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The time you've dreaded for a long time has come: the moment your wireless router dies. Now, it's time to purchase a new one so you can properly maintain your cheap hosting website, but you haven't a clue what you are looking for!
Wi-Fi technology has become highly complex and there are so many factors that alter reception. How many routers are in close proximity; building materials; household devices that emit signals of their own, like baby monitors and microwaves. All of these are factors to consider when looking for your next wireless router.
Here's what you should look for in your next wireless router, hopefully taking some of the pain out of the process of finding one, and negating the need to hire a pricey networking professional to determine a solution!
Determine Your Need
Yes, it's neat to be able to communicate wirelessly with your router. But do you work on a laptop and bounce all around your office? Do you have multiple employees that require wireless connectivity, like smartphones, tablets, and laptops? If you don't, and all you do is sit at your desk to conduct online work, a typical router that is wired to your computer is all you need. If your business relies on iPads in business meetings or has a mobile staff that is always heading to other departments with their laptops, you should choose a wireless router.
Determine How You'll Use It
A one-man-show has quite different network needs than a large corporation does. A single-band router will do just fine for the average Wi-Fi user.
On the other end of the spectrum are dual-band routers like Netgear's N750 Wireless Gigabit Router (WNDR4000). These allow you to perform tasks that require a lot of bandwidth such as streaming high-definition video or moving massive files.
Single vs. Dual Band
Wireless communications are conducted over 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. You'll find a 2.4 GHz router is for simpler networks, while dual-band 5 GHz can handle so much more. It works great for streaming, and offers a higher level of internal network performance.
A downside to the 5GHz: the signal is weaker at greater distances than the 2.4 GHz. This is something you'll want to think about. Another factor to consider: some devices work with one band or the other, not both. You'll want to check the gadgets that will be hooking up to the network prior to making your decision.
Routers are offered at either 300 Mbps, 450 Mbps, or 900 Mbps. This is how fast the router is. 300 Mbps was the standard once upon a time, and signifies that if the router is placed in a room under the best conditions possible and full signal strength, the router produces speeds of 300 Mbps. Right now, 450 Mbps and 900 Mbps are also offered.
It should be noted you will likely never obtain speeds as fast as this. There are many factors leading to this: channel overlap, interference, and a bunch of factors beyond your control. Also, this speed will absolutely not affect how fast you browse the Web! It only affects how fast tasks are performed within your internal network, like file sharing or streaming video.
This is the standard in wireless networking. You should most definitely acquire an 802.11n. They offer the “mixed mode” feature, allowing non-802.11n devices to connect as well.
This is the next “standard” in development. As such, the Wi-Fi Alliance, charged with assuring networking products don't end up in customers' hands unless they do what they say they are supposed to do, have yet to certify 802.11ac routers. It could take a year or more for the 802.11ac routers to offer any form of improvement over 802.11n.
Typically, new routers support WPA2, the highest security level. You want to make sure your router supports this.
Wireless Router Setup And Maintenance
You also need to look into what it takes to set up the router. If you haven't the slightest idea how to go about doing it, then you want one that is easy. There are numerous routers on the market offering setup as simple as answering a few questions on-screen. Other routers require extensive networking knowledge to get them up and running.
Does this information make you feel better about choosing a router?