In this article we will focus on Routers, a key element that can make or break your installation.

 Professional Installer’s Guide to IP Networking, Part 2

Martin Boulter | Luxul

In the initial segment of this series we discussed the basic components of an IP network and the functions of each of those components. Going forward, we will look more closely at each of the component categories and provide guidelines on what to look for when making product selection decisions.  In this article we will focus on Routers, a key element that can make or break your installation.

There are 4 key considerations when determining which Router to use:

Typical IP Networking Components and Topology with a Focus on Routers

Processing Power

The amount of processing power available to serve the connection needs of the network is a big part of what differentiates the better Routers from the standard consumer grade fare available at the local big box store.  

A good determination of processing power is the number client device connections supported.  This information can usually be found on the box, spec sheet, or user manual.  Most “All-In-One” devices and Wireless Routers are designed for basic consumer use and serve only a minimal number of client device connections (typically 24-32). Contrast this with a commercial grade Router such as the Luxul XBR-2300, which supports up to 256 client devices. 

Another measurement of processing power is the maximum number of simultaneous connections supported (also may be known as “concurrent data streams” or “maximum available sessions”).  When considering this measurement, note that the average client device typically has anywhere from 6-12 active data streams at the same time with a data stream being 6-10 simultaneous connections. So any given device can easily consume 100 or more simultaneous connections.  A standard consumer grade wireless Router will average around 6500-8200 maximum simultaneous connections, while a more robust Router will support significantly more (for example, the Luxul XBR-2300 supports more than 39000 simultaneous connections).  The web site has rankings on some of the more popular Router models and even provides software that can evaluate a Router in real time.


Luxul XBR-2300 Commercial Grade Dual-WAN Router

Network Reliability

Applications and services are the reason we want and need a highly reliable network. We get excited because we can stream our favorite music anywhere throughout our home or business—not because the Router has been running for 97 days straight. A flaky network means application downtime and, ultimately, unhappy customers.

Commercial grade Routers are designed to be up and running 24/7. This is a function of high quality materials, construction and reliable software.  Better hardware is important but what about the Internet connection itself?  We know that even the best Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have occasional outages.  So even with superior hardware how can you guarantee reliable connectivity?  For this reason, some commercial grade Routers such as the Luxul XBR-2300 have a multi-WAN capability. This means you can have more than one Internet connection from different service providers—resulting in more bandwidth capacity as well as failover reliability in case one of the providers has a failure.

Secure Remote Access

As technology advances, there are more and more devices and services in our home or business we want to access when we are away. Examples include media servers, security cameras, or even the thermostat. But how to remotely access your network while maintaining good security? The answer is with a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Routers that support VPN services allow you to securely connect to your network from anywhere there is an Internet connection from your computer, tablet, or smart phone device. Routers such as the XBR-2300 that can provide reliable VPN access are in a class all their own—allowing an encrypted connection to the private network that enables access to all files and services as if at home or in the office.  For installers, this feature can also be used for troubleshooting network problems without a truck roll. Also, be sure the Router supports Dynamic Domain Name Services (DDNS) to avoid changes being made to the IP address by the ISP. This will make connecting remotely much simpler and more reliable.

Other Advanced Features

Advanced features like VPN and those discussed below typically use up more processing power.  They also tend to only be found on commercial grade Routers that have the processing power to handle these extra services. Filtering content and managing Internet access is becoming more and more important in our homes as well as our businesses. When selecting a Router, specifically, look for one that has a Configurable Firewall with options for URL Blocking, Client Filtering, and Access Control.  

URL Blocking allows for the filtering/blocking of specific URLs via the complete name or keywords, as well as the blocking of specified file extensions (i.e. exe, txt, zip, etc.).  With Client Filtering, ports to services for certain devices can be blocked or filtered, thus controlling content to certain clients as well as eliminating unauthorized downloading. Access Control allows for setting time limits on when certain devices on the network have Internet access. This can be very useful for keeping kids focused on homework instead of playing online games or surfing the internet.

While there are certainly other factors in determining the right Router for any given installation, these tips and suggestions will hopefully give you a good idea of what to look for when making a selection.  In most cases, the better options will cost more in initial investment but will provide additional performance, reliability and feature benefits that will pay off big when it comes to customer satisfaction.

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of HomeToys

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