Wireless Routers 101
Nowadays, when someone visits your home, there is a huge chance that your visitor will ask about if you have your WiFi on. It cannot be helped. People have become too dependent on the Internet, and most of them cannot live without it.
With the proliferation of smart devices that can easily connect to the Internet through wireless, it has become a standard in every home with Internet connection to have a wireless router. It is to make sure their family members and friends can use their Internet connection when they need it.
Do You Need A Wireless Router?
Of course, you do need one! One of the biggest reasons is for you to be able to connect to the Internet using your wireless devices — and that includes your phone.
Is it a bad idea to just use cables to connect to the Internet? Not really. After all, it is much preferable to connect your computer to your modem directly with an ethernet cable. However, you are not planning to connect your phone to your modem using an ethernet cable, are you?
Of course, that is possible. But can you imagine how inconvenient that can be? Also, the length of the cable will only tether you near the modem. You cannot just extend an ethernet cable all over your house. That would be ridiculous, and a bit expensive, too!
Determining Your Router Needs
There will be times that you will not need a router. If you only have one device — usually a personal computer — that can connect to the Internet, then a sole modem will be enough.
On the other hand, you will not need a wireless router in case that your ISP (Internet Service Provider) has already provided you with a Wireless Gateway. A Wireless Gateway is a modem combined with a wireless router (some do include other peripherals though).
On a different note, if you have multiple computers and do not need to have WiFi in your home, you can settle for a regular router.
How Advanced Network User Are You?
The market is filled with a lot of wireless routers. Just one manufacturer of these little devices has a lot of versions and models. And it can be quite confusing when the time has come for you to buy the wireless router that you need.
The easiest way for you to determine which wireless router is good enough for you depends on your knowledge of computer networking. If you just want to connect devices in your home, any regular wireless router can do the job. Price will not matter, and the cheapest ones on the market can fulfill your needs.
On the other hand, if you want to have full control of the bandwidth that all the devices are receiving from your Internet connection, it would be best for you to choose a wireless router that offers QoS (Quality of Service).
Do note that most wireless routers come with the QoS feature. However, most of them have interface options that can be difficult to comprehend if you do not have a background in networking. You do not need to learn the technicalities of QoS rules just to reduce the download speed of the computer in your living room. Some routers offer simple interfaces that can let you tweak the QoS without being flooded with technical terms that will seem like gibberish to you.
Types of WLAN (Dual Band or Single Band)
Wireless routers can be categorized into two types: single and dual band. Dual band wireless routers have more powerful signals and are ideal for huge places with multiple users. Single band wireless routers have weaker signals and are ideal for small dwellings and offices.
Single band wireless routers only operate on the 2.4 GHz band — hence the name. And dual band wireless routers operate on two bands at the same time, namely 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz.
In a nutshell, dual band wireless routers are better than the single band. However, its only disadvantage is that it is much more expensive than the latter. If you have limited budget, only have one or two devices that connect wirelessly, and in a small house or office, then that is the only time that you will need a single band router.
However, take note that most routers nowadays are dual band wireless routers. Only a few models of single band wireless routers are in circulation.
On the other hand, for those people who have larger houses or work in a huge office, dual band wireless routers are a must. This is especially true if you have multiple wireless devices that are within the vicinity of where you will put the wireless router.
Do note that most wireless devices use the 2.4 GHz band, and if there are a lot of devices that run on that band at the same time, wireless traffic congestion will happen. The congestion will cause delay to your Internet connection and might result to frequent timeouts or intermittent Internet connection.
By the way, you should also consider the devices that you will connect to your wireless router. Remember that most wireless devices run on the 2.4 GHz band. In case that your devices are only capable of connecting through that band, you cannot really take advantage of the additional 5.0 GHz band of a dual band wireless router.
Bandwidth of the Router (WLAN/ETH)
Wireless routers do not only provide wireless connection. They also provide a means for users to connect to them using an ethernet cable. Due to that, buying a wireless router now even if you do not have a wireless device is a wise decision. You can still connect to your router using the regular cable you have, and fool-proof your local connection when you acquire a wireless device (or someone comes over to connect to your Internet).
Security Features on a Router
Security features on a router can be divided into two categories. The first category refers to its features that secure you against attacks from malicious entities from the Web. The second category refers to the router’s features to prevent unauthorized access to your Internet connection.
One of the most important security features included in the first category is DoS prevention. This feature prevents attackers from giving your router or connection Denial-of-Service attacks. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, DoS attacks can be performed by flooding a computer or connection with multiple requests from a single or multiple devices.
Due to the massive traffic that DoS attacks can generate, it can effectively bottleneck or use a lot of your bandwidth, which can lead to your Internet connection slowing down tremendously, to the point that you cannot use it anymore.
On the other hand, other security features in the first category are usually not that essential to regular Internet users. However, the features in the second category are crucial to you, especially nowadays when there are a lot of people and applications that are capable of hijacking a wireless router and leeching off from an Internet connection.
A few of those security features are:
- Connection/Password Encryption
- MAC/IP Filtering
- WPS/WiFi Protected Setup
On the other hand, here are some features that are included in the subset of the second category, which can allow you to limit the amount of Internet and content that a wireless or wired Internet users connected to your wireless router can access.
- Port Filtering
- URL Filtering
- ACL/Access Control List
- Parental Control
USB Ports or Not?
Modern wireless routers come with USB ports on them. A few might get confused about the function of those ports. Can you connect to your router using a USB cable?
Well, primarily, those USB ports’ main functionality is to allow all the people connected to the router to have access to a device connected to that USB port. A perfect example is a printer connected to the wireless router via USB cable.
This is an extra function that some wireless router manufacturers offer to their users, which is not particularly noticed much. After all, most printers nowadays can be connected to the wireless router via a wireless connection while some can be connected through ethernet.
Nonetheless, it can be a handy bonus. For example, you can connect your USB storage device in the wireless router for all the users to access it. Aside from storage devices, webcams, scanners, and even keyboards can be connected to them. But surely, if you will need to pay a hundred bucks more just to have that router with a USB port, then it is highly recommended that you do not take it.
Do you need a wireless router? The answer is yes. The Internet has become a part of everyone’s lives. It would be really convenient if everyone can be connected to it all the time. And of course, you will surely experience that benefit a lot if you get a wireless router now.