The next time you pull up your computer and try to check your email, but nothing is coming through, pay attention to what assumption jumps into your head at first. Do you think, “Oh, it’s this stupid internet service?” Or do you think, “There’s something wrong with my WiFi.”
Because here’s what you should know — those are two completely different things. Although people will often use the terms “WiFi” and “internet service” interchangeably, they aren’t interchangeable. And it’s important to understand the difference between WiFi and internet service so that you can properly diagnose and fix any problems that you have. Plus you’ll be able to set up your office much more efficiently when you understand the difference.
Now, don’t feel bad if you didn’t know there was a difference between WiFi and internet service. In today’s environment, when most people access the internet via WiFi, it’s easy to not recognize that there’s overlap between them. Plus most internet service providers will market them as such, or they won’t do a thorough job explaining the difference to their customers when they are setting up. It’s easy for this misconception to permeate.
Internet is a Service, WiFi is a Function
The shortest explanation is that WiFi is a function of your routers, and it is through WiFi that your device is able to access internet service. But you don’t subscribe to WiFi the same way you would subscribe to the internet. And even if your internet service goes out, the WiFi might still be working exactly the way it should. In other situations, your internet could be great, but your router has been turned off and isn’t emitting WiFi.
Think of It Like a Landline Phone
If it helps, you can think of it as similar to a landline telephone. When you use a landline telephone, you have to actually buy a phone with a cord that you then plug into a phone jack in the wall, which is connected to the wires that provide your phone service. So far, you have all the practical items you need, but you still need to subscribe to that telephone service if your telephone is going to work.
You might have had a cordless phone at one point — these weren’t the same as cellphones, of course, because they took their signal from your telephone service rather than from a cellular service. Those cordless phones still had a base, however, which was connected to the phone jack via a cord. This is similar to how WiFi works.
WiFi Is The Cordless Connection to Internet Service
When you subscribe to internet service, your service provider (Verizon, Comcast, or whatever else you use) will send a representative out to hook up a line that will go into your home. This line connects to something called your modem, which you can then connect to your computer with an Ethernet. And just like that, you’re connected to the worldwide web.
At least, that’s how it usually worked many years ago. Today, most people are forgoing that Ethernet cable and choosing to go wireless. With wireless internet, a wireless router is connected to the modem — or as is the case most of the time, a modem has a built-in router. This router then emits WiFi through which your devices can access the wireless internet. You can also connect other devices, such as your table or smartphone, so that everyone is able to access internet from the same wireless router.
Connecting an Entire Business Office
The confusion between WiFi and internet service isn’t going to be a huge problem in a home setting. After all, unless you live on a huge estate, you probably have a WiFi router that is powerful enough to serve your entire home.
But what happens when you’re running a business that has a huge office complex, including many floors and many suites? Your router will only be able to emit WiFi so far — and if somebody is stationed at a desk too far away from the router, they won’t have great internet access.
Even if you don’t have a massive multistory complex housing your business, this could still affect you. The reality is that even an office space of 4,000 feet will likely need more than one router to provide WiFi to all its staff. When a team member isn’t able to access the internet, or has spotty service, the inclination is to blame the service provider.
Unfortunately, switching providers isn’t going to make a di