Think about this scenario...
It's currently 9am. You've got a steaming hot cup of coffee on your right, a full night of sleep under your belt, and a deadline looming. You're ready to get some serious work done.
But something goes very wrong.
All of a sudden, the Wi-Fi drops, and there is no internet connection insight.
The quality of your internet and Wi-Fi connection is without-a-doubt one of the most important features of your coworking space.
In short, fast and reliable internet is not a member want - it’s a basic necessity.
You’ve probably found yourself reading this article because you’re not exactly a tech pro. Or perhaps it’s your first time setting up Wi-Fi and internet for a commercial space.
Either way, this article is going to cover internet and IT basics for coworking. And also point towards other helpful outside resources.
Basics of Wi-Fi For Shared Spaces
Bandwidth refers to the type and speed of your internet service.
The number of workers in your space may fluctuate, but you should - at a minimum, equip your office with bandwidth to support all paying members.
For example, if your space houses a maximum of 50 members, but you currently only have 25, ensure that your current bandwidth can support at least 35. Give yourself some buffer.
According to Satellitedeskworks a general rule of thumb is to have 5 megabits per second (Mbps) of download per active user on site at any one time.
An access point is a term to describe a physical hardware unit that is used to enable wireless devices, such as phones or laptops, to connect to a wired network.
Depending on the size of your space, access points can be distributed throughout your space to ensure that all members have coverage.
Tips For a Reliable Network
Don’t let members install access points
Some smaller coworking spaces might let members install access points or set up their own Wi-Fi networks. This is a recipe for network chaos.
When multiple Wi-Fi networks are set up in the same space, this results in slow internet speed and a precarious connection.
In short, even if your space is small, avoid letting members set up their own Wi-Fi networks.
Although Wi-Fi - or wireless internet - is a common way for shared workspaces to give members access to the internet, don’t overlook the importance and utility of an old fashioned wired connection.
Offering a wired connection to permanent members will alleviate some strain on the wireless network. As a result, you will experience better connectivity speeds for your flexible members and guests on the wireless network.
The idea is to free up your Wi-Fi network for the devices that require a wireless connection, such as phones, tablets, printers, etc.
Avoid members monopolizing the bandwidth
Bandwidth is a finite resource.
If a handful of members are monopolizing or “hogging” the bandwidth this can cause significant slowdowns for the rest of your members.
A common solution for this issue is a dedicated VLAN for your permanent members and private officeholders. VLAN stands for “virtual local area network.”
Consuming heavy content is on the rise, so the need for more bandwidth allocation is becoming an attractive feature for shared workspaces. You can learn more about VLAN and its advantages and disadvantages here.
When looking to provide reliable internet service to your members, don’t overlook the importance of quality hardware.
Purchase a high-quality router and other pieces of hardware. According to satellitedeskworks, Cisco and Mikrotik products come highly recommended. However, you can also do your own research to decide which brand of hardware best fits your needs.
Network Security in Coworking
Most shared or flexible workspaces have an ‘open network’ setup.
This is an open network with a shared common password that everybody uses. Unfortunately, this type of network is vulnerable to hacking, which can be a concern for some of your members working with sensitive info.
There are several ways to overcome these security flaws in coworking.
First off, you can add an extra layer of security by assigning a unique username and password to each user and device that’s trying access the network.
Secondly, give guests their own access.
These people are infrequent users of your space, you don’t want them to have access to the same Wi-Fi network as your permanent members.
So, it would be wise to consider creating a second Wi-Fi network with a separate password and bandwidth limitations for guests.
Dedicated IT staff
Depending on the size and demands of your space, you may want to look into hiring a technology expert who understands the needs of a shared workspace.
This will lift a great deal of weight off your shoulders so you can focus your energy on other tasks and goals. If you are not able to pay someone full-time yet, you can always hire someone on an ‘on call’ basis.
Alternatively, as part of your launching costs, you can dedicate a part of your budget to hire network experts to consult and complete the initial set up of a system.
It’s no surprise that the speed and quality of the internet connection is a make or break factor for coworking members, and is one of the top reasons for member churn.
But now, you should be equipped with a basic foundation and understanding of what it takes to build a reliable and safe network in your shared workspace.
With proper research and help from IT professionals, you will be in a position to offer members and their guests a strong and dependable connection.