How to get my commercial building online properly
November 12, 2010 8:06 PM   Subscribe

We need help setting up Internet service in our new building. My small business has just leased it's first standalone office space/commercial building. We need internet connectivity and I want to make sure we get set up properly.

Preferably, we'd set everything up ourselves, but even if we end up just paying someone to come in and set everything up, I'd like to know what it is we're dealing with. We're fairly tech savvy, but have never had to deal with anything other than home networking setups. This would be an office of 6-10 people, as well as one retail space and a small coffeeshop needing public wi-fi. My main questions are...

How big of a line do we need, or what considerations should I be taking into account to make that decision?

Do we need "professional" equipment, or will properly set up off the rack equipment serve our needs?

Are there any technical/security concerns to setting up a free public wi-fi location that we should know about? I personally hate places that make you ask for a password at the register, but I assume they do it for a reason besides just being stingy. My opinion is that people gravitate to reliable open wi-fi, and that's good for business. But maybe I'm being naive and opening myself up to a giant nuisance. I would love for it to be fast and reliable for everyone, but not "hey come park here and download movies on my dime all day".

Are there any preferable services in the New York/Brooklyn area for businesses? The last office that we rented was shared office space, and despite our landlord having dropped a ton of money to some service that came in and installed a closet full of expensive equipment, the internet service there was slow and prone to outages, which always seemed to require calling someone to come fix. It's looking like I'm going to be the default IT person at the new space so I'm hoping to get it as right as possible out of the gate.
posted by billyfleetwood to Computers & Internet (7 answers total)
I'm on my phone now, so just a quick tip: however you go, make sure the office network and the public network are on two different segments that do not route to each other. You do not want your business traffic totally visible to the public users... and it will be if you just plug an access point into your LAN.
posted by Netzapper at 8:32 PM on November 12, 2010

Best answer: If you run a public network, use encryption with an obvious password. It protects all the users because their traffic isn't unencrypted and can't be decrypted with just the password.
posted by nrobertson at 8:41 PM on November 12, 2010

We're fairly tech savvy

Asking basic questions about this here means you're not. Hire somebody that can do this the right way.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:54 PM on November 12, 2010

Get a cable or DSL line. Lease a wireless router with the service. The router can do both wired and wireless network simultaneously. Hook the router to a switch that can feed all your wired connections. Have the network guy/cable guy/phone installer guy/whomever they send give the router a nonobvious wireless password you can give out to your visitors/guests. Sit back and congratulate yourself on what a network wizard you are. Update your antivirus software and keep it up to date. You're done.
posted by diode at 9:52 PM on November 12, 2010

Look into DD-WRT. It lets you split your router's connection between public (for guests) and private (for your co). That'll save you headaches when some hacker kid figures out your wifi is insecure.
posted by Galen at 10:39 PM on November 12, 2010

Response by poster:
Asking basic questions about this here means you're not. Hire somebody that can do this the right way.

Just to clarify... 1) Even if we hire someone, I'd like as much info going in as possible. Hiring someone doesn't always mean getting it right. 2) I know enough that I could probably teach myself everything I need to know in a week. In case you missed the part where I mentioned that we just leased a new commercial/retail building in New York City, let me put it in simple terms. I've got my hands full. Anything that simplifies things is a help. The less time I have to spend wondering if the network guy is doing his job right, the better. And if I can get enough info to keep my business partner (engineer, ex-satellite systems designer) from deciding he'd rather spend his time scratch building a wireless router my life will definitely be simpler.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:21 AM on November 13, 2010

Best answer: I see you marked nrobertson's answer as best answer above.

I find his answer misleading, at best.

The encryption on WiFi is designed to keep people who aren't on the network from listening to traffic on the network. But, if everybody shares a password, then you can simply run a deauthentication attack and recover the target's session key. Similarly, if you're using WEP instead of WPA, then all traffic is broadcast with the same key anyway and it's literally half a second's work to tell your computer to capture all traffic.

Basically, if you're on a public network, you should assume your traffic is being monitored.

The main point of encryption at coffee shops is that if they notice their neighbors are using their internet all the time, they can change the password.

Anyway, to answer your original question:

Do this the simplest way possible. Get one FiOS or cable connection for the business office (the 6-10 people), and another FiOS or cable connection for the public wifi stuff. Run the internet connection into a switch, and wire everybody's computers. Yay, we're done.

On the wifi side, run the internet connection into a wireless router and set a password. Yay, we're done with that too. Unless a single router's broadcast radius isn't enough for both the retail space and the coffee shop. In that case, you'll want to run the internet connection into a nonwireless router, and then out to several wireless access points (these are not routers, they just translate wired ethernet into wireless ethernet). Set up the access points with the same ssid and password, and, yay, we're done.
posted by Netzapper at 6:11 AM on November 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

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