Routers are critical to network operations in any business. The most basic routers direct network data traffic from one network to another, while enterprise routers manage large amounts of network traffic for ISPs, service providers, or other large scale users. The following factors are important to consider when purchasing a router.
• Number of ports
• Wired or wireless
• VoIP support
• Security and encryption
• Configuration options and interface
The first step in defining specs for a router is capacity planning. You want to select a router that can easily handle your projected usage, based on the number of ports available. Most business class routers offer multiple ports in configurations of 4, 8, 16, or more ports per router. If the router also supports wireless connectivity, make sure the router has sufficient capacity to support your planned wireless usage.
If your network handles voice over IP telephony (VoIP), then you will need more specialized equipment. Although VoIP phone systems are designed to use standard Ethernet networks, the quality of service required for VoIP is higher than standard data transmissions. So make sure you select a router that will handle VoIP transmissions if you have that requirement.
Network security is a serious consideration also. In some cases, password security for the network router is sufficient. This prevents anyone without proper authorization from accessing the administrative features of the router and potentially stealing data. Additional security is available with encryption, and this may be a necessity based on your business. Many businesses involved with law enforcement, investigation, or health care records need data encryption to protect the data on their networks.
Most routers and other networking equipment provide a Web-based interface for configuration. This makes setup and maintenance easier and more efficient. It also allows you to review the configuration options on the router without having to use a command line interface or a direct-wired connection to the router.
While most of us are familiar with the home gateway/router devices that provide Internet access in the home, routers used for business are usually more rugged and offer higher capacity and more features. The number of models available can be overwhelming. This makes it important to determine your specific needs based on the requirements discussed above, and then evaluate each router for how well it meets those needs. Evaluating these factors, combined with your budget requirements, will help you choose the right router for your business.