Many of you see a broadband router as you point of access to the Internet, or for some ‘the thingy that connects to the phone line.' While this is true and it is the main purpose of a router, there are also many other features a broadband router performs, perhaps many that you didn’t even know existed. Many broadband providers have sophisticated broadband routers that give you more control such as Sky Broadband’s Sky Hub.
A broadband router or gateway as it’s sometimes known is a device that combines the features of a network switch, firewall and DHCP server. These combined features are what make you Internet secure and accessible to many devices. Broadband routers were manufactured to allow users to set up and access the Internet simply, often with just a few steps.
Routers, however, are not simply just a device to connect to the Internet, they carry many additional features and purposes. One of the most simple features of a broadband router is the ability to network with other devices internally. Routers do not only connect devices to the outside world, but they also connect devices internally throughout your household. In fact, you don’t even need to have the broadband router connect to your phone line to benefit from some of its features. For example, you can share files using the broadband router with its file sharing capabilities, just like if you were using an office Intranet, the router performs the same function.
Broadband routers also allow you to connect to devices such as printers, whether via Ethernet cables or wirelessly. Without a router or network switch, it may be difficult to print from another room unless you have a rather long USB cable. The router itself will also perform the role of print server management, so if you have several users wanting to print at the same time, it will form a job queue and print in order of first come, first serve.
Many of you will understand the concept of having a network key or “WiFi code” to join your network. The reason for a network key is to provide security from the outside world and to prevent hacking. There are many times of encryption which include WEP, WPA, and WPA-2. The weakest form of security is WEP and WPA-2 is the strongest. For most a WEP security key is sufficient. However, you may wish to consider a more secure encryption method if you have sensitive files on your computers or you would just rather prevent anyone accessing your home network.
Port forwarding is something you may have come across if you use your broadband for gaming or for sharing devices externally. It allows an external user to access a specific device or service running on your network by pointing it in the correct place. The way this works is down to the fact that every destination on the internet will have an IP address, including your own network. By finding that IP address and then allowing specific ports to be accessed and controlled you can allow others to see into a specific device or allow yourself to access your network while always.
This is particularly handy for tasks such as remote working, where you may need to access a file you created at home from the office. You will need to have set up your computer to be accessed and allow the traffic into the specific service. Another example of where this may be useful is when you have a CCTV system set up. A CCTV system will often have MAC address attached to it and therefore will allow access if the correct port forwarding is set up. If you want to keep an eye on your home or business while on the road, you can do so using apps and web page access via the IP associated with your system.
Many routers allow you to create a separate access point to your router. This means that a separate WiFI Access point Name or SSID will should as well as your usual access point. The benefit of this is that you can restrict access to certain things by controlling options on your routers software.
This sort of feature comes in handy if you run a retail or catering business where you allow customers to access the Internet by giving them a WiFi code. You don’t necessarily want Joe Public to be able to join your office network and access the computers or devices that you use to run your business as this will present a security risk. Therefore a separate access point will stop those users from seeing your computers and as an added benefit you can add certain features that restrict how they use the Internet.
For example you can add restrictions on the maximum speed that guest access can use so that your business does not slow down if several people decided to come into your café and catch up on their latest TV shows. You can also impose time limits to prevent people from “parking” themselves in your business for too long.
Another great security feature for a home broadband router is the MAC address filtering. Each device that connects to your router will have a MAC address associated with it. This allows you to restrict the usages of certain devices on how they connect to the Internet.
You can use this in conjunction with port forwarding to only allow certain devices to be accessed with a particular port forwarding service. Another reason you may want to use MAC filtering is to deny access to a particular device. Again, if we go back to the café scenario, you may have a device that is causing problems with your Internet connection. Often if you don’t have restrictions set up on your Guest WiFi, you may come across instances where the Internet slows down due to a device using more bandwidth than is reasonable. This could cause slow downs to your point of sale system, and a simple solution would be to block that particular device from accessing your Internet temporarily.
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