Many small businesses around the country have by now made the shift to a remote and in many cases an at-home location. With this pivot comes the need for high-performance, problem-free WiFi, but tight budgets often get in the way of making necessary WiFi investments. More than ever, at-home business owners need to take advantage of offerings like sub-networks, WiFi 6, Power over Ethernet (PoE), and more to keep their businesses running smoothly, safely, and securely. Not familiar with any or some of these technologies? Well, let’s get started.
WiFi for Your Small Business
It goes without saying that in any business, getting the best coverage in today’s digital-first world from a reliable WiFi power source is imperative. As small businesses continue to alter the way they conduct business, virtual engagement with customers and employees is now the new standard, making both performance and security demands of a WiFi network exponentially more important.
As such, one of the most fundamental tools for home and remote workers is robust WiFi connectivity. And for modern-day SMB owners, the connection needs to be safe, fast, and accessible everywhere you need it. The first step in ensuring you have the right connection is to check that the network service in your home/remote location (via a service provider) is adequate by running a broadband speed test. The second step is to choose the right network equipment for your location.
If all you need is basic business-quality WiFi, affordable, standalone wireless access points like NETGEAR’s WAX product line are great options and can deliver fast bandwidth and reliable performance. These next-generation access points are also designed for fast, fuss-free installation, and an intuitive user interface helps with ongoing management and troubleshooting should you need it.
Similarly, NETGEAR SMB access points are designed to suit each home working situation, including WiFi 5 or WiFi 6, Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), and desktop, wall, or ceiling mounting. With a neat, compact design, products like the NETGEAR WAX610 fit just about anywhere, whether hidden from view or in plain sight.
Hybrid Workplace Transformation
Hybrid models of working are already becoming the new norm and will likely become the new standard in our modern workforce. Examples range from someone who could work from home three days a week and go into the office for the other two, to those who respond to work emails and chat streams at home and then go into the office for a few hours of face-to-face meetings. However, no matter your location — whether a traditional office setting or your own home — the physical office environment itself is evolving, with more focus on collaboration and knowledge-sharing through digital tools.
With that adaptation comes the need for modernized processes and IT systems, and physical environment quality. All of this has to be underpinned by reliable, fast network connectivity, acting as a fluid substrate that brings everything together — people, apps, and devices — regardless of location.
Choosing the right network technology can be your frontline of change in the pursuit of a hybrid work environment, and it can create consistency so that the at-home experience is the same as the office-based one, helping employees to be productive. Strong connectivity — whether wireless or wired — also supports more natural and intuitive ways of working: For example, good WiFi can mean better video quality and use of digital tools.
A Solution Based on Your Specific Need
Options like WiFi access points are designed to offer improved network performance and security at favorable price points for small, home-based businesses. The setup is also quick and painless, making it an easy choice.
Now, for those small business owners who feel that their current WiFi network does not meet business needs, there are a few more overhaul steps to take. Unfortunately, if you are having issues with things like video conferencing or streaming, it’s likely that you will need a whole new system, but don’t fret. Many WiFi systems on the market give you a range of coverage areas and a reliable speed. Your job as a small business owner is to pick one with a coverage area that is appropriate for the size of your home or office.
Back to that hot WiFi 6 topic: For speed, you cannot go wrong picking the highest grade WiFi system, which currently is any WiFi 6 device. Additionally, WiFi 6 gives you a major boost in throughput performance, coverage area, number of connected devices, data security, and future device interoperability.
As a final tip, remember that a WiFi System is usually comprised of a router or the base unit, and a number of satellites. You want to place the router unit close to the internet gateway, connected by an Ethernet cable — as an example, the latest Orbi Pro model with WiFi 6 can connect to internet modems over a 2.5 Gbit link. This allows you to fully use internet speeds exceeding gigabit.
Remote Network Management
As you can tell by now, the theme of hybrid and versatility is redefining the small business landscape. In fact, the notion of the “work from anywhere” model and how you can ensure that, even remotely, your network is safe is seemingly as imperative as customer retention. Key to that process is remote, cloud-based network management tools like NETGEAR Insight. Tools like this have become invaluable and can prevent employees of small businesses from having to deal with maintenance and issues while making it easier for IT managers to remotely respond to requests and manage connectivity performance across different locations.
This allows businesses to simply support remote workers’ network requirements from hundreds of miles away via a web interface or in some cases, a smartphone app. Additionally, some new forms of technology from NETGEAR create an opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs) to support more customers with a one-stop-shop service from anywhere, all from a centralized single system, with secure, separate networks.
For many, working from home has become the new norm, creating an increasingly important need to upgrade the quality of small business technology. Hybrid working has the potential to bring multiple benefits, making it easier to respond to change, giving employees more autonomy over their days, and modernizing the workplace environment. To make all that a reality, the right network technology infrastructure is essential, and keeping these offerings in mind will help you achieve your goal in creating the most efficient, modern small business work environment.
Create a Savvy Home Office Setup
So now that you are working from home on a regular basis, we are going to dig in a bit more on why WiFi is so imperative to your at-home business. Beyond the actual product, there are many things to consider when setting up the optimal workspace, including WiFi coverage area, device interoperability, data security, and more. For those who may not be as experienced with the process of creating a WiFi savvy home office setup — we have you covered with these tips.
Step 1: Identify the Need
Work-from-home solutions like an effective WiFi network are the most fundamental tools you need in delivering services to your customers. As a result, the first thing you need to do is identify what sort of WiFi network you need. Does your current WiFi network meet your business needs, such as high-resolution video conferencing, fast file transfers, online group chats, Microsoft Office Suite or even more entertainment needs like streaming from Netflix and Prime Video?
If the answer is yes, that’s a good start. For those who answered no, we recommend that you replace your WiFi network throughout your home with a WiFi system that is high performance and capable of creating a secure subnetwork just for your business.
Step 2: Pick a Solution Based on Your Specific Need
Starting with those who may have answered “yes” to the first question, your next move should be determining how far your workspace is from the internet gateway. If your workspace is physically near it and you just need stronger WiFi in that room, our recommendation is that you get a desktop access point. Access points are designed to offer improved network performance and security at favorable price points for home-based businesses. The setup is also quick and painless, making it an easy choice.
Step 3: Always Check for Security
Every small business should be cognizant of data security and privacy — no matter the size of your operation. As such, be sure to buy an access point or a WiFi system that offers at least three separate wireless networks, aka SSIDs. You may designate one SSID for your work, and the other two for your household — one for your visiting friends, and even one for your Internet of Things, such as your surveillance cameras.
Of note, as your business starts to grow and you gain more customers and digital properties, you will need to shift to WiFi devices that support VLAN (virtual LAN) features.
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