Captive Portals: Why They Are Important for Guest Wi-Fi

Posted by Emmi Sauls on 7/13/17 2:05 PM

Remember the last time you logged onto the guest WiFi at your favorite coffee shop?  Or perhaps in the waiting room at your doctor office?  If it was setup correctly, you were most likely directed to a login page - or what in the industry is better known as a "captive portal" page. For the end user, this page looks like any other webpage, but if you are the provider of this public network, it is actually an integral part of your overall business strategy.

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Let's talk about why.

It's all about identity.  If your company has gated your guest WiFi network with a captive portal login page, you are essentially protecting your users. One of the easiest methods for hackers to access private data is by creating a "phantom" network that looks just like a legitimate connection. If a user sees a network name as basic as "Public WiFi" or "Guest WiFi," they may try to login and unknowingly become susceptible to an attack. Customizing the name of your network as well as the look of the captive portal page will help ensure that your company takes complete and total ownership of the provided network.

An additional advantage to a customized portal is Brand awareness. For example, these portals can feature timed injection advertisements which ensure that the users are exposed to these ads for a certain amount of time before being permitted to view the login screen, where you can inform or delight the user. Captive portals can also be aesthetically customized with your company's logo and social media handles.

What about your company's security?

Captive portals can ensure that your company is not liable for any/all illegal activity on your public network. Imagine that one of your users sends their credit card information over this public domain and fall victim to identity theft - believe us, it happens! Including a check box on your captive portal page prompts the users to say that they fully understand that this network is not secure and that your organization is not liable if users fail to protect their information.

An even worse situation arises when you have a guest or customer illegally downloading media on your network and *SURPRISE* you are smacked with a lawsuit from the company who targeted you based on your IP address. Asking your users to set up a temporary account for limited network access takes the responsibility off of your hands. Don't forget to slide in an additional check box forcing the user to agree to your Terms & Conditions before accessing the WiFi too!

Two words, Big Data. This one is for you Marketers, listen up!

Though this thought is something one would not typically associate with captive portals, it is incredibly important to consider. These portals have the ability to provide you with valuable data that you can then use to improve your user experience. The most effortless way to do this? Allow your guests to sign into your network with their social media login credentials. Allowing the user to log in with their Facebook or LinkedIn account grants you access to a variety of social data points: age, date of birth, geographic location, interests, etc.

What if your public network is consistently accessed by users and subsequently lagging in speed?

Bandwidth throttling. Additional programming on your captive portal pages can minimize the activity of those gobbling up your bandwidth with large file downloads.  Who would think of watching Netflix on your public network....? Whether your programming limits the size of files that can be downloaded, restricts the number of downloads per user, or blocks the connection to sites containing large files, bandwidth throttling puts you in control of your network's speed.

If you are looking to improve the legal, financial, and marketing aspects of your online business strategy all while providing a public wireless network for your users, make sure to invest in a captive portal! 

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Topics: Wi-Fi, Networking Solutions, WiFi Speed