Understanding the Different Types of Wireless Routers
Things to consider when buying a wireless routers for your small business.
We live and work in an untethered world, and your small business is no different. When you initially built your network, you may not have seen the need for wireless. Now that your company has grown and your workforce has become more mobile, you may be considering adding wireless to your network. Wireless offers a lot of benefits, such as allowing your employees to work from anywhere and providing Internet access to visiting guests.
If you’ve been looking at adding wireless connectivity to your company’s network, you know it can be confusing. There’s the alphabet soup of standards—“b,” “g,” “n”— and terms like “dual-band,” “selectable,” and “two radio.” What does it all mean? Below, I explain the basics so you can better understand which wireless router best fits your needs.
Know your Standards
When looking for a wireless router, you first want to check whether it’s “b,” “g,” or “n.” The letters refer to the wireless communication standard on which the router is based: 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. The first generation of wireless routers was “b,” followed by “g,” and now “n”—the newest generation. The primary difference among the router standards is speed (more on that in a bit) and range.
You won’t find many “b” routers available anymore (except on eBay, perhaps) because it’s old technology. If you’re currently using “b” routers on your network, you should consider upgrading.
Single band vs. Dual band
Wireless communications operate in two bands—2.4GHz and 5GHz. Routers based on 802.11b and 802.11g standards—and some “n” routers—use the 2.4GHz band; however, the 802.11n standard allows wireless devices to use the 5GHz or 2.4GHz band. Routers that operate only in the 2.4GHz band are referred to as “single band”.. Wireless “n” dual-band routers are also available as “selectable” or “simultaneous” models, sometimes referred to as “single radio” or “two radio,” respectively. A selectable wireless “n” router, such as the Cisco RV220W can operate in either 2.4GHz or 5GHz mode; a simultaneous “n” device can operate in both frequencies at the same time.
In Wi-Fi wireless networking, dual band is the capability to transmit on the 5 GHz band of 802.11a and also the 2.4 GHz band used by 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. Unlike ordinary Wi-Fi equipment that only supports one signal band, dual-band routers contain two different types of wireless radios that can support connections on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.
The 2.4GHz band is the same frequency used by a lot of other wireless devices, such as cordless phones and microwave ovens. Because there are more devices competing for space in this band resulting in interference and congestion, and it may affect how well the router performs both in speed and consistency. The 5GHz band provides better performance and coverage due to less interference.
Wireless router performance varies by standard with 802.11b providing the slowest speeds at up to 11Mbps. Wireless “g” routers deliver a maximum speed of 54Mbps while devices based on the 802.11n standard are fastest, topping out at 300Mbps.
If you’re thinking faster is better, there’s one thing to keep in mind: a wireless router can’t go any faster than your Internet connection allows. So, under most conditions, a wireless “n” device may only perform at speeds up to 100Mbps. Still, a faster wireless router will increase the speed of your network, allowing employees to access the data they need and making them more productive.
Most routers currently support standard WEP securities as well as the more secure WPA and WPA2. If you want to control what users can access when they are connected to the router, you want to have one that offers decent Access Controls. Cisco’s RV Series Routers have very effective Access Control settings and controls that allow limiting internet use based on time of day. Guest Access and an ability to create multiple SSIDs are also important security measures if you are using the router for a small business. Together, these two features allow you to segment your network into separate areas for guests and trusted users.
Most wireless routers have Ethernet ports for hard-wiring devices to can take advantage of the greater transmission speeds that wired Ethernet has over a wireless connection. For faster transmission rates, invest in a router that has Gigabit Ethernet ports like the Cisco RV220W. Use the Gigibit Ethernet ports to wire devices that access high bandwidth applications such as video and voice, NAS drives, or any other type of multimedia server that have Gigabit Ethernet adapters to take advantage of the faster performance.
Single WAN or Dual-WAN
There’s one other option to consider when deciding which wireless router will best fit your company’s needs—dual WAN. All wireless routers provide a single WAN port that connects your company to the Internet. However, if that port should fail,your business loses access to other offices and any employees working remotely. A wireless router with dual WAN ports, such as the Cisco RV042 Dual WAN VPN Router, ensures reliable connectivity by providing a second link to the Internet and is suitable for businesses that run mission critical applications and cannot afford network downtime.
Watch this video and see how a wireless network has improved both customer service and employee productivity for Creative Video Services.