Small businesses in the market for a router may be tempted by the considerably lower cost, high speed, and capabilities of today’s consumer rated routers. Particularly in the early stages of business development, when the demand for internet access is only shared by a few employees, a consumer rated router may be sufficient. But when should a company make the leap to a business-class router? Why fix something that may not appear broken?
When making the decision about routers, consider the following questions: Is the router scalable? Do you envision the company’s needs changing in the next few years in ways that would require additional router capabilities? Is the wireless range sufficient to cover the entire office? Is the router secure?
Routers designed to be used by the typical consumer are primarily focused on consumer needs: speed, streaming and security (usually in that order). The average consumer focuses on price, followed by speed. Within the consumer router class, the prices can range from $40 to $200 and are differentiated based on the speed and streaming options available.
Speed: The days of waiting for internet loading have passed. Today’s consumers want high-speed networks delivered to their homes for all of their technology needs, and routers must meet those needs. With most routers offering speeds of up to 300 Mbps, consumers are able to surf the internet, stream and game as desired.
Streaming: The continued rise of internet streaming has created a demand for consumer routers that offer high speed internet connections. However, routers designed for typical home use are generally not equipped to handle multiple devices streaming simultaneously.
Security: Consumer routers include built-in firewalls and wireless encryption to provide security for the home user. These measures are basic, but usually sufficient for consumer usage.
Additional features may include a USB port to share devices such as printers or hard drives. This may be of benefit to the home user, but will rarely find a use in a business setting with multiple users. Wi-Fi protected setup (WPS) is another feature offered by many consumer routers, making wireless set-up fast and convenient. Unfortunately, WPS also makes security breaches convenient, making it a less than desirable feature for business routers to offer.
Business routers are specifically designed to cater to the needs of commerce: security, access and scalability. With a price point starting at $200, businesses may be tempted to stick with a consumer-rated router, only to find that they have outgrown the capabilities they offer.
Security: The security needs of a company are inherently different than those of a consumer. Typically, businesses operate multiple devices across multiple locations and deal with various levels of sensitive information that are shared via router, increasing the need for security. A business router offers additional security capabilities, using different levels of encryption and security protocols that help prevent intrusion.
Access: Through the establishment of virtual private networks, or VPNs, the typical business router can manage up to 100 users as easily as if they were hardwired into the network. The built-in security features make the network more secure and will lead to greater productivity with decreased downtime. In addition, guest networks provide network segregation from sensitive data and are easily managed through a business router.
Scalability: A growing company needs to be able to increase its hardwired networks as well as its internet bandwidth. Business routers make both possible. Hardwiring networks is as simple as adding a multi-port Ethernet switch to the router, instantly increasing the number of ports available. Increasing bandwidth with a business router is equally as simple. With multiple wide area network (WAN) ports, companies can establish multiple connections to their internet service providers. Additionally, companies can improve their connectivity with load balancing, and solidify business continuity with redundancy.
So, why make the switch to a business router?
Configurability: With business routers, configuration options are more likely to meet the needs of any office. Virtual local area networks (LANs), identity management, virtual private networks, protected Wi-Fi access, quality of service capabilities that can assign priority to VoIP traffic, and more can all be configured based on the particular needs of the company. Many of these features just aren’t available in consumer-rated devices.
Scalability: The number of access points available on a business router gives companies room to grow without having to replace the router whenever a new system is brought online. Keeping all devices attached to one router makes management and oversight easier and more convenient.
Dependability: Built-in security features help provide an extra line of defense against hackers and other threats to internet security.
Technology is changing at lightning speeds, and the communication devices that power businesses are changing as well. Planning ahead for growth and development can give companies an edge, ensuring that they are always connected in the most effective means possible. Upgrading to a business router can ultimately save a company time and money, making the initial investment well worth it.