As wireless Internet becomes more common customers are starting to expect the ability to access the Internet while visiting their favorite bars and restaurants. Having a wireless network available for these customers to access can give you an edge over other local competitors, particularly during morning and lunch hours.
Wireless networking can seem complex, however. What do you need? What do you do with it? This guide will simplify the steps so that even the least tech-savvy business owner can modernize a bar or restaurant.
Purchase a Wireless Router
If you want to install a wireless network in your bar or restaurant you will need to have a wireless router first. The wireless router is basically the center of your network, and it allows all of your customer’s computers to communicate with the Internet through your business’s Internet connection.
Before you purchase you need to decide if you intend to offer a simple, unsecured wireless network or if you want to offer a more complex and secure solution. Unsecured networks can be easily provided by a high quality home router available at a local electronics store.
However, if you want a secured network you should purchase a commercial wireless access point. These are available through companies like Cisco and Linksys. A commercial wireless access point can provide top-notch security. These are often overkill for a bar or a restaurant, but they have advantages. Bars and restaurants with customers who are wary of security issues – such as business travelers – will prefer a secured network. You’ll also need a commercial grade wireless access point if you’re looking to charge for wireless access.
Installing The Wireless Router
Once you have purchased a wireless router you will of course need to install it. This may seem simple, but in fact it can be tricky. There are many objects which can block or degrade wireless signals, such as pipes, sheets of metal, and thick concrete.
Because of this it is often best to install your wireless router somewhere very near where customers will be sitting. If your establishment is a bar, or it is a restaurant with a bar, you should install your router somewhere near the bar. Mounting it on a wall or ceiling will provide the best signal and reduce the chance of the router being damaged. If your restaurant has no bar, installing the router in the main dining area is best.
Remember that your wireless router needs a physical connection to your Internet modem. Installing the router on a wall will help ensure that it is easier to run an Ethernet cable from your Internet modem to the wireless router.
Alternatively, you can make installation easier by buying a wireless bridge or a second router with bridge capability. A wireless bridge is a piece of hardware which can extend a wireless network. If you choose this installation path you would install your primary router somewhere nearby your business’s Internet modem and then install the bridge near your customers. The bridge connects to your customers computers and sends data back and forth between them and your wireless router without the need for an Ethernet cable.
Setting Up the Wireless Networking
Once you have your wireless router installed you’ll need to set up the network. When you first start your wireless router it will set up a stock unsecured network which is usually named after the brand of router you purchased.
To access the configuration menu, connect to the stock network through either a wireless or a wired connection. Open your web browser and type in the I.P. address listed for your router in the router manual. Once you are in the configuration menu you can change the network name to whatever you would like. Naming it after your bar or restaurant is usually best.
If you want to set up a secure network, now is the time to do so. Find the wireless security section and choose an encryption method (WPA is usually best). Then type in a secure pass phrase which users will have to know to log in to your wireless network.
Most routers also allow you to make your network accessible only during certain times of day. If you are going to set up an unsecured network this is a good idea, as it will prevent unsavory characters from parking outside your bar or restaurant and using the wireless after you’ve closed.
The Benefits of Wireless Networking
That’s it. You’ve now installed a wireless network in your bar or restaurant and you have given your customers one more reason to visit your establishment instead of the one down the street. Wireless networks need little maintenance, so you should not have to make any major changes to the network once you have set it up.
It is becoming standard for a bar or restaurant to offer some sort of wireless Internet for customers. However, if you’re a business owner the process of installing a wireless network can seem confusing. This article provides information to help bar and restaurant owners set up their own wireless network with little hassle.