What you need to know about WiFi Hotspot

In this age of portable technology, wireless access makes your computer devices truly portable. When you are on the go, you can either consume your wireless data minutes or use an available wireless device, called a wireless hotspot.

What is WiFi Hotspot


A WiFi hotspot is a physical location that has been provided to give users the ability to use their devices away from home. These hotspots became popular over a decade ago at eating establishments such as coffee houses and are now found anywhere people congregate (malls, airports, hotels, etc.). In some cities, hotspots are even available in public building or public parks. This makes access convenient, if you find a secure hotspot that gives you a strong enough connection.

Theoretically, finding a good hotspot is as easy as searching the web, since a quick search should identify places that have WiFi. Furthermore, your wireless provider or your internet provider may have hot spots around your community. For example, Xfinity WiFi hotspots are available to their subscribers.

What type of WiFi hotspots are available? Let us take a look.

Free WiFi Hotspot


There are a few ways to get free WiFi. The first is complimentary WiFi that comes with some other service, such as a club membership or a hotel reservation. Of course, this is not necessarily free in that you are expected to pay for something else. Furthermore, these providers may limit bandwidth for each user, which will slow down your access.

Another way to get free WiFi is to piggy back off some else’s unsecured network. This is less expensive, of course, but also highly inconsistent in that you are relying on the router’s owner to keep the access available. Most people will secure their WiFi networks sooner or later and you will be searching for another “free” provider.

The alternative to a free WiFi Hotspot is a commercial site. The commercial sites can be set up with a credit card access or a password permission. Some of these sites also limit access to a small cadre of relevant pages.

Portable WiFi Hotspot


If you are concerned about having a hotspot available at any location, you can use a portable WiFi hotspot. Rather than search for a hotspot, the portable WiFi hotspot brings the internet to you. The device has a mobile router within it and can be used to connect several devices at once without downloading any additional software to the devices. However, you are now adding another device that will have to be carried with you and charged (reducing the convenience of being portable). Furthermore, your internet connection may run a little slower than you are used to. Nonetheless, portable WiFi will ensure that you can get a connection in places where public hotspots are not consistently accessible.

WiFi Hotspot Device


You can buy a mobile hotspot device that is compatible with most WiFi-ready devices. These devices are priced as low as $20 for a basic device. They are 4G LTE so you are not going to sacrifice speed on the go. The hotspot can be used on devices within 30 to 40 feet of your hotspot. Depending on the mobile hotspot that you choose, you may be able to use multiple portable devices with the same hotspot. To make the hotspot work, of course, you will need a wireless plan. You may have access as part of your wireless plan, but, either way, this does not come cheap. Data plan rates will apply and you will be charged for overages.

Hotspot Security


If you are using a WiFi hotspot, you need to be aware of security. Hotspot providers know that their clients want to get service as quickly as possible, so they may sacrifice security for service. Encryption is a key to wireless security. Without it, hackers can capture your data. However, the data may not be encrypted as it flows from the hotspot WiFi to your computer. Another issue are dummy hotspot sites, where hackers mimic a public hotspot and take the information from unsuspecting users.

The key to keeping safe is to treat your hotspot internet access like you would any valuable. Make sure that you are not going to any sites that you want kept secured, such as your banking sites. Make sure that you use multiple passwords and user names to ensure that your most confidential information stays secure. Simple solutions that will ensure safety.

On a portable hotspot, the issue of security is caused by freeloaders who are trying to piggyback off your service. On your home WiFi, this can be annoying but usually not expensive. However, when the meter is running on your data plan, a piggy backer can quickly cost you money. The key is to have a secure portable device. The best way to do this is to buy a device with proper security including data encryption. Also, do not make it easy for hackers. Make sure that your device name and password will be difficult for them to break into.

NetSpot to the Rescue


The goal of getting a great WiFi spot is to find something that is powerful, secure, and inexpensive. The solution is to find a WiFi hotspot that fits these criteria. How would you do that? You could rely on recommendations from others if they have this information (After all, it’s not like getting a restaurant recommendation). You could look for additional hardware. Or you could find software that focuses on signal strength. Fortunately, there is such a program: NetSpot.

NetSpot is a program that is designed to survey WiFi signal strength. But it is not just signal strength that matters, so NetSpot does more. Signal noise from other devices is an issue as well as interference from other networks. NetSpot will assess the surrounding area and give you report on all three of these critical issues. And, although NetSpot is ideal for surveying your WiFi network in the home or office, its feature can also be used to evaluate a WiFi hotspot.

NetSpot (www.netspotapp.com) is a software program that can be easily downloaded to your Mac OS X or Microsoft Windows system. Once you have it loaded, you can put it into action. If you want to do a quick check, open the program and switch the slider at the top of page to “Discover.” This will allow to check your signal strength in a single area. Not only is this great for home use, but ideal for finding a hotspot when you are on the go.

The Survey mode can be used to get a more comprehensive accounting of surrounding signal strength. The first thing you will do is to upload a map so that the system can reference the points in the signal area. After NetSpot has completed its survey, it will show you where the weak signal strengths are. At your home or office, you can put do make modifications to improve overall signal strength, such as putting in WiFi repeaters. If you are at a hotspot place that you visit often, you can find the best place to position yourself.

The other features will remedy problems that often plague wireless users. The Signal-to-Noise heatmap will show you where the issues are with color-coded identifiers (Blue and purple indicate high noise areas). Interference areas are also identified in blue and purple and can rectified with signal boosting devices. If you are using NetSpot at a WiFi hotspot, you can make sure that you are getting the most from available WiFi signals. With NetSpot and the right hotspot, you can get all the advantages of a home system while on the road.

WiFi technology marches and WiFi users demand better quality signals at home or away. We have come a long way over the past 25 years when dial up was the only option. Thanks to WiFi hotspots and tools like NetSpot, we will keep moving forward.


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Runs on a MacBook (macOS 10.10+) or any laptop (Windows 7/8/10)
with a standard 802.11a/b/g/n/ac wireless network adapter.