the Wi-Fi technology curve so the owner can expect regular upgrades. Capturing this opportunity not only creates increased revenue for the ISP but also adds depth to their customer relationships, decreasing churn and enabling the upsell of new enterprise targeted services in the future.

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