If you are in the market looking for a router for your business, you are bound to be tempted by high speeds, flashy features and low cost of the consumer oriented routers. The latest models appear quite attractive to say the least.
But do you think a consumer router can deliver everything that is required by the average business? Do you think it is secure enough? Is it scalable and can it offer redundant connections to the Internet? If it’s a wireless model, do you think it comes with adequate range to cover your office? Should you make an investment in routers designed to cater to the needs of small and medium-sized businesses?
So what exactly distinguishes the consumer routers from the business class models?
As soon as you walk into a retail outlet, you will find around a dozen wireless routers available at variable prices. These are offered by well-known brands and the prices at which they are made available are also quite appealing. They even have all the requisite features.
- Compatibility with IEEE 802.11n wireless networking standard
- Built-in firewall
- Wireless encryption
- 4 port Ethernet switch
Most routers here include 2×2 antenna arrays for theoretical throughput of 300 Mbps. It’s hard to see real world performance this quick. However, the distance between the router and the client, overhead, as well as environmental factors, can bring down this number.
Small Business Router
You may be surprised to learn that most business class routers don’t even include integrated wireless networking. In case the router that you have selected doesn’t come with one, you can add that capability by deploying a few wireless access points. The high-end business routers deliver redundancy, scalability as well as stronger security features.
Scalability defines the ability of the router to expand with growth in business. Expanding a given network’s hardwired capability is quite easy. You can plug another multiport Ethernet switch into one of the ports of the router.
You have more ports now.
If operating a complex network that includes multiple VLANs, RADIUS server, and several other features, you may need to make an investment in managed switch.
The best way to increase Internet bandwidth is by getting additional connections to the Internet service provider through your router’s wide area network (WAN) ports. While low-end business routers and consumer routers come with just a single WAN port, the high-end business class routers come with several WAN ports to help you establish more than one connection to one or several ISPs.
Since the router is the heart of the network, you must choose it carefully. Any router can share the connection among your computers as well as other networkable devices like tablets and smartphones. The better models include features capacitated to enhance network and performance. Here are a few features you need to look for to find a commendable business class router.
Wi-Fi Access Point
Most routers targeted at consumer and small and medium-sized businesses enjoy a built-in access point providing wireless network connection for PCs as well as other devices that are equipped with Wi-Fi adapters. You can find yourself an additional AP for extending the range of the router. The standalone AP can add wireless capabilities to the wired routers.
The wireless routers operate on chiefly 2 frequency bands:
- 2.4 GHz
Since the 2.4GHz band provides just 3 non-overlapping channels, it can get crowded soon enough. There are as many as 23 non-overlapping channels on offer at the 5GHz frequency band. Thus, there are fewer chances to encounter interference while operating a network here.
Virtual LAN and Multiple SSIDs
Most business class routers go much beyond offering a wireless guest feature. They facilitate creation of several separate customized networks using what are call virtual LANs or VLANs. They also enable multiple SSIDs for offering virtual wireless networks.
You can create a VLAN for management where sensitive company details need to be shared, a VLAN for the regular employees for sharing files and a VLAN for the guests to provide limited Internet access. Then, you can assign the Ethernet ports of the router to desired VLAN, broadcasting separate SSID for each VLAN.
Malware and Protection from Spam
Business-class routers equipped with additional security features are referred to as unified threat management or UTM gateways. They include anti-spam, anti-virus and content filtering for blocking the dangerous or inappropriate websites. Though the individual computers must come with an antivirus tool installed, such a gateway helps to detect malware before it reaches individual PCs, offering double protection. At times, the UTM gateways also offer intrusion detection as well as prevention features to block additional local network as well as Internet threats.
This article did not cover all the features that distinguish the business class routers from the consumer ones. If you need the best security features and have several employees requiring frequent remote access to the network or run your Web, email or RADIUS server, you need to find yourself a business class router. For failover redundancy or load balancing, find yourself the high-end business models.
By: Steven Scheck
Router Photo via Shutterstock