How to Choose a Router For Your Small Business
Here at Optimum Business, we know that selecting a router for your business Internet isn’t as cut-and-dry as it seems. The router you choose can significantly impact your network's performance and productivity—for better or for worse. To make the right choice, it is important to consider key factors such as the router’s network requirements, security features, and reliability. In this article, we’re sharing valuable insights on different types of business routers to help you find the best option for your needs. Whether you’re looking for the best WiFi router for your small business or need something that can provide seamless connectivity for a larger workforce, we’re here to help you make the right choice. Keep reading for all the details.
What Is a Router?
Before we dive into the specifics of how a router can benefit your business, some context is needed. In layman’s terms, a router is a device that guides and directs network data (such as files or emails) from one destination to another. It also identifies the best route for each transmission so the data you’re sending can reach the correct destination promptly. Think of it like a digital airport—only directing people to their destinations; the router directs massive amounts of information to their intended destinations via the Internet.
What Can a Router Do For Your Small Business?
A reliable and efficient router provides Internet connectivity, enables the transfer of data, and ensures secure network operations—all of which your business needs to run smoothly. Below, find a breakdown of different ways having a quality router can benefit your business.
Grant employees access to data
In order for your business to run smoothly, all employees need to be able to access important data, which is where web and cloud-based file-sharing servers come in. With these digital tools, you can save documents to a shared online server that only you and your employees can access. Having a reliable router ensures that your employees can access the network and view these essential files from their own devices.
Enable real-time communication
Being able to deliver timely responses to questions, comments, and concerns is a key part of excellent customer service. To rise to this challenge, businesses require networks that are both responsive and reliable. By providing efficient connectivity and seamless data flow, routers help ensure that customer queries are directed to the appropriate place. This enables your business to address customer requests promptly—which, ultimately, helps improve the digital customer experience.
Reduce unnecessary costs
Having reliable access to business tools (like printers and scanners) is essential for your employees to be able to conduct their jobs efficiently—not being able to print out a contract, for example, can halt business proceedings, costing you time and money. Again, this is where routers are useful. By connecting shared resources like printers, scanners, and fax machines to your business router, you can ensure that your employees always have access to essential tools for business dealings. Moreover, these shared resources become easily accessible to everyone on the network, eliminating the need for individual setups and reducing expenses.
Types of Routers
There are five main types of routers—wireless, wired, core, edge, and virtual routers—and they all serve different purposes. Keep reading for a look at what each does and its benefits.
Wireless routers—commonly known as WiFi routers—are probably the most well-known type of router. They use WiFi technology to transmit data between devices and enable devices to connect to the Internet without the need for physical cables. The best WiFi routers also come equipped with Ethernet ports, which allows devices to connect to the Internet via a wired connection if needed.
Wired routers use Ethernet cables to establish a connection between a device (or devices) and the network. They generally have multiple Ethernet ports, so you can connect several devices (such as computers, printers, and gaming consoles) to the Internet at once. Wired routers often include additional features, such as firewall protection, network address translation (NAT), and quality of service (QoS) settings.
Edge routers are deployed at the boundary (or edge) of a network—in other words, where the local network connects to the Internet. Their main function is to manage the flow of data between the internal network and external networks. Edge routers often offer network address translation (NAT), firewall protection, virtual private network (VPN) support, and traffic shaping. Additionally, they play a crucial role in enforcing security policies, managing network traffic, and providing connectivity to external networks.
Core routers are powerful routers designed to handle high volumes of data traffic in large-scale networks. They are typically used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or in enterprise networks. Core routers are responsible for routing data packets between different subnetworks or autonomous systems. They help direct data traffic efficiently and ensure optimal performance and connectivity across the network.
Virtual routers are unique in that there’s no hardware involved. Instead, these software-based routers work via cloud-based infrastructure to transmit and receive data. Because they don’t require physical hardware, virtual routers offer a great deal of flexibility and scalability for small businesses—especially those that operate remotely or semi-remotely.
How to Pick the Best Router for Your Small Business
Now that you know what types of routers there are and how they work, it’s time to learn how to choose the best router for your business. Below are some important criteria to consider before picking your small business router.
The speed of a router is determined by its gigabits-per-second (Gbps) rate. For most small offices, a router with a speed of three to five Gbps is enough, although faster options are available. You may notice that these speeds exceed that of what your ISP offers. That’s ideal, and means it can operate efficiently even at your ISP’s upper limit. For example, Optimum Business offers secure, high-speed Internet with speeds of up to 1 Gbps. With a router that handles higher speeds, you’ll be able to ensure that you’re getting the most of your Optimum Business Internet plan—even when multiple people are sharing the network.
The number of employees in an office or organization directly impacts the selection of a router, particularly in terms of bandwidth. As the number of employees increases, so does the demand for network bandwidth due to multiple devices simultaneously accessing the network. If you run a small business, WiFi routers generally suffice, as they’re capable of handling normal day-to-day traffic. Larger businesses and those with multiple employees, however, require routers with a higher bandwidth capacity. Opting for a router with higher bandwidth capacity helps ensure your employees can share information in real time with minimal congestion or latency.
When purchasing a router for your office or business space, one of the key considerations is the router's capacity to cover the entire area effectively. Assess the size and layout of your space to determine the range required for WiFi coverage. Look for routers with strong signal strength and a wide coverage area, ensuring that they can reach all corners of your office (including multiple floors, if applicable). Don’t forget to take walls, partitions, and large objects into consideration, too, as these can affect signal strength.
If your company is working with sensitive data or you just want to protect your business from cyberattacks, you’ll want to use a business router that has safety measures. Features like built-in firewall protection and VPN (Virtual Private Network) are helpful tools for keeping your business data secure. If you want even more security, consider Optimum’s Business Internet plans, which feature high-speed Internet with built-in security measures like DDoS and DNS protection.
The cost of a router can vary significantly, ranging from under $100 to $300 or more. How much you should spend on a router primarily depends on your budget, but it's also important to consider the features you require to maximize your Internet services. Routers with faster speeds and advanced features like MU-MIMO (a feature that allows routers to transmit data to multiple devices simultaneously) and beamforming (which focuses the signal directly at the receiving device) generally come at a higher price. Additionally, routers with tri-band functionality or support for telephone services may also have a higher cost.
To help you save, Optimum Business offers a range of different business phone plans to suit your company’s needs—so even if you splurge on the router, you won’t be blowing your business budget.
The best routers are typically designed to work with any internet service provider (ISP), but it's still a good idea to confirm compatibility, especially if you're considering a modem-router combo. Modems rely on specific technologies that correspond to the type of Internet connection your ISP provides. If you try to use a cable modem with DSL Internet, for example, it won't function properly. Therefore, it's crucial to check compatibility before making a purchase. ISPs often provide lists of approved modems and routers or offer guidelines to help you make the right choice. It's highly recommended to consult these resources to ensure your router is compatible with your ISP's services. Optimum Business offers 24/7 support, so if you’re unsure if your chosen router is compatible with your Internet service, give us a call anytime, and we'll help you figure it out fast.