Routers for Home/Small Business Networks

It is clear that the capabilities of various routers have not been clearly communicated to the business owners and home owners that require these devices.  As a result, consumer grade routers are being pressed into service in situations beyond their capabilities.

What are their capabilities?

Excellent question, since the advertising doesn’t spell out their limitations. However, Linksys has started a rating system for their router devices.

 

Linksys Rating System

Basically, the two limitations of a Router/Wireless Access Point Device are:

  • the number of connections or devices it can provide data to without being overwhelmed;
  • the distance that it can reliably communicate wirelessly

In general, the more expensive the device, the faster and more robust the internal components are and the more data it can process in the same time period. This means that it can handle more connections and more computers. The more expensive devices also tend to have better wireless equipment and a longer internal antenna, which means you will have signal further away.

Looking at the Linksys chart above, we will note that on the left side we have house pictures getting increasingly larger – this is the wireless range. Across the top we have a listing for the number of devices that you have in your network.

Remember, this isn’t counting computers, it’s counting devices. So, the Xbox counts, your smartphone counts (if you are using it on your Wi-Fi network), as does a media box for streaming movies, wireless security cameras, et cetera.

So, what does this mean?

If you have a router that isn’t up to the task of handling the number of devices that you need on your network, then you will have excessive slowness, intermittent loss of connectivity across multiple devices, and constant inexplicable problems.

What should I buy?

Using Linksys charting and products:

  • A-class router starts at about $50.00*
  • B-class router starts at about $90.00*
  • C-class router starts at about $130.00*
  • D-class router starts at about $160.00*

* These prices are CAD, from Future Shop at the time this was written.

I suggest this as a good guideline for those looking to ensure their router can provide the capabilities that they require.

If you don’t want to use Linksys, instead preferring to look at Netgear, d-link, Asus or other router, I suggest you try to stay within the comparative price range for those devices and you should find equivalent hardware.

Anything else to consider?

Finally, I would like to note that the expectations on the Linksys chart above are for HOME users where not all devices are being used all the time.

If you are running a business and you have 7 people working on devices all day, you are going to be pushing any consumer router to its limits. If you have 10 or more people, you are probably losing time and frustration to a badly performing network.  If you are in this situation, you need to start looking at professional devices to manage your network. The time and business lost due to slowness and problems using a consumer router will pay for a professional level product in no time at all. My preferences for the low end professional products are the Cisco ASA 5505 and the Meraki MX 60 router depending on your licensing preferences.