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Networking Basics: Guest Networking, What It Is and Why It Matters

We open another Saturday with a new chapter in our series of specials dedicated to networking basics, and this time we focus on the guest network. Last week, when we talked about MAC filtering, we already had the opportunity to tell you that the trade-offs posed by this layer of security could be easily overcome with a guest network, but we do not go into detail beyond that reference.

I know that many of our readers, especially those more advanced, are already clear about what a guest network is, and they know how to activate it and how to manage it. However, we also know that there are other readers who are not so clear, and to them this new chapter of basic concepts of networks is directed.

As always, we are going to keep the traditional format, which means that we will see what a guest network is and we will also tell you why it is so important. I also remind you that, if you have any questions after reading the article, you can leave it in the comments and we will help you solve it. Now yes, we enter the matter.

What is a guest network?

We can define a guest network as a wireless Internet connection, that is, via Wi-Fi, which is established as an extension of our main network. In other words, it is a secondary Wi-Fi network and separate from our main network. This means that a guest network consumes resources from the main network, and that it works on the same hardware as that network, but has characteristics that make it an “independent” network.

What do you mean that it is an “independent” network? It is, in quotes, because it really does depend on that one, since the bandwidth it offers it consumes it directly from the main network, but it is independent because it can have its own name and password, its own security settings and also certain limitations that are not present in our primary network.

Thus, for example, if we decide to use MAC filtering with whitelists, the most restrictive option possible, but at the same time we want to remain “hospitable” and share our Wi-Fi with visitors, we can create a guest network without such MAC filtering, and limit the available bandwidth to avoid slowing down our main network. In this way, we will have a main network reserved for us, and protected with MAC filtering, and a less restrictive one for guests.

Why is it important to use a guest network?

It is important in certain cases, the truth be told. For most home users its importance is relatively small, since it is only interesting in those cases in which we receive visits frequently, or if we want to share the Internet in a limited and restrictive way with a neighbor, or with certain relatives who live with us.

Nevertheless, in the professional sector it does have a greater interest. For example, a store that wants to offer free Wi-Fi to its customers can create a guest network and maintain, for its employees, the best protected main network with a guaranteed minimum bandwidth. The same applies to other types of businesses and professional entities.

We can create a network for guests accessing the settings of our router, something that is very simple, since we only have to enter “http://192.168.0.1/” or “http://192.168.1.1/”, without quotes, in the address bar of any browser. We enter with our credentials, and in the router menu we look for the corresponding options (usually “guest network” if the interface comes in English).

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