A router may not be the most glamorous gadget we have in our homes, but it terms of functionality it is probably one of the most important devices. Many of us see the router as just a box that sits in the corner and “does things” and while you’re right it does just sit there and do things, there are capabilities of a broadband router that can enhance your online experience and provide excellent benefits to your home network.
We talked about what a router was in our broadband jargon buster guide, for those that missed it, I’ll explain again simply here. It is a device that routes traffic around your network; it may also have a modem inside to allow Internet connection. This will be the type of router you receive when signing up with a new broadband provider.
Despite receiving a free router from your ISP which will work sufficiently for most, there are much better routers out there which can offer better features, and we will look into those features below.
If you live in a large house and require wireless access across the whole of your property, you may struggle with the free routers provided by your broadband service provider. A standalone router will usually offer increased range by utilising better hardware and antennas. I have had many routers from ISP’s in the past which I had naively assumed would be able to reach to the garden in the summer only to realise that it doesn’t and then not being able to enjoy the sunshine as I worked. Bummer!
Consider your broadband usage in your own home and whether or not you would require extended range into areas such as the garden. While having WiFi in the garden may not seem a great prospect in Britain, there are likely to many days in the Summer that you will want to be outside to get that much-needed Vitamin D. A summer BBQ without music to stream may be a bit quiet.
The majority of broadband routers supplied by your ISP will have just the one frequency setting at 2.4Ghz which is fine for most tasks that don’t require a lot of data to be transferred over the air. When it comes to tasks such as streaming, however, a 2.4Ghz router may struggle to work efficiently. Dual band routers will also offer a 5ghz frequency, which is great for transferring larger files and streaming.
While a dual band router is more expensive it will suffer from less interference and provide fast speeds for your needs. A great use of dual band may be in a family home where there are many people all performing different tasks at the same time.
Currently, most broadband providers don’t offer dual-band routers aside
from the likes of Sky Broadband who have their updated Sky Q Hub with Ethernet speeds up to 125mbs on top.
You may have noticed the numbers 802.11 followed by a letter when looking at specification on routers and devices you purchase. These are the wireless standards that your device and router will conform too and are what allow faster speeds and longer range. The first version of wireless routers was 802.11b, and the most common latest version is 802.11ac. The latest version utilises the dual band properties mentioned above, and so it is important to check if the devices you are connecting to will accept the latest standards in order to usual dual band. Otherwise, you may find that the 5ghz version will not show as a wireless access point.
Most ISP providers broadband routers won’t come with any USB ports. The addition of USB ports is a great feature as it allows you to connect devices directly to your network as opposed to via a computer or LAN cable. USB provides fast transfer speeds and so if you were to attach a USB drive to a router you can use that drive as network storage. There are many NAS devices available on the market that you can also use as a networked storage drive which can provide more flexibility and control than a cloud storage platform.
A common feature of standalone broadband routers is the ability to create multiple SSID access points. The ability to create multiple access points means that you can have separate access to your network with certain restrictions on each access point. For example, you may have a family with children that you may not want to see explicit content online. A lot of routers have the ability to filter this content and restrict access. You could also choose to restrict access at certain times of day for a particular access point. Let’s say the kids have just got home from school and want to jump straight on to Facebook or stream their favourite TV show, but they have homework to finish first. They will be unable to access the internet on their own access point if you have set up time restrictions on your router.
Another example of where guest access points are valuable are in catering and retail businesses. If your broadband connection has superfast speeds, it won’t be long before customers catch on to that fact and come to your business to download their large files and stream their favourite shows. While I am not condoning banning customers from your network, it can be a significant strain on your resources and if that is at a cost to your business you may wish to consider speed and bandwidth restrictions. Setting a speed restriction means that you can limit how much they drain your broadband connection and prevents any damage to your own needs.
Another option is the ability to add a time limit to each session, so after an hour or two, it may lock the customer off the network, which is great if you require a high turnover to successfully operate your business.