When planning for the refurbishment of the Heidi Farnham store back in November 2016 we put a lot of research into working out the best solution for wifi for coffee shops; both for customers and our back of house operation.
We felt that installing good wifi was important to keeping up with the big-boys on Farnham’s high-street, but also given that we were looking to experiment with an iPad based EPoS system, knew that a stable connection would be essential to our BoH operation.
Our Key Requirements
On this basis, our key requirements were a system that ‘out-of-the-box’:
- Could securely manage both public and private wifi usage – preferably from the same unit(s)
- Had some sort of ‘hostpot’ functionality so we could restrict usage of the wifi to people visiting the cafe – e.g. via a password on display on the counter
- Could be easily installed and had some level of future proofing (we have Power over Ethernet in mind for this – more on that later)
- All wrapped up in a unit that looked neat and tidy on the ceiling
Public vs Private Usage
Looking at our first requirement simply, it’s important when setting up any computer network that public users are kept separate from private ones. This is so that people using your wifi can’t begin to snoop on the devices behind the counter keeping your operation afloat. If you think about it, if your CCTV or your credit card terminals are connected to your network, you need to make sure they’re safe.
There are a number of ways to do this. The most sure-fire way is to create a bunch of VLANs – which are virtual mini-networks, which are seperate and can’t be traversed. This can be quite complicated and so our key requirement was to find something that could do this ‘ring-fencing’ between public and private straight out of the box.
This is a simple requirement that most people that have used public wifi will be familiar with: a landing page that needs some form of input (a password or e-mail address) in order for the wifi to be accessible. This will deter people that aren’t actually using your restaurant from leeching off your wifi (through a password), or will give you something in return for the user being able to use it (an e-mail address for example).
These hotspots are generally harder to configure than one might imagine, with many 3rd-parties charging a monthly fee for them! Therefore we wanted a system that would allow this to be configured with ease.
Power over Ethernet
We wanted a system that was powered via PoE. This means that the unit is powered via the same cable that carries data, meaning only one cable needs to be run through the ceiling. Network cables are also far more standardised than electric power cables for consumer devices, meaning more flexibility if we wanted to replace or upgrade our device.
Neat & Tidy Unit
Speaks for itself.
Our Chosen Unit
Ubiquiti Lite AC1200 Simultaneous Dual-Band WiFi PoE Access Point
Based on the above requirements we settled for a Ubiquiti Lite unit. In addition to satisfying all our requirements, the unit has the following additional features:
- Excellent radio performance via various features outlined on the manufacturer’s site
- Latest wifi hardware with WiFi 802.11AC MIMO speeds of up to 1200Mbps
- Can be controlled remotely via the UniFi Controller
- Scaleable – just plug additional units in, point them to the same controller and they configure themselves
We’ll be posting a post soon as to how we installed our unit and how we got on. Stay tuned!…