Network design: floorplan of a 400,000 square feet warehouse

Commercial Wi-Fi is an enterprise-level business internet service that provides network connectivity to an organization, its employees, customers, and guests.

How does commercial Wi-Fi work?

Commercial Wi-Fi, also called business or enterprise Wi-Fi, is an enterprise-grade wireless internet network purpose-built and installed for high-demand business applications. When a business has over ten employees (or 20 clients), that’s when consumer Wi-Fi solutions start to break down. If you’re a small company on a tight budget or in space smaller than ~5,000 sq. ft., commercial Wi-Fi can also be expensive, especially if security and downtime prevention are secondary priorities.

Unlike consumer Wi-Fi, enterprise networks are more robust, secure, and functional around complex business data transfer and application demands. In many cases, commercial Wi-Fi networks will be shielded from public access even as they interact with public internet assets. 

This additional complexity also includes building business networks geared towards isolating and protecting business communications. Wi-Fi connectivity in these networks will typically follow particular rules and be secured against access or view from outside users. 

Types of wireless commercial networks:

  • Local Area Networks: A LAN is a virtual Wi-Fi network in which users inside an organization use wireless internet access. Outside users are excluded to protect data assets or applications. In many cases, LANs are only available to users if they are on a workstation in a physical location (like a central office) or through a virtual private network (VPN) that provides connection security. 
  • Wide Area Networks: WANs function much like LANs but offer secure network access around a much larger area. A WAN provides a virtual secure network that devices can connect to using VPNs or other security technologies. WANs are often offered as managed services from enterprise-focused internet service providers. A version of these, called software-defined WANs, use cloud technology to create WAN networks that users can connect to via an online portal or wirelessly. 
  • Metropolitan Area Networks: Similar to a WAN, but limited in scope to a city, town, or multiple towns. 

Enterprise businesses will most likely invest in the first two. 

LANs, WANs, and MANs often operate at the level of hardware and software. This means that with the right configurations, users can connect to these services wirelessly from their home or use local office Wi-Fi just as if they were connecting to consumer Wi-Fi. 

What should I look for from a commercial Wi-Fi network installation?

Priorities are different depending on business needs. When downtime or lack of connectivity are bottlenecks for productivity or business operations, then hardware and accessibility must align with logistics and physical office setups. Unlike consumer Wi-Fi, commercial and enterprise Wi-Fi have to handle higher throughput, provide better reliability, and support critical features like area-network configuration and compliant security settings. 

If you are looking for a commercial Wi-Fi solution for your space, then look for a provider that can offer the following services:

  • Site Surveys: Any organization providing commercial Wi-Fi should provide a site survey to plan out hardware placement and validate the network coverage. Placement of  access points can greatly impact signal strength and connection speeds, and expert providers should plan out office Wi-Fi configurations based on the floor plan and occupancy practices in the space.
  • Equipment Usability and Maintainability: Always make sure that the installation includes equipment you need, including on-site or cloud controllers, routers, switches, and commercial-grade access points. Also, ensure that the equipment is maintainable by your provider, and replacements and maintenance are relatively simple. 
  • Security and Compliance: Your Wi-Fi should be able to handle your business and industry's compliance and security requirements, including encryption, identity and access management for client-device access, and other features. 
  • Single vs. Multiple SSIDs: An SSID (Service Set IDentifier) is a name for a particular network. Everyone on your network can use the same network with one SSID. At the same time, multiple SSIDs with VLAN (virtual LAN) segmentation will allow you to partition the network for security and other private purposes, like guest networks. 
  • Granular Network Controls: Commercial Wi-Fi should provide more granular controls that you can configure and manage (under your provider's guidance). 

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How do I choose the best internet service for my business?

Alongside your commercial Wi-Fi, you want to ensure that you are connecting it to a business-grade internet service. Internet service providers often offer two or more internet services, split between consumer-grade and business internet. The latter provides higher speeds, more reliable connectivity, and better support. 

Features to look for in a business internet service provider include the following:

  • Speed: Speed, or bandwidth, measures how much data can move through a signal, both over a wired as well as wireless connection. This speed isn't always 1:1 with incoming and outgoing Internet speeds, so it's important to know the network traffic's overall available speed and performance inside your LAN or between Wi-Fi access points. 
  • Customer Service Availability: Customer service should always be available in one form or another. Most providers do offer a 24/7 support capability, either through phone calls or online chat. 
  • Costs: The combined costs of Wi-Fi, infrastructure maintenance, and a business internet service can add up — especially if your business uses services like VPNs, managed IT, or dedicated IP addresses. Balance costs with business goals. Don't overpay for unneeded devices or coverage, but don't skimp on purchasing the right equipment to support your business. 

Learn more on how to choose an internet service provider.

Meter can help your business with internet and commercial Wi-Fi

Meter provides both commercial Wi-Fi build-outs and advanced network installations. We work with every business internet provider to connect local offices, LANs, and WANs for enterprise customers that count on fast, reliable, and secure Wi-Fi. Request a network design if you’re interested in learning more.

Additionally, if you are looking for a business internet service, feel free to use Meter Connect to help you find business internet services available in your area. 

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