Don't Lose Sight: What you need to know about your business network: Part IV - Wireless Access Point (WAP)
The last major component of a business-class network is a Wireless Access Point (WAP).
This device allows Wi-Fi enabled systems to connect to your network. It is also common in many businesses to provide a guest Wi-Fi. It is critical to select a WAP that works with your network switches and firewall to segment the wireless network. Otherwise, others using your Wi-Fi would be able to access your other business computers and confidential business information.
The wireless network is identified by assigning it a name, referred to as a Service Set Identifier (SSID) - more alphabet soup! The SSID is the name of the network that shows up on your wireless device when you search for wireless networks to use. While the specific name of the SSID is not very important, it should be something that clearly identifies your wireless network so you can distinguish it from others that may be in your area.
In addition to segmentation, a critical configuration setting for Wi-Fi is its security. A secure SSID limits connections to your network by controlling who has the password. It also encrypts the information sent over the wireless connection.
Without this setting it is easy for an unauthorized party to ‘listen in’ on the information sent over the wireless network. That could allow them to access confidential information, including capturing passwords to any resources accessed over the wireless network.
It is a best practice to restrict your employees from connecting their personal wireless devices to the same segment of your network used by your company’s computers. Smart phones, tablets, and devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home can introduce vulnerabilities into your network and also impact its performance. Providing employees with a secure and segmented wireless network avoids these risks.
This can be a useful marketing tool to connect with customers using your guest Wi-Fi. A captive portal can also require the user to take a certain action to use the network, such as checking in on social media. Many hotels do this to send you to their website before letting you surf the web.
Keeping the WAP secure with by installing software updates is critical to keeping your business information secure. Additionally, software updates can improve the performance and stability of your wireless network and keep it compatible with new devices.
A powerful feature that should be considered by business owners that want to keep their information secure is Unified Threat Management (UTM). UTM is a service that comes with a modern business-class firewall and only works if the Firewall is covered by a warranty and support subscription.
Unified Threat Management uses advanced technology to identify potential risks and threats to your network. If any Firewall that is part of the UTM subscription encounters a new security threat, it shares that threat information with the other participating Firewalls and allows your Firewall to neutralize the threat.
YOUR BUSINESS NETWORK CHECKLIST
These steps will help your business avoid network performance issues that can result in employee downtime, unhappy customers, and cyber attacks.
In my previous posts about your business network, we talked about your router, firewall, and switch. These posts are just the basics to get you down the path to a secure, dependable network for your business.
If you have questions or need support for your network, an Integrated Service Provider can help. They can support your entire network and provide all your equipment, or they can address the elements your IT department would like. The important part is to give your network the attention it needs so you get the best value out of your technology.