What separates business routers from consumer routers?
Small-business owners shopping for a new router should avoid the flashy new 802.11ac models. Here's why.
By Michael Brown
, PC World | Networking
- Quality of Service:This term describes a router's ability to prioritize different types of data traffic. For instance, if data packets drop during a file transfer, the router can repeatedly resend those packets until you've received the entire file. It might take a fraction longer, but you'll eventually receive the entire file intact, and it's largely irrelevant how many packets were dropped and resent in the process. However, if packets drop while the router is streaming music or video, or while you're in the middle of a phone conversation, you'll experience unpleasant dropouts and glitches. Routers with strong QoS capabilities can assign top priority to lag-sensitive media and VoIP traffic by throttling lag-insensitive file-transfer traffic. This is a good feature to have if you use VoIP equipment instead of a landline.
- Parental controls: This feature is designed to limit when client PCs have Internet access, and where those clients can go on the Internet. If you have children, you might configure the router's parental controls so that they can't access porn sites, or play online games during hours when they should be doing homework.
- Guest network: This is a virtual network that can allow your guests to access the Internet while barring them from accessing computers, printers, NAS boxes, and other devices on your network. (Some routers allow you to run a guest network without any security, but that isn't a good idea.) A guest network can be as handy for a small business as it is for a consumer.
- Built-in media server: Consumer routers are increasingly focused on streaming media, so it only makes sense that they'd have integrated servers for this purpose. UPnP (Universal Plug and Play) is the bare minimum. Advanced models add DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and even iTunes servers.
- Lightweight VPN support: A VPN (virtual private network) allows remote users to access your network through a secure Internet pathway (often referred to as a tunnel).
- Integrated firewall: A firewall is a security mechanism designed to prevent intruders from accessing your network from the Internet.
- Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS): Operating a wireless network without encryption is asking for trouble. WPS helps consumers set up a wireless network with ease: You simply push a button on the router and a button on the client to establish a secure connection via WPA or WPA2 (see below). A recent discovery, though, has revealed that a brute-force attack can defeat this kind of security within a few hours.
Originally published on PC World |