Should You Upgrade to a Business-Class Router?

One of the biggest expenses a small business will face is building or upgrading its network infrastructure. The sticker shock associated with moving to a proper small business network can be overwhelming. It’s hard for many small business owners to understand how that $150 router from Best Buy, which has served them well for so long, costs so much to replace.

But the fact is moving from a low-end SOHO router to a full blown business-class solution is an expensive proposition, and there really is no way around it. Just check out the list of available routers on the CDW website. You’ll see prices ranging from around $50 bucks to well over $2,500. What is about business-class routers that justify such a large investment, and why should you take on such a burden?

Who Needs a Business-Class Router?

The answer of course comes down to the needs of your business and what tasks and capabilities you require from your network during day-to-day operations. Say for example, that when you first started your business you worked out of a studio apartment and got by using the aforementioned SOHO router and Time Warner Cable’s Triple-Play package. But that was then.

Now you have two offices; the headquarters in New York City and a sales office in New Jersey, along with about half a dozen users and consultants that work across the U.S., perhaps even some overseas. In all you now have about 30 or 40 people that need access to your network resources.

In these situations, a low-end SOHO router won’t cut it, and you need to upgrade to business-class equipment. The cost may be daunting, but the best way to protect your business is to invest in a router specifically tailored for your business.

Why the sticker shock? The average person doesn’t understand the difference between modems, routers and wireless devices, mainly because Internet service providers (ISPs) consolidate all the functionality into a single box. But the components are quite different, each playing a separate, but complimentary role on the network.

A router connects two or more networks together. A modem provides access to the Internet. A router provides network security, but a modem does not. You don’t need a router to connect to the Internet, but you do need a router to provide Internet access to all of the systems on your network. They each have their part to play in the overall network infrastructure.  As such, business-class devices typically charge separately for each of these capabilities.

In addition, SOHO routers are designed with a focus on low-cost. In contrast, business-class routers focus on maximizing performance, and they can be customized to accommodate a wide variety of different network configurations. This flexibility comes at a price. Unlike the typical SOHO router, which employs an easy-to-use Web configuration utility, most business-class routers, like those by Cisco, use a complex Command Line Interface (CLI) that requires a network engineer to properly setup and deploy.

3 Business-Class Routers from Cisco

Cisco RV016 16-port 10/100 VPN Router
Notable feature: Multi WAN
Price: $419.99

Cisco 881W Integrated Services Router
Notable feature: Wireless router; 802.11b/g/n
Price: $671.99

Cisco 1841 Integrated Services Router
Notable feature: delivers multiple, concurrent services
Price: $999.99

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