Every business needs to be online, which means every business needs an internet connection. Having a good router in place is a must for small businesses. Whether it’s there to connect a Point of Sale system to the internet, to maintain CRM software on devices across the board, or to give customers internet access, you need a good quality router.
Choosing the right wireless router for a business can be a quite the chore though. There’s more to consider than with a home router. For a home you just go to the store and get one that works with your provider (or get one from the provider directly). For businesses you need to think about security features, content access, connecting to the cloud, and so much more.
This guide on how to choose the best wifi router for your small business is here to keep things simple.
What to Look for in a Wireless Router for Small Businesses
Choosing the right router is a matter of knowing what to look for. Here are ten things that go into a good router for businesses of any size.
You want a wireless router that offers great security. You can’t compromise on security. That’s why you need a wireless router that supports WPA technology. WPA-2 is the standard but more places are adopting WPA-3. At the very least you definitely need basic WPA which can get the job done, but isn’t as secure. WPA – which stands for Wi-Fi Protected Access – prevents people from logging in to your Wi-Fi network without a password. As with any password, make sure to choose a strong password that can’t easily be guessed.
Also consider changing the SSID for the router. This Service Set Identifier number by default includes the name of the company and some random numbers. It could be something like Company123. Having the name on the SSID means that hackers will have a good clue where to begin with their hacking attempts.
If you have a company with a lot of employees and customers, then you should set Public and Private Access to the network. This way you can keep the important business aspects of the network away from guests on the network to protect your business and employees.
Dual-Band Wireless Support
The average router is a single-band router, meaning that it provides just one 2.4Gz band. A dual-brand router, as the name suggests, offers two bands; 2.4Gz and 5.0Ghz. This means that you can keep traffic separate and prevent the network getting clogged up and slowing down.
We’re seeing more three-band routers on the market these days. These routers have a 2.4Gz band and two separate 5.0Gz bands. These are only suited for large businesses though, so don’t invest in what you don’t need. A dual band is more than enough for a small business with up to a dozen employees.
LAN and WAN Ports
The rule of thumb for LAN and WAN ports is that more is almost always merrier. A LAN (Local Area Network) port gives you the ability to connect more devices to the network. You should find one that has room for at least four ports. There are switches available that can be used to expand LAN capabilities if your router doesn’t have enough room.
The WAN (Wide Area Network) on the other hand is used to connect different individual LANs into a wider WAN. This allows for communication across several different networks. You should get a router that has room for at least one WAN network.
Sticking with “LANs”, a VLAN is a “Virtual Local Area Network”. Having a VLAN in place means that you don’t need as much hardware to put together a LAN. VLAN is crucial for businesses because it prevents the endpoint in a network from connecting to another endpoint in a different VLAN, even if both endpoints are in the same physical LAN.
This is another security issue. Using a VLAN keeps the network segmented which better protects against hackers. It creates a multi-layered network that is more difficult to get into and exploit.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a key component in small and large businesses alike. A VPN router allows for a VPN tunnel to exist between networks to improve security.
The VPN tunnel is encrypted to prevent anyone from seeing the data sent or received through the tunnel. They can be used to hide your location and keep information sent across the network secret from any outside threats “listening in”.
Quality of Service
The Quality of Service is the overall performance users get from a service, whether it be a network, router, computer, or anything else.
A good example of what QoS means for a business can be found with VoIP phones. If too many people are streaming content at the same time, it can cause the network to slow down. This is where the QoS comes into play. It prioritizes traffic and services to keep the network running efficiently.
One of the characteristics of our modern age is a need for instant access; a need for quick and efficient internet speeds. This is something to keep in mind when browsing for a business router. It should be able to support 802.11n protocol at the very least.
The latest technology uses 802.11ac, which is quicker than the older N protocol. It offers faster speeds and a wider range, but you likely won’t need it. It’s another thing suited for big businesses. Save yourself some money and stick with 802.11n.
Gigabit Ethernet Ports
While the world has become more wireless than ever, that doesn’t mean that ethernet cables have had their day. Physical cables can provide a stronger, more stable, and faster internet connection. Look for a router that includes up to 8 gigabit-ethernet connections able to support speeds of up to a gigabit.
Having a backup WAN in place can save your business a lot of time, money, and headaches in the event that the internet goes down. Aim to find a small business router that comes equipped with a dual WAN. This makes it possible for a business to use two networks so you can add a 4G card to stay online in the event the internet from your ISP goes down.
Last but not least we have content control. Employees can sometimes spend too much time browsing social media when they should be working, which has a negative impact on productivity and quality of work. Finding a router that supports content control gives you the option to block access to certain pages to prevent employees from being distracted.
At the end of the day, the most important thing for a business to have is security. Focus on the security elements of a router including access to WPA and VPNs. Make sure the router can keep everyone connected and secure and then worry about other things like content blocking.