These days, people rely on staying connected more than ever. When they walk into your business and can log on to a free Wi-Fi connection, it can instantly put their mind at ease. But when it doesn’t work, who gets the blame? Spoiler: It’s not the router (though that little guy may be the actual culprit).
You know you’re going to take the heat when your business’s Wi-Fi is spotty, so we’ve put together a guide to help you avoid this. Here are tips on boosting your business’s internet performance to keep customers happy.
Why does my business need Wi-Fi in the first place?
The simplest reason? Customers want it. While you might own a café or a bookstore where you don’t want people glued to their screens or playing noisy videos, remember that most of your customers aren’t trying to disrupt your space with their smartphone. They might be enjoying their lunch break at your cozy destination, but also taking the opportunity to multitask by sneaking in a quick work email, firing off a text to the babysitter, making an online grocery order, or lining up an Uber.
If you have a business with a waiting room, particularly one that can be stressful or have long wait times, customers can use a Wi-Fi connection to do things that will put them at ease, like playing a quiet game or streaming a soothing podcast. They’ll be less annoyed about wait times and happy they don’t have to use their own data.
Okay, so how do I make sure the connection doesn’t drop?
Here are pointers that can help you get the strongest possible Wi-Fi signal and the speed you need from your router.
1. Place your router centrally
This might seem like an obvious tip, but it’s one you should always consider. Regardless of whether you have DSL, cable or fiber technology, router placement will impact connectivity. Place your router in a central location in your office so that it can easily reach all of the devices it needs to support. If the source of internet in your office isn’t centrally located, it may be worth investing in an ethernet cable to carry the signal to a more central location where you can connect the router. Test it out or work with the professional who installs the internet service for best placement.
2. Avoid interference: give the router space
If the router is on a crowded filing cabinet or tucked behind a large reception counter, you may be doing your signal a disservice. Avoid placing your router in corners or anywhere else where the structure or furnishings of your office might get in the way of the signal. Avoid staircases, large furniture, chimneys, concrete walls, and closed closets.
What else interferes with Wi-Fi signals?
- Building materials: concrete, thick wooden structures, metal and metal shielding materials that are sometimes hiding behind your drywall
- Wireless electronic devices: printers, cordless phones and anything with Bluetooth
- Appliances: radio waves from microwaves interfere with the actual signal, while other appliances like refrigerators are large metal objects that are difficult for the signal to penetrate
Avoid as many of interferences as possible, and don’t be afraid to try new configurations if something doesn’t work.
Dual-band routers: does it matter if you use 2.4GHz or 5GHz?
The electronics mentioned above often operate in the same 2.4GHz band of many Wi-Fi routers. This basically means that the highway where the information travels can get crowded, like when you’re driving between states and your radio is picking up two different stations on the same channel. If you have a “dual-band” router, or see two options for your network (like “Cafe-Network” and “Cafe-Network-5G”), try using the 5GHz connection to avoid interference with other 2.4GHz devices.
3. Be mindful of signal congestion
The more devices you’ve got going, the more pressure your network is going to feel. Do you have a coffee shop full of people working remotely? A hair salon where customers stream an entire show while waiting for their dye to set? A real estate office where people get out their phones to show you listings they love? A promotion where customers can download your app on site for a discount?
4. Change the channel
There are typically 11 channels that your router can use to transmit Wi-Fi signals. Routers are either pre-set to use a specific channel, or they automatically choose a channel when they’re initially configured. This works most of the time, but having everyone in your building on the same channel can cause slowdowns.
To change the channel, login to your router’s admin interface. This is usually accessed by typing your router’s default IP address into your address bar. Often the best way to find this information is to Google “default IP for [your specific router manufacturer].” From there, test your speed on different channels (either 1, 6 or 11 are recommended) to see if one is better than the others.
5. Invest in a Wi-Fi range extender or mesh network
If you want a stronger Wi-Fi signal and you’re willing to spend a little money, consider the following:
Wi-Fi range extenders or external antennas
These tools are helpful—they ingest your Wi-Fi signal and rebroadcast it, giving it a boost and extending the distance it covers. You can add extenders to any existing network with almost any router, as extenders usually rebroadcast their signal as if it’s an entirely separate Wi-Fi network. This is especially helpful if you have a rather large, spread-out business area or one with both indoor and outdoor capacity.
Mesh Wi-Fi networks
Mesh Wi-Fi networks on the other hand, can replace your existing router or be added on top of it. With mesh Wi-Fi, you’re essentially taking the traditional router and splitting it into smaller pieces. You place these smaller devices throughout your office to create “mesh nodes” of connectivity that are just as fast in every area. Sophisticated software on these devices helps manage traffic and keep things efficient for your business.
Before you consider additional hardware to improve your Wi-Fi signal, make sure your router’s “firmware” is up to date. It’s just like a software update for your phone, and your service provider or hardware manufacturer should be able to help you get the latest version.
If you’re having Wi-Fi issues, try these tips before you ditch your router. Often it has nothing to do with the hardware, so make sure you double-check your router placement. Treat your Wi-Fi right, and it will perform for you and your customers.