Your router has iron clad security. It comes with WPSK, WPSK2, WPA, AC/DC, 128-bit embedded crypto encoded, and a guest SSID to keep you and yours perfectly safe. Fantastic times.
And I understand why and how these safety features may seem important to safeguard identities, corporate information, personal data and systems integrity. Where I fail to see the sense of it is in the F&B sector. Here you have an IT system specifically designed, implemented, paid for and offered so that the customer can comfortably connect to internet, sip his coffee and stay inside while gradually spending the cash that is the lifeblood of the business.
But then, the restaurant chooses to shield that much needed amenity with a password. And this password is normally very complicated. In my deals with the F&B sector I have come across passphrases as complex as:
– The restaurant’s telephone number
– Owner’s mobile phone number!!
I grant you that guessing these passwords may be hard, so the user needs to face the most secure of gatekeepers: The Waiting Staff! These epitomes of cyber security will even type it if you act a bit confused.
Sometimes, the password is so convoluted even the staff can’t remember it, so the admin prints it in sheets of paper, and then laboriously cuts thin stripes with the entire login to give to the client. The secure location where these are stored is normally a cute glass bowl next to the cashier. 007 couldn’t crack this.
Further, I have even seen the WiFi password written on a blackboard behind the counter, written on the tables or printed at the bottom of the menu, in a real life game of hiding in plain sight, designed to baffle the sharpest minds…
I have come across plenty of restaurateurs employing these strategies and the reasons for them are often curious. So curious that they are worth a review:
1. “I don’t want to give WiFi to people that are not my customers”
Perfectly understandable. And I know what you are saying. You mean to say that you don’t mind if a middle class, middle-aged person, well dressed and somewhat respectable, stops for a moment, connects to your WiFi and downloads an email before moving on. After all, this person is a potential customer and your nice WiFi may attract him back.
What you don’t want is the guy pushing a broom to sit right outside your door and skype Australia for 90 minutes. And you don’t want that because it may drive customers away and diminish the WiFi experience for the paying patron inside.
Now, here is the problem. Those guys you don’t want accessing your WiFi smoke, sit or talk with your staff during breaks. And they become friendly. And they give your password away. And then they sit outside your door, and Skype Australia. A couple of days later you are forced to change the password and the cycle starts again…
So, why do you have a password for your WiFi?
2. “If a lot of people connect, the internet will go slowly”
Ah, I get you there. And that’s true. If a lot of people connect to the WiFi the shared bandwidth becomes small for each individual user. And you think this is the reason why youtube needs to buffer, the websites take time to load or sometimes don’t load at all. Often your network just stops and you need to restart it all again.
However, and while this may actually happen, traffic concurrency is not normally the reason. We have found lots of weird router configurations in our deals with restaurants and cafes. And we have dealt with internet speeds that go from 12Mbps all the way to 100Mbps, and all face the same issues. And it’s not related to how many people are connected.
First, your WiFi barely extends beyond your doors. Glass is a true WiFi enemy, and data transfers through it are diminished so badly it makes internet connection almost impossible.
Second, most of the time, we found that the routers used are domestic, designed for home use. And they are often not properly configured. You will be surprised to know that I, personally, have entered endless routers without the knowledge of the outlet by typing 192.168.1.1 into my browser, and putting the default username and password. Well, once I solved the WiFi password enigma, of course.
To the point, these routers go on strike once they handle about 60 devices simultaneously. And if you leave it on standard settings, they give an IP address for 24h, which means that after 250 people connect to your network, the router stops working and you need to restart it. Sounds familiar?
And Third, a slightly more configurable router can balance your network speeds and even limit the bandwidth for the user. You know, so that youtube needs to adjust the stream from 2k to 480p and things like that.
3. “What about hackers connecting and doing bad things”
How to explain this… You are giving this potential hacker the WiFi password in exchange for a coffee. And the chances that this supposed hacker is going to leave his desk, with two or three screens, his access to servers, his firewalls, his fast connection and his automated sniffing processes so that he can handle all that remotely, through your slow WiFi, because your coffee is great are… well… not outstanding.
It could happen though. It really could. What I fail to understand then is why you keep your cloud based POS system, with all your costs, turnover data, suppliers and invoices connected to the very same network you have the WiFi on…
4. “I have a printer with a user and password for every connection”
Now, that’s a bold move. You are forcing your customer to request, or read from his invoice, the username and password for the WiFi every time he needs to connect. And those passwords are proper, different every time and only good for one device. And normally for one hour. Where’s the convenience then? You go out, you go to cafes and restaurants, do you request that username and password every time? Of course you don’t. And guess what, nor do your customers.
I will give you a single piece of hard data that, because of what we do, know quite well. The average 2,000sq.ft successful outlet is going to connect between 220 and 250 people per day. Every day. If you have this username/password system, check how many of those passwords you give out. Once you have done it, are you paying the internet bill to service only this small portion of your client base? Why?
Just chill man, keep your WiFi open, free, accessible. Mind your security on your own systems. Put firewalls, separate the private and public WiFi. Change the router (not the WiFi) passwords, please! And use other and, smarter, methods to capitalize on this expenditure. They are out there.
And most of all, get someone with knowledge to recommend and configure your router and access points. Put managed switches, create VLANs, don’t overload the power plugs and believe me when I tell you that the cabinet under the cashier is NOT the place to put your router.
As a rule of thumb, if when you look at your router, you see cables without labels or even one cable plugged to nothing, you are going to spend the difference between the good quote and the cheap quote in the future. And the problems you probably have, are related to a poor installation and poorer configuration.
Keep in mind that an open WiFi is going to be used by 60-80% of your customers. More than your bathroom…