Blog / Captain Bligh Does WiFi – Public WiFi Needs to Be Done Right to Preserve your Reputation
We can’t go a full summer without talking about summer holidays; well, vacations in general. My wife and I stick close to home most summers. It’s the best time in Stony Plain to enjoy the warm weather and green grass. And with most people away in the Family Fun Truckster, it’s surprisingly quiet. We don’t have a cottage, we’re not RV’ers, and ATVs and boats hold no appeal. Well, not lake boats.
We enjoy cruising, mostly in the fall and spring time. It cuts the winter down, we get treated like royalty, and for my part, I can unpack once and not have to play Vacation Planner or Tour Guide. I can lie by the pool, visit exotic places, eat as much as I want of outrageously delicious food, and be entertained. What’s not to like?
WiFi, that’s what NOT to like.
I like to stay in touch. Perversely, it helps me to relax knowing that things are OK back home. I get cranky if I can’t connect once a day – at least to Email. And Internet and WiFi on board ship has caused more than one cranky moment. It is consistently bad; abysmal is a better term. They also charge excessively for this service as they know they have you captive. I remember paying $25 USD a day on one cruise; I felt like I was being made to walk the plank. That was 5 years ago, but sadly, Service and Value haven’t improved.
So, I thought a refresher on WiFi from a Business perspective might be in order.
No WiFi is better than poor WiFi. Like politics and the weather, there is always something to complain about with Public WiFi. It’s slow, it drops out frequently, you can’t connect, you don’t know the password, you can’t watch videos; the grumblings are almost endless. A lot of the criticism is justified, as much of the service is genuinely poor. Many organizations only put a minimum effort into supplying Public WiFi, preferring to save their resources for the Private WiFi connections used by staff. Or worse, they allow their Internet Service Provider (ISP) to implement it. Many ISP’s add Public WiFi as a deal-sweetener for the organization to buy their Internet services.
However, the Marketer in me says that poor WiFi reflects badly on the organization, regardless of what else they provide. It’s often a point of first-contact and it can set the expectations for delivery of all future products and services. It might be better to have NO Public WiFi, if you can’t deliver it properly.
WiFi requires management. WiFi – Public or Private – requires management just like every other IT resource you have; in some cases, MORE management. It’s a common misconception that WiFi = Internet Access; not true. It’s WiFi + Internet = Internet Access. That means that your WiFi is taking part of your Internet bandwidth. If it’s not regulated, it could take ALL of your Internet bandwidth, leaving nothing for your Staff and operations. So, the allowable WiFi bandwidth needs to be allocated and monitored; if you don’t allocate enough, you’ll get public complaints. Too much, and your Staff will complain.
Public WiFi is like the Wild West. You have little control over what it’s used for. Some activities might be nefarious; others downright illegal. Because it’s your Internet connection, you’re responsible, and your ISP could end up blacklisting (i.e.: denying) certain activities – or discontinuing service altogether. Therefore, you need a content filter (usually the firewall), and it needs to be monitored and managed.
WiFi hardware is also an easy target for Hackers; and they don’t have to be in your parking lot to attack you. A vulnerability (KRACK) was discovered in 2017 that attacked the most common connection protocol (WPA2.) It made EVERY WiFi system vulnerable to the attack and WiFi hardware Vendors scrambled to patch their equipment, in order to close the loophole. There are many WiFi systems in operation today that still have the KRACK vulnerability exposed, because no one bothered to check them.
There is another WiFi attack vector surfacing this week that promises to be even more dangerous.
You need three WiFi channels. I think most people understand the need for separate Public and Private WiFi channels. But, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), a 3rd WiFi channel is going to be required. IoT devices – already starting to be commonplace at home – are showing up at work: Coffee makers, light bulbs, TVs, fridges, washers, dryers, but also printers, Alarm systems, Security systems, thermostats, and HVAC – are all coming in Smart varieties. Soon, you will not be able to buy non-Smart devices. These so-called Smart devices connect to the Internet, so as to enable advanced features; usually through WiFi. They’re also notoriously lousy at providing even-basic Cyber Security protection.
A few years ago, an HP printer model was hacked that left millions of Users globally – and hundreds of thousands of networks – exposed to Cyber Security exploits.
Connecting IoT devices to the Private WiFi puts your corporate network at risk, if an IoT device is hacked. Likewise, putting the IoT devices on the Public WiFi exposes the devices to a Public Attack. Imagine someone controlling your lights or Alarm system from the parking lot. So, a 3rd WiFi network is required for IoT – and only IoT – devices. It needs to be secure, encrypted and managed. Oh, and it’s going to need it’s own slice of your Internet pie.
Cruise ships are not the only ones with lousy WiFi. While their Technology circumstances are more challenging than most, I’m not sure any of us can use the same crutches when propping up our poor WiFi systems.
And perhaps I’ll do less grumbling when I’m next at the cruise ship buffet table.
If you would like more information about stress-free WiFi, please contact me or your Account Manager.