In over 12 years of experience working with operators and running workspaces, we’ve found that most flexible workspace operators settle for a simple wireless setup and later regret it. There are many associated disadvantages with an open wireless network easily accessed with a common password that applies to everyone and is rarely changed. This simplistic set up is susceptible to unauthorized use and can lead to a potential nightmare for coworking operators. Read on to discover the importance of enterprise-grade Wi-Fi built for flexible and shared workspace environments.
In this article:
Security Risks to an Open Wi-Fi Network
On-demand, convenience and ease-of-access to wireless are compelling features for shared workspace consumers to log onto a network without second guessing security. However, low-security measures can leave you and your coworking members vulnerable to having private financial, personal and business information stolen, shared or misused. With the right know-how and device, there’s nothing standing in the way of a “guest” coworker dropping into your coworking space and connecting to the shared wireless network to capture contact information of your members for marketing purposes – or worst, to steal and sell their identities. This is not the sort of sharing in coworking that we want to encourage. It puts your workspace brand and reputation at risk. No operator can afford that in such a competitive market.
By nature of a flexible workspace, members are constantly in and out of the space. Some are resident enterprise tenants, others short term customers, and some one-time drop-in guests. While some may be trusted, a few may be day visitors, guests or passers-by with bad intentions. Once the name and password to your network are known, it’s possible for malicious users to interfere with traffic to access files and private information by circumventing basic Wi-Fi security measures. This has multiple disadvantages, but most noticeably the risk of leaving your tenants vulnerable to data misuse and theft. If there’s a case of data breach this can have a huge negative impact on your reputation. Word travels quickly so don’t risk your reputation by not having a secure Wi-Fi solution in place.
Avoid Password Nightmares
It’s not so much about having the most complex of passwords – although it helps a bit – as it is about who knows the password. Common, shared passwords, even complex ones are often written down on post-it notes, given to visitors to use, and they are seldom changed. The big problem here is with ex-employees. The once trusted admin or center manager who leaves involuntarily can simply hop next door, or even lurk in the foyer or street outside and access the network unless the password is changed. However, this means that potentially 200 people in your center must now change their stored password just because one person has left. This might happen every day, consuming precious time and resources and negatively impacting member experience. Imagine working from a shared workspace and having to connect both of your devices to the Wi-Fi network with a new password each day. Frustration levels are bound to rise.
Reputation over Convenience
First and foremost, to protect user data and prevent from an external attack, patches, software updates, virus and malware defences should be placed on all devices. Regarding infrastructure, the best alternative to standard Wi-Fi is implementing coworking software with enterprise-level security where each user is assigned a unique username and password to access the network. Authorized users will have to wait for an email with login credentials to log on to the Wi-Fi. The result is a much more secure network; one that is truly limited to only those entitled to access it – your staff, your members, and authorized visitors. This solution avoids the issue of ex-employees and new passwords every day with a one-off unique password per individual that members will only need to use once to get connected. This will keep security risks to an ultimate low and most importantly provide a seamless, reliable, secure and worry-free experience to members.
Wi-Fi Security for Corporate Tenants
In today’s coworking market, not only workspace operators but landlord and property developers too are developing propositions for enterprise-level tenants. These occupiers are not only seeking community, collaboration and attractive amenities, but they have strict IT and security requirements. An open Wi-Fi network certainly won’t cut it.
To ensure that your corporate tenants, occupying thousands of square feet within your flex-space portfolio, are guaranteed the security they demand, your workspace must offer wi-fi security via double-authentication and username-based access. Not to mention, the flexibility of additional public IP addresses, VLANs, and global roaming across your workspace portfolio for the most demanding of tenants.
Hospitality for Guests
A vital part of building community in a shared workspace is hospitality. When it comes to guest visitors or day pass consumers, you want them to feel welcome, but you must also protect both the network security and performance for yourself and your members. Creating a separate SSID for the Guest Wi-Fi network and putting short-term users onto a dedicated VLAN with specific guest bandwidth profile will help mitigate potential threats to both security and performance of your technology.
The general principle is that visitors must sign in to a portal, so they can accept your terms and conditions of use. You can even take guest Wi-Fi access to a new level and personalise the portal with your branding and relevant messaging or offers. This provides the opportunity of attracting new contracts, as well as tracking who’s using your Wi-Fi and what they are interacting with. After a period of time they will be removed from the guest network and will need to reconnect.
Administrators will not only have visibility into who is connecting to the guest SSID but the peace of mind that malignant guest users will not be free to roam or threaten the privacy of your members and the integrity of your network. An advantage to authenticating guest users is that, while you’re at it, with their permission, of course, you can collect details for your own future marketing use and analysis.
To avoid putting your business and your customers’ businesses at risk, opt for an enterprise-grade Wi-Fi solution. Mission-critical software specifically designed for multi-site operators offers your members a secure wireless solution with simple access and fast, reliable internet connectivity. With secure Wi-Fi, you can ensure global roaming across multiple sites, resilient performance across multiple users and devices and deliver a secure and seamless member experience that differentiates your flexible workspace. Want to find out more? See how Connect by essensys delivers the industry’s best and most secure Wi-Fi solution with a free product tour.
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