Here’s an interesting device (~ $600). It’s a wireless router that enables you to run a public WiFi connection as well as a private network. I’m sure most coffee shops can just use a normal wireless router (~ $50), however for the occasional time when you want to separate your business computers from your public WiFi access this could be handy.

I’ve written before about why I think it makes more sense to offer WiFi for free. It quite simply attracts customers. There are arguments for charging for access though — like if you have high demand or want to keep tables open.

Arizona Coffee

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  1. Well, you could (with that $600) easily buy two wireless G routers and secure one. I have that set-up at home, and for the actors when I am on the road. Actors and other crew get internet and e-mail access, and we get a secure network for show control and other apps. With the leftover $450, you could get quite a few other nice things. I’m not a really high level geek-god, so there could be some advantage with this dlink machine, but I’m not seeing it.

  2. I think the only advantage is that with the D-Link you can actually control everyone and provide passwords easily. You can even hook it up to a receipt printer that prints out access codes.

    So if you were planning to charge $ for your wifi access maybe this is the way to go, otherwise exactly what you said is what I would do, too.

  3. There is a huge difference between home wireless routers and most commercial wireless routers in the >$500 range.

    The primary area is security. Most commercial high end routers will segment each user to their own “private LAN” so that file sharing is not possible. This keeps others from viewing your system if you have file sharing turned on. If you are a small coffee shop, and you do your credit card transactions over the Internet, then you do NOT want to be broadcasting people’s credit card numbers over the air. The high end routers segment Internet traffic to minimize the chance of data loss and increase Lawyer fees. 😉

    Another big difference is in performance- Most home routers like linksys, dlink, and others cannot support medium to large groups. (Of course, it’s not always necessary to support too many people in a small coffee shop!)

    Other features include:
    – email redirection so the user doesn’t have to change their outlook settings
    – automatic IP configuration for the end user even if they don’t have DHCP turned on to get attached.
    – VPN support – Many home routers don’t support all the different flavors of secure VPN traffic
    – Authentication – This area give the coffee shop a chance to build a database of their users and potentially do something useful or evil with it.
    – Redirection – The coffee shop can force you to see their opening page, and then open up the Internet. A small free ad for the shop.
    – Manageability – The routers will reboot themselves if they encounter problems or get hung.

    Is all of this worth $450 more dollars? It’s simply a business decision and depends on your requirements…

    (small print here… Your mileage may vary…. hotZona Wi-Fi designs, deploys and manages wireless hotspots around Arizona and California. We have fee and free locations and encourage most places to install free Wi-Fi. We typically do not recommend low end home routers due to security reasons.)

  4. Wow! That’s quite the summary! I’m glad you posted that because I am sure it will be helpful to people. I knew there was more to it. I think the second feature you mention is interesting about automatic ip configuration. That’s really interesting. I bet that tones down on the number of support requests.

  5. In hotZona Wi-Fi’s case, the other item that significantly reduces “tech” support calls is that many of our high end routers redirect outgoing POP mail to one of our servers. That way the guest of the wireless system does not have to make changes to Outlook or whatever email client they use. Neat!

    Of course, many people are using webmail for access so this isn’t as important as it used to be…

  6. Ankuun

    Hey Chris you mentioned about a router where you can give password or username to customers, I want to know the model or the name of the router does that. I think I really need something like that.
    Thank you.