To many, a broadband router is just a box that connects to your phone line and then with a little magic you can connect to the Internet, generally via a wireless connection. A router, however, is a little more complicated than that and can be used to perform many complex functions that you probably didn’t realise. We’ll look into a few of those features below, and you may learn a thing or two about your magic box that sits in the corner.
One the most basic features of a broadband router is that it will create a network in your home or business. It does this by essentially acting as a hub for all your computers. Each computer will connect to the router and then data can be sent to another computer connected to it. A router does not need to be connected to the Internet in order to function, it’s most basic functionality is to act as an access point for any computer within its range. You can usually connect to a router via a wireless signal or at the very least via an Ethernet cable. How you connect to your router will depend on its age and uses, many older routers may not have wi-fi capabilities.
A router can also act as a print server if you require. If you connect a printer directly to the router, whether via an Ethernet cable or wireless signal, you can use the router to queue the print jobs depending on when they are sent to be printed. The router will essentially act as a traffic management device and form a print queue so that things are printed in order of first come first serve.
As mentioned above, routers do not always have Wi-Fi capabilities. However, the majority of modern routers and those that are supplied by your broadband ISP will have this functionality. A Wi-Fi adapter is included in the router along with aerials in order to pick up any signal transmitted over the frequency set on the router.
Wi-Fi is a common feature on routers and is what the majority of devices use to connect to your router and subsequently the Internet. In order to connect to your router via a Wi-Fi connection, the device you are using must have a wi-fi adapter and this is generally signified by stating the device is “Wi-Fi enabled.”
One of the benefits of have a Wi-Fi enabled router is that anyone entering its range can access the Internet or your network very easily. Generally, a Wi-Fi access point will have a security key of some kind so that you can give the password out to people you want to access the Internet and not allow any unwanted visitors to gain access to sensitive information on your network.
When connecting to a router via Wi-Fi, you will generally connect over a 2.4ghz frequency, which means data can be transmitted at a certain speed but may be limited on data-intensive activities such as watching films or TV shows. A lot of modern stand-alone routers or some ISP supplied routers such as the Sky Q Hub will have dual band access to the router.
With dual-band routers, you will get the standard 2,4ghz connection and usually a 5ghz connection too. Some devices can connect to a router using 5ghz connection if they have modern wi-fi standard enabled. A lot of newer devices will have the ability to connect to 5ghz whereas older devices will probably only be able to connect to a 2.4Ghz connection.
It is worth using the 5ghz connection on devices that require a lot of data to be transferred such as streaming. You can still use the 2.4ghz connection for less data-intensive activities. Splitting the activities over the different bands will help keep the router and Internet working efficiently for your needs.
Some more expensive routers will give you the option of being able to set up certain features on the router that restrict access to certain devices. This can be performed on most routers but can be a fiddly and time-consuming activity whereby you have to select each individual device and restrict their access. With new routers, you can create different access points so that certain devices will be restricted in terms of speed, time or even services they can access.
This is a handy tool if you have a family with children, as it makes it possible to have a separate access point for the children with certain filters. These filters could simply be restricting them from accessing certain types of sites or even restrict how long they can access or when they can access the Internet.
The range of your Wi-Fi will depend on the capabilities of the router's antennas. A lot of more expensive routers will often have better or more antennas that mean it can send a signal further often through walls. This can be a great feature if you have a large house or wish to be able to use the Internet in your garden. An alternative to buying a new router to perform this is to get wi-fi range extenders which can plug into any socket in your house and boost the signal.