When Is It Time to Upgrade Your Router?
By: Phillip Abrie, Technical Director
Before we get into why you would need to upgrade your router, let us first look at what your router does so we fully understand its importance.
The term ‘router’ has become a household phrase now that high-speed internet is commonplace. They get branded with all sorts of names such as ‘home hub’ or just plain old ‘broadband router’, but within your business environment, what do they do, other than ‘give us internet’.
Your router ‘routes’ electronic signals, or data around your office, between different equipment such as computers, tablets, phones and printers. Just like a satnav, it chooses the best route for your information to travel taking into consideration congestion (on your network) and any broken links.
Your router connects your business to the world. Just as it routes data inside your office, it will also know how to send and receive data to and from the internet using your chosen internet service provider so you can surf, email and access cloud applications and data stores.
Your router protects you, your employees and your business systems from security threats using its inbuilt firewall; a filter which examines every piece of data attempting to flow through it and either allows or denies its onward travel based on whether it is identified as genuine or malicious. A network has many points of entry, just like your house. Your router acts as your own cyber security guard patrolling around the perimeter of your business.
Your router prioritises data traffic. There is nothing worse than a telephone call that cuts out or a stuttering video call when someone starts watching YouTube or downloading a Windows update. Your router will prioritise certain types of data based on the importance to your business.
Your router provides VPN services. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a way of connecting remote workers and other sites together over an encrypted network called a ‘tunnel’. Your router handles the creation of the tunnels, the user authentication, and the encryption of the data to allow all of this to happen.
Your router provides Wi-Fi. Depending on the size of your office your router may provide your Wi-Fi. Smaller offices can operate perfectly well using only their router. Larger offices will need a more elaborate Wi-Fi setup. Regardless, it is still the router that acts as the pivotal part of the network.
Why should I upgrade my router?
Now we have looked at what your router does for you and your business, let's examine why there may be times when an upgrade is a well-needed investment.
A router is a clever box of tricks and is battling against clever hackers. Keeping the hackers at bay requires continual updates to the router’s software, known as firmware. These updates must be provided by the router manufacturer. The manufacturer will produce the firmware updates for several years after the router is first released but there comes a time when they announce they will cease to produce updates. This is for several reasons, which we describe below in under ‘End of Life’. Furthermore, there are different grades of router that offer different levels of protection. Sometimes an upgrade is required to satisfy industry compliance or to be able to effectively manage the types of network activity you are undertaking.
As time goes on, we demand more from our computers, the internet and everything in between. Routers are like computers in that they are designed to meet a certain performance specification which can handle a predefined maximum load. By load, we mean the amount of traffic it can route and filter. You may not notice it, but a router that is struggling to deliver what you need can be a major bottleneck in your IT infrastructure. If your business has grown and if you have more people working from home needing more VPN tunnels, then this is all additional work your router must perform.
End of Life
There comes a point where the manufacturer announces that a piece of hardware will be classed as ‘end of life’. This means that they [the manufacturer] feel they have a considerable range of newer, alternative devices available which offer better security, features and performance. The newer equipment will also offer greater compatibility with newer protocols and technologies. At this point, the manufacturer gives notice that they will no longer support either the hardware or the software (firmware) for the device which has reached ‘end of life’. The highest risk of this is that they will no longer be providing firmware updates to defend against security threats.
How do I know when to upgrade my router?
At ILUX we continually monitor your hardware performance. If we identify that your router is struggling to provide you with the throughput or security measures your business needs, then we will discuss this with you and provide you with options. We will also advise you when your router is approaching ‘end of life’ and look to advise you of the most economical replacement taking into consideration your current and future business needs.