A router is a piece of hardware that directs information packets between networks and the internet. There are several types of routers—the most basic distinction is a wired router versus a wireless router.
With a wired router, you connect your computer using a cable. These types of routers are becoming less common as wireless internet continues to gain popularity. Because of this, we’ll focus on wireless routers. Wireless routers transmit a signal through a wired connection elsewhere in your home or office. You can use a wireless router with devices like smartphones, tablets, and laptops.
There are routers specifically designed for residential or business use in addition to wired and wireless routers. We’ll talk about those in the next section.
Routers can provide much-needed protection for critical information. This is why it’s important to choose robust security settings during set up and update them as needed. Most routers come with a basic firewall while others come with more advanced security options.
Having a quality router is essential for nearly every home and business these days. A good router will make working, gaming, or streaming more seamless.
Many people don’t realize there’s a difference between routers designed for businesses and routers designed for home use. However, there are a few distinctions that can make one more ideal than the other.
Residential routers are built for household activities like streaming, gaming, and surfing the web. Their range typically covers standard apartment and home sizes. However, large homes with several levels, walls, or objects may want a router system, range extender, or secondary router in their wireless network.
Nearly every home router is wireless. That’s because most of us own and use several wireless devices like tablets, laptops, and smartphones, speakers, smart TVs, etc. You’ll likely have several people using your internet connection at the same time.
A business router has additional features that make it more suitable for office use. Some examples are increased security options, quality components, and customizable settings.
The security options on a business router might include a more robust firewall and Virtual Private Network (VPN) access. The components used during the manufacturing process may be higher quality, meaning the router wouldn’t need to be replaced as often. Business routers can be configured to your needs with options like virtual local area network (VLAN) support and Quality of Service (QoS).
A consumer router could work for a small business or home office that doesn’t need a lot of advanced features or security options. You might be able to use a high-end residential router and get some of the benefits you’d get from a basic small business router. However, medium-sized businesses are better off choosing a business router.
Let’s assume you’ve decided a business router is going to work better for your needs than a standard consumer router. What tech specs should you prioritize as you start shopping for Wi-Fi routers or contacting service providers? Not all of these will apply to every business, but here are some features you may want to consider.
There are various ports on the back of a router or modem/router combo. Their importance depends on your business network needs. However, it’s good to check which ports are included before you buy equipment.
Ethernet ports, or LAN ports make it possible for other computers or devices in your office can plug into your wireless router and access the internet.
A USB port is important if your printer doesn’t have wireless capabilities. You can also use it to share data over Wi-Fi using a flash drive or external hard drive.
There are two types of speeds to consider with business internet. First, the speed of your internet connection. This is indicated by one or two numbers in front of “Mbps” on your billing or account information. Your router’s speed is another to keep in mind. A fast internet connection will still slow down if your router isn’t fast enough to handle multiple Wi-Fi devices.
Range is a very important aspect in a router. The best features won’t matter if there’s not enough Wi-Fi coverage for your office. Small offices with open layouts can usually get away with one router.
You may want two or more routers for larger spaces or offices with lots of obstructions like walls, electronics, or equipment. Make the most of your router’s range by setting it up in a central area free from obstructions—shelves or clutter-free desktops are typically good locations.
Your router uses one or more frequencies—2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. Single-band routers use one 2.4 GHz band. Many routers are dual band and have one band of each frequency. With dual band, your router sorts devices between the more congested 2.4 GHz network and the faster, less congested 5 GHz network.
You can even buy a tri-band router. These routers offer one 2.4 GHz band and two 5 GHz bands. Is it worth it to splurge on a tri-band router? Maybe. Tri-band may be helpful if you experience slow speeds when using several connected devices. Living or working in a densely populated area that suffers from slow down during peak hours could be another reason to choose a tri-band router.
Gigabit internet speeds are becoming more readily available. If you’re already looking into purchasing a new business router, it’s a good idea to choose one that supports gigabit internet. Look for routers with Wi-Fi 6, aka 802.11ax protocol.
If you have a fiber connection, it will ensure you experience the fast speeds you’re paying for. Even if you don’t have gigabit internet, you can still experience benefits from choosing Wi-Fi protocol. That’s because these routers use beamforming, which targets your wireless signal in the direction of your devices. This gives you better range and a stronger signal.
You probably have different priorities for different types of internet use. For example, a VoIP call with a client is more important than someone streaming a YouTube video on their lunch break. You know that, but your router doesn’t necessarily know that.
With QoS, you can tell your router what to prioritize. It can then direct more bandwidth to higher priorities as needed. You can typically prioritize devices, users, or activities.
VPN support is a more advanced feature that’s worth getting a business router for. While many routers have VPN pass-through options, a VPN router establishes a secure connection for all devices on the network.
Without a VPN router, a user must install VPN software on their device and login. A VPN router lets all devices access the server securely, without using software. A VPN server encrypts all traffic, providing a private network that better protects sensitive information.
Here are a few frequently asked questions and other things to consider when shopping for a new router for your office.
Routers have a wide price range that depends almost entirely on the features. You can get a basic option for around fifty dollars while smart routers and router systems can be three or four hundred dollars. If you lease from your internet service provider, it’s usually around ten dollars a month. Generally speaking, the extra features make business routers a little more expensive than home routers.
Basically, every ISP offers equipment like routers, modems, and router/modem combinations. Some providers require you to use their equipment. There are three ways to get a business-class router from your provider—renting or leasing, purchasing it outright, or occasionally, it’s included.
It’s typically a good idea to use networking equipment from your ISP because you’ll know the equipment supports your internet service. Should you need tech support, it’s easier to get help if you have a router they’re familiar with.
A business router can last several years depending on the quality of components used and how much you use it. Businesses should budget to replace their routers every few years to maintain efficiency and stay on top of new technology.
Clean or upgrade your router when you start to notice a decrease in efficiency or an increase in connected devices. You can also add an additional business router and use your older one to increase your coverage and available bandwidth.
A router is one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll purchase for your home or office network. Choosing the right piece of technology can help you make the most of your internet connection.