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Upgrade Your Business WiFi To The Latest Standard And Give Your Clients More Security And Speed – Forbes


There’s little doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the hospitality industry hard. Some restaurants, hotels and bars may not reopen. Others will remain in business but will have to work much harder and implement new services to lure customers back once the pandemic is under control. One way that the hospitality sector can retool for the post-Covid-era is to look at what customers want and to give it to them. 

There can be little doubt that in the future, more people work remotely from hotels and cafés, especially when their work involves travel. Getting customers to come through the door will depend on your business providing great service and the best facilities. One of those facilities that customers will be looking for is fast, reliable and secure WiFi so they can work efficiently. 

Recently, many of us have grown accustomed to working outside the office but to keep in touch we need wireless Internet connections with fast upload speeds. Meanwhile, businesses will need to think about upgrading their WiFi offering so that it will serve more clients with faster downloads and stronger signals, encouraging customers to stay longer and spend more time working in a convivial atmosphere.

If you own or run a small business, you’re going to want a cost-effective upgrade to your WiFi that works for you and your customers. One way to do this is to upgrade to the very latest WiFi standard. WiFi 6 is the latest standard and it can deliver very high-speed wireless connections to many more clients than the legacy WiFi systems that many businesses still rely on. 

Fortunately, WiFi 6 is now being supported by lots of new smartphones, tablets and laptops. For example, all of Apple’s new products are WiFi 6 compatible and that means they can download and upload files more quickly, stream 4K video to multiple users, and even provide increased security to ensure customers’ have their data and privacy fully protected.

Netgear has been at the forefront of rolling out WiFi 6 equipment such as routers, wireless access points and network switches that are fast enough to handle multiple users and support many wireless access points using a mesh network that can blanket a business location with fast and secure WiFi. In fact, with Netgear Insight remote management system it’s possible to monitor and administer the wireless networks in a whole chain of business premises from almost anywhere in the world. It’s even possible to outsource a company’s WiFi infrastructure to a third party without a business having the responsibility of running and maintaining the wireless network.

In this feature, I’m going to sketch out how a small business can upgrade to WiFi 6 at a reasonable cost with a system that offers all the speed and advantages of WiFi 6 in a network that can be expanded as a business expands, whether by increasing the floor space or by expanding a business by opening new branches. For hotels, cafés, restaurants, guest houses and Air B&Bs, a WiFi 6 wireless network can be the competitive edge that gets customers coming back again and again.

My suggestion for an upgraded wireless network involves fitting a network switch with Power over Ethernet (POE) capability and the latest WiFi 6 wireless access points for inside and outside use from Netgear’s range of WiFi 6 range. Upgrading a network isn’t a difficult task and almost anyone reasonably comfortable with technology will be able to do it. Alternatively, it’s possible to draft in a local tech company to help with laying a few Ethernet cables and configuring the system. The whole process should take no longer than a day and will ensure a business has the very latest wireless networking that can be managed and updated remotely, if necessary.

The first piece of kit a business would need is Netgear’s GS110TUP 10-port Gigabit switch. A switch forms the hub of a network and connects all the other gear to the Internet connection, whether that’s an ADSL connection or fiber broadband. The GS110TUP switch can handle incoming Internet connections from both ADSL router or cable modems with speeds up to 1Gbps. That’s an awesomely fast internet connection and means the network should be able to handle the much faster G10 gigabit Internet services as and when they roll out.

The GS110TUP managed switch can serve up to eight wireless access points or Ethernet connections. The switch supports up to 240W of Power over Ethernet – usually shortened to PoE. This technology can transmit both data and DC power over an Ethernet cable so that wireless access points or other devices like security cameras or Internet of Things (IoT) devices can be powered and linked with one cable. PoE is useful because it means a device can be installed anywhere in a building or even outside without the need for a mains power supply. 

Connected devices can be powered entirely by the switch and the amount of power is split into two groups of four ports. One group has outputs of 60W (PoE++) and the other has four with 30W PoE+. The two other ports on the switch are for a regular Gigabit WAN connection to the Internet or a 1 Gigabit fiber port for high-speed Internet services.

The GS110TUP switch doesn’t have a noisy fan that many PoE switches have and it can easily be hidden away in a plant room or a cupboard, possibly next to the router or modem that brings the Internet connection into the building. All that needs to be done is for Ethernet cables to be installed from the switch to wherever in the building the wireless access points or other devices are going to be located.

The latest WiFi 6 wireless access points from Netgear come in either indoor or outdoor configurations so that a business could have a wireless access point outside in a beer garden, golfing range, swimming pool or anywhere else that customers might want to access high-speed Internet outside. This is particularly useful if a business is in an area where 4G mobile Internet signals for cellphones is weak.

The first wireless access point I’m going to suggest is Netgear’s brand-new WAX610. This small and square access point that can be mounted on a ceiling or high up on a wall where it can’t be removed or tampered with. All the WAX610 needs is an Ethernet cable running from the GS110TUP switch. Alternatively, the access point can be powered by an optional 12v power adapter and then the data connection back to the internet router or modem can be set up via a WiFI connection using the latest WiFi 6 MU-MIMO beamforming technology.

