In an innovative age of continuous technological advancements, many communities are on a push to digital revolution while fueling social and cultural changes. A key part of pushing this digital movement is to provide internet and mobile access to all residents. There are many tech-friendly options that provide enhanced amenities and security features, but to make it all possible it is key to establish a solid Wi-Fi network in the community. Many communities might feel hesitant to provide guest Wi-Fi due to security dangers of public Wi-Fi connections. In recent studies, approximately 70% of tablet owners and over 50% of smartphone/mobile owners stated they use public Wi-Fi which does not minimize security risks, yet many are prone to utilize public Wi-Fi access.
As an attraction to new owners and a tech-friendly add-on for current owners, many communities are providing Wi-Fi for its members. For many, it is a convenience to offer reliable Wi-Fi access in pool areas, lobbies, clubhouses and business/fitness center areas within a community. The question is who will monitor and are there risks? There are many IT professionals that can help strategize the best option for your community. Even so, it is beneficial to have a basic insight of the needs and cost-effective ways to be a tech-friendly community.
Wi-Fi is now trending as a popular tech-friendly amenity; the main concern might be how can we provide guest Wi-Fi and protect our private network. There are few ways to take caution and offer Wi-Fi connections to the membership and guests. The easiest but riskiest way an association might offer guest Wi-Fi access is to open your existing wireless network and allow people to use it.
Allowing outsiders on a private network could open up the association to risks such as hacking and data theft.
Private wireless networks need to have secure encryption most commonly used is WPA2 (Wi-Fi Protected Access 2) which is used as personal security to keep others from connecting and dropping in on the network traffic. Offering safe Wi-Fi access entails having the proper equipment. If you currently have a private Wi-Fi network established, it is possible to offer guests safe access to the Wi-Fi network without having to purchase additional hardware.
- Some wireless small office grade/ consumer routers offer a guest access feature, that can be enabled and will see another network name (known as an SSID) separate from the main wireless network used by employees or boards, etc.
- With some of the business-grade routers and access points(APs) can offer multiple wireless networks (SSIDs) and provide access with different names and variations of security levels of the authorized users.
- Consider purchasing equipment that can provide better features for public Wi-Fi access. Hardware designed for setting up wireless access can offer some useful features that most traditional routers and APs lack.
- Always verify that your private network is kept separate from any public networks and encrypted with WPA2 security.
It is all dependent on what option the association would like to set up the guest Wi-Fi connection, if you want the users to accept to Terms of Service before access to the Internet this feature is called captive portal or if you want to set bandwidth limitations or restrict downloading/streaming, etc. Wi-Fi implementation can be kept secure and will need to be gauged with the number of users that will have access to guest Wi-Fi.
Regardless which route the community would like to take in implementing technology advancements it is key to know how to securely set up Wi-Fi connections for both internal network users and guests. Always ensure to consult with proper channels to confirm legality and insurance protection is properly handled for guest Wi-Fi implementation. With a reliable network and Wi-Fi setup in place, your community can be ready to add on many key features like mobile apps for packing systems, fingerprint entry/elevator access, geo-sensing (smart) thermostats, LED lighting with smart controls, Smart lock systems, Mobile Applications, etc., that will enhance your community. Establishing a safe and updated network is key to open the door to endless tech-friendly possibilities for your community.
By Liliana Martinez, CMCA, AMS
Lili is the director of management operations at National Realty Partners, LLC (NRP), where she has been a key part of the NRP team for many years. She is an active member of the Quorum Editorial Committee and has been working in community association management for more than 10 years.