How to set up a guest network for people working from home

In the age of remote work, ensuring network security has become more crucial than ever. One way to do this is by encouraging employees to use a guest network on their home internet connections.

In this post, we will outline how to set up, monitor, and enforce a program that supports remote employees’ use of guest networks.

The Importance of Guest Networks for Remote Work
Guest networks provide a separate access point on a wireless router. This segregation can prevent any potential cross-contamination between personal and work devices, thereby protecting the integrity of company data and systems.

Setting Up a Guest Network Program
The first step is to establish clear guidelines and procedures. Train your employees on how to set up their guest networks and explain the reasons behind this security measure. Provide comprehensive documentation and tutorials for setting up guest networks on various router models.

The initial set-up support can vary based on several factors, such as the employee’s comfort level with technology and the specifics of their router.

Here’s a rough breakdown:

  1. Understanding Employee’s Network Environment: A brief discussion with the employee to understand their router model, firmware version, and ISP, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Guiding the Set-up Process: Walking them through logging into their router’s admin interface, creating a guest network, and setting up a strong password, 30-60 minutes.
  3. Testing and Troubleshooting: Testing the guest network to ensure it’s set up correctly and addressing any problems, 15-30 minutes.
  4. Documentation: Documenting the process, router settings, and other important details, 10-15 minutes.

So, you might expect to spend between 1 to 2 hours helping each employee set up their guest network for the first time.

Monitoring and Enforcing Compliance
Regular checks should be performed once the guest networks have been set up to ensure compliance. Checks may involve a combination of employee self-reporting and remote network checks, along with regular reminders about the importance of using the guest network for work.

When monitoring compliance, we estimate that each check will likely take around 30-50 minutes, totalling 2-3.3 hours per employee per year for quarterly reviews. Here’s a rough breakdown of this time:

  1. Preparation: Setting up the session, connecting with the employee, explaining the process, etc., 10-15 minutes.
  2. Checking the Network: The actual check could be quick if done manually, 10-20 minutes.
  3. Documentation: Documenting the process and the results, 10-15 minutes.

It’s important to remember that privacy should always be respected during these checks. Only the minimal necessary data should be collected, and all data should be stored securely.

Tracking ISP Changes and Their Impact
Another essential aspect to consider in managing your guest network program is keeping track of changes in your employees’ Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Since many ISPs provide their routers to subscribers, an ISP change often implies a router change and the need to set up the guest network again.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the time you might expect to invest in this process:

  1. Communication and Documentation: Receiving the information about the ISP change, updating your records, and communicating the next steps to the employee, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Guiding the New Set-up Process: As with the initial set-up, guiding the employee through setting up a guest network on their new router, 30-60 minutes
  3. Follow-up Compliance Check: To ensure that the guest network is set up correctly and being used, a follow-up compliance check should be conducted soon after the new set-up, 30-50 minutes.

Thus you should factor in that each ISP change could require an additional 1.5-3 hours of time investment.

Implementing Your Program: A Checklist
To get you started, here is a simple checklist of actions for setting up, monitoring, and maintaining your guest network program:

  1. Develop clear guidelines for setting up and using guest networks.
  2. Create training materials and tutorials for setting up guest networks on different routers.
  3. Develop a self-reporting system for employees to confirm they’ve set up and are using the guest network.
  4. Establish a process for employees to report changes in their ISP.
  5. Establish a system for remote network checks (respecting privacy laws and regulations).
  6. Set up regular reminders to employees about the importance of using the guest network.
  7. Update training materials and processes as necessary.
  8. Provide ongoing IT support for setting up and using guest networks.

Key Information to Track
In implementing this program, keeping track of key information about your employees’ home network set-ups is essential. This should include the following:

  1. Employee Name
  2. Router Make and Model
  3. Router Firmware Version
  4. Current ISP
  5. ISP Change Dates
  6. Date of Last Check
  7. Guest Network Status (Set Up: Yes/No, In Use: Yes/No)
  8. Security Protocol Used (WPA2/WPA3)
  9. Work Devices Information (Make, Model, OS Version)

Implementing a guest network program can significantly enhance the network security of your remote workers. While it does require an investment of time and resources, it’s an investment well worth making in today’s remote-first work environment.