All the WAX610 wireless access points can be formed into a mesh network that can cover an entire building with just one network name to log onto. As customers move about the building or move from inside to outside, the mesh network automatically switches the customer’s smartphone, laptop or tablet over to the wireless access point with the strongest signal. It’s all done seamlessly with the customer not even noticing when they change access points. It all works in much the same way as a cellphone network. Mesh networks are self-healing and can cope if one access point goes down by patching the mesh with new connections.

For outdoor coverage, Netgear produces the WAX610Y wireless access point. It’s robust and waterproof and built to withstand bad weather. The WAX610Y doesn’t use a conventional power adapter and can only be powered by PoE. That’s a good idea since you don’t want things plugged into mains electricity out of doors. The WAX610Y has two Ethernet ports so that other WAX610Y access points can be daisy-chained to extend the network over a larger area. Outdoor wireless access points are also ideal for indoor locations like swimming pools, gyms or kitchens; in fact, anywhere that is likely to be humid, hot or wet. 

Both the WAX610 and WAX610Y access points can form part of a wireless mesh network and, with the Ethernet connections, not only is power supplied by cable but the data can be transmitted to and from the main switch viae Ethernet cables working as a data backhaul at gigabit speeds. By using an Ethernet backhaul, the wireless capacity of each access point is increased so the system can handle more data wirelessly and more people can access the WiFi network because the wireless signal isn’t being used up sending data back to the router. An Ethernet backhaul also helps when using data-intensive applications like video or music streaming services.

Because Netgear’s new wireless access points are WiFi 6 compatible, they can serve many more clients at the same time because each access point can handle more clients concurrently with a dedicated connection for each one. Higher numbers of clients can be accommodated by serving them consecutively at high speed. Each access point also has beamforming technology which enables the wireless signal to be directed to the client device with great precision. 

Netgear’s WiFi 6 wireless access points are also configured to work across up to four Virtual Local Area Networks (VLANS). These networks provide separate wireless networks that are sealed off from each other so that a business can have its administration network, a guest network, a network for IoT devices such as sensors, security cameras and the like, plus there could be a fourth network for private use or anything else the business needs. All these VLANS are bulwarked from each other with firewalls and the guest network only allows “Northbound-only” traffic. 

What “Northbound-only” traffic means is that customers who are logged on to the guest network can’t see one another’s devices or access them. This is a very important feature as legacy wireless networks are notoriously insecure, and many people are now wary of using the public wireless network at their local café or gym in case their device is hacked. Thanks to WiFi 6 and the advanced security options offered by NETGEAR’s new WiFi 6 access points, it’s possible to reassure customers that their devices are secure when using your wireless network.

By installing a Netgear GS110TUP Managed Ethernet Switch and the WAX610/WAX610Y wireless access points, a business can easily upgrade its WiFi offering with beefed-up security, high-speed wireless internet and a system that is scalable and which can be administered using Netgear’s Insight remote management service where the whole network is controlled from the Cloud. The Insight system is advanced enough to send email warnings if any part of the network goes down or is experiencing problems. Wireless devices on the network can be remotely rebooted and even updated with the latest firmware without needing a visit from a technician. 

The system is intelligent enough that it can configure itself and will even produce reports on who is using the network and what type of data they are accessing. Parental controls are built-in so that certain types of content can’t be blocked, or users can even be stopped from using the WiFi. For example, a business might want to block access to Facebook or eBay on the employee or office network if that is part of the company’s Internet usage policy. 

The WiFi 6 wireless access points and network switch can also be managed locally without subscribing to Netgear’s Insight service. Each of the devices can be managed by logging onto a local webserver that’s built into each piece of equipment. However, having tried out the Insight system I think it’s well worth the modest subscription charge. 

Netgear Insight can also be used to pre-configure wireless access points before mailing them out to a branch office or remote location where it then simply needs to be connected to the Internet and the system will instantly be upgraded and ready to go with all the advantages of WiFI 6, including higher transfer speeds, better security and even reduced power drain on devices like smartphones. WiFi 6 devices put their wireless circuits to sleep when the WiFi isn’t being polled. Legacy WiFi devices are always on the lookout or polling for a WiFi signal and that’s partly why some smartphones chew through power.

Verdict: In the future, high-speed WiFi 6 will be an essential offering for businesses serving the public such as hotels, cafés, chains of gyms, large offices, workshops, factories or even schools and colleges. High-speed WiFi will be as essential to the hospitality sector as comfortable beds, great coffee, superb service and tasty food. In the past, installing a wireless network was a job for professional network installers. However, the latest WiFi 6 products from Netgear make self-installation easy and the networks can be expanded as required and even managed remotely. Remote management reduces running costs and ensures that the network suffers less downtime. The use of mesh networking means that there are no longer areas in a building or outdoors without a strong WiFi signal. The use of PoE means that wireless access points can be located almost anywhere that a cable can reach. It’s early days for WiFi 6 but there’s never been a better time to upgrade a wireless network to take advantage of the latest standard so that your customers can enjoy fast, secure and robust wireless networking.

Pricing and availability: All units are available now at the following prices…

  • Netgear WAX610 Indoor WiFi 6 Wireless Access Point: £174.99 / €189.99 / $179.99
  • Netgear WAX610Y WiFi 6 Outdoor Wireless Access Point: £249.99 / €269.99 / $249.99
  • Netgear GS110TUP Gigabit Ethernet Ultra60 PoE Smart Managed Pro Switch: £320.47 / €341.00 / $348.95

Total system price: £745.45 / €800.98 / $778.93

More info: www.netgear.com



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