Walk into just about any business nowadays, whether it’s an auto service center or coffee shop, and you’re likely to be given access to complimentary Wi-Fi. Major supermarket chains even offer internet service as a way to facilitate digital coupon clipping with personalized shopping apps. People have grown so accustomed to the availability of free Wi-Fi that many households now routinely rely on it to get work done.

In addition to offering public Wi-Fi to guests, businesses increasingly depend on internet service to run everything from point-of-sale machines to internet of things (IoT) devices. When internet service starts to slow down or act up, it can become more than a minor annoyance. Sluggish and underperforming internet service can eventually cost a business its very existence.

Upgrading your business’s internet capacities and capabilities can quickly become a top priority. However, upgrading often means more than calling your ISP to change your plan’s bandwidth. Newer technologies and network standards are constantly evolving. Implementing them can have a significant impact on your internet service’s performance.

3 steps to upgrade your business internet

For business owners who aren’t tech-savvy, this may seem like a daunting task. But it doesn’t have to be. Here are some simple steps you can take to upgrade your business Internet.

Use cloud-based managed services.

You and your employees don’t have to become certified network engineers to manage your company’s internet service and local equipment. Cloud-based management tools, including adaptive Wi-Fi solutions, can simplify and automate the process. Adaptive Wi-Fi, in particular, constantly monitors your network traffic and automatically adjusts allocated bandwidth for different areas within specific locations.

When more devices are connecting to the public network in the lobby area, adaptive Wi-Fi will shift available bandwidth there. As the demand for internet connectivity changes throughout the day, a cloud-based solution will allocate capacity accordingly. Cloud-based solutions such as small business intelligence platform Plume Workpass also allow you to remotely manage network equipment and monitor activity. This can be helpful if you operate more than one location, are traveling, or need to work offsite.

Cloud-based internet and Wi-Fi management tools can offer analytics, customer behavioral insights, and enhanced security. By partnering with a vendor, you can gain expertise without having to hire more employees or study complex networking protocols. With built-in dashboard tools and keycards, you’ll know when your team arrives and leaves. You’ll be able to control who has physical access to the location after hours and employee-designated areas.

Enhanced security measures also extend to the network itself. Your internet service will be protected against unwanted activity, including attempts to steal customer and employee data. You can also use built-in dashboard tools to control public Wi-Fi access and network permissions for individual devices. Some business owners use these tools to restrict the online activities of employees during working hours. Others use these tools to monitor productivity.

Install and maintain the latest equipment.

As Wi-Fi and network standards change, older equipment becomes outdated and incompatible with those standards. Aged equipment — sometimes just two or three years old — will start to slow down simply because it can’t handle new technology. For example, Wi-Fi 5 or 802.11 ac is no longer the latest standard. Instead, Wi-Fi 6 represents the newest generation of wireless standards and increases the number of devices a network can handle.

If the router or modem your business uses is designed for Wi-Fi 5 standards, your internet service is likely to slow down. When Wi-Fi 5 came out, most people would connect up to five devices to a network at one time. Currently, that number has expanded to nine different devices. In the near future, it’s expected to increase to as many as 50.

That’s a lot of devices and data for one network to handle. The more connections and activities a network processes, the more bandwidth gets eaten up. Many people in the IT field compare bandwidth to a freeway. The more lanes you have on either side of the freeway, the more traffic that road can handle. When there are fewer lanes carrying the same amount of traffic, bottlenecks begin to form, and traffic can come to a standstill.

While Wi-Fi 6 standards don’t necessarily increase the speed of your network, they do expand the number of lanes. Your business’s internet service will now process activity from three smartphones, two laptops, and four smart devices with ease. The highest levels of improvement occur when all devices are capable of the latest standards. However, swapping out an older modem or router for one that meets the newest protocols will have the biggest impact.

Balance your wired and Wi-Fi connections.

Your business may have multiple devices that need to connect to internet service. However, not all of them have to be on Wi-Fi. It’s often better to connect at least some of your equipment using a traditional Ethernet cable. On average, wired connections offer faster speeds and increased stability. An office computer used to perform a lot of time-sensitive and critical work is one good candidate for a wired connection.

Although many desktops still have built-in Ethernet jacks, newer laptops typically do not. However, you can purchase an adapter that plugs into a laptop’s USB port. Some laptop models are compatible with USB to Ethernet adapters, but some require proprietary ones. You’ll want to check with the manufacturer’s website or online support to see which type of adapter will work.

When deciding how to balance wired and Wi-Fi connections, evaluate who’s using the network and how. Count how many devices have to stay connected and which ones could possibly be turned off. You may find you have some devices that only need to connect during certain times of the day. It’s also possible you’ll find some you can take offline completely or some that are no longer in use. Removing devices that don’t need to be connected will help you free up capacity for those that do.

If you’re unsure of how to audit the network-capable devices your business has, there are vendors who can help. Many areas have locally based repair and support services for businesses, including small organizations. These services can evaluate your current setup and recommend how to best allocate wired versus Wi-Fi connections.

Make internet service checks a regular part of your routine.

Your business increasingly depends on its internet service to run smoothly and deliver exceptional customer service. When it starts to turn sluggish, it can interrupt your daily activities and make it harder to meet customers’ expectations.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to upgrade your business internet service’s performance. Cloud-based automation and management tools, investing in newer equipment, and conducting device audits are three ways you’re likely to make an immediate, noticeable difference.