Comcast is making it easier for small and midsized businesses (SMBs) to offer their customers Wi-Fi while keeping their own networks secure.
The cable giant's commercial services division, Comcast Business, today announced its new Business Wireless Gateway. Developed by Cisco, the modem and router combo is "a secure, fully managed Wi-Fi solution for our small and medium sized business customers," according to John Guillaume, vice president of product development, Comcast Business.
Available at no additional cost to most Comcast Business Internet plans, including the high-speed 150 Mb per second tier, the Business Wireless Gateway resolves some of the biggest issues small businesses face while they weigh the benefits and risks associated with providing access to public Wi-Fi.
Secure Wi-Fi for SMBs and Their Customers
Essentially, the new hardware creates both a secure private wireless network and a public Wi-Fi hotspot, which is "logically separated in the device," said Guillaume. In addition, the small business employees using the wireless network and the small business' customers using the Wi-Fi hotspot "don't affect one another's broadband speed," he said. Plus, the solution is "completely managed by Comcast," lifting that burden off of the small business.
Besides connecting businesses and their patrons to the Internet, the device should appeal help shop owners who remain uncertain about providing public Wi-Fi, according to Guillaume.
Main street businesses "are nervous about offering Wi-Fi," Guillaume told Small Business Computing during an interview. The reasons boil down to security, cost, setup, and maintenance.
Despite the potential benefits, many small business owners don't want the added hassle of managing more network equipment and guarding against wireless attackers. Nor do they want to worry about the impact to their own network speeds. Running their own shops is work enough.
Unfortunately, entrepreneurs who remain averse to Wi-Fi could be stunting their own business' growth.
A recent study conducted by Bredin Research and sponsored by Comcast Business reveals that Wi-Fi boosts sales. Fifty-five percent of SMBs said that offering Wi-Fi Internet access resulted in higher sales per customer visit.
In their survey of 602 IT decision makers and managers at SMBs (1 to 100 employees), the companies found that 65 percent reported an increase in repeat business. Fifty-five percent said that Wi-Fi attracted new customers. And while 50 percent of companies that don't offer public Wi-Fi said that they expect revenue growth, the number jumps to 67 percent for businesses that make Wi-Fi available to their customers.
"Main Street businesses and entrepreneurs of all types recognize that wireless Internet access is a must for their patrons, and that providing free Wi-Fi can give them a competitive edge," said Bill Stemper, president of Comcast Business, in prepared remarks. "Given the challenges that small businesses face in today's uncertain economy, we are encouraged that technologies like Wi-Fi will help sustain growth."
"Many different types of customers—coffee shops, law firms, real estate offices, gyms, libraries and more—want to attract and retain visitors to their location and give employees the tools they need to be more productive," said Guillaume, in a statement. "Wi-Fi can be critical on both fronts, and this device can help make that easy to manage."
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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