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Choosing the Right Business Class Router

By Keith Loria for America's Backbone Weekly

If you're connecting to the Internet from your home business, you may be fine with a consumer router, but for any business that has multiple users, operates in different locations, or has numerous people accessing network resources at once, you need a business router to handle the load.

While the initial cost is higher, a router specifically tailored for your business is the best way to protect your business in the long run.

According to PC World, business routers may lack some features available in high-end consumer routers?such as a WPS button or shared port for a printer?but you get stronger security features, more flexibility in offering access to your network remotely, and the ability to scale as your business grows.

You may also be surprised to learn most business class routers don't include integrated wireless networking, so it's important to have a Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN), known as a guest network on consumer routers.

Steven Scheck, principal of Inspire WiFi, notes that most business class routers operate far beyond offering a wireless guest feature, and can facilitate the creation of several customized networks using VLANs. They also enable multiple SSIDs for offering virtual wireless networks.

"You can create a VLAN for management where sensitive company details need to be shared, a VLAN for the regular employees for sharing files and a VLAN for the guests to provide limited Internet access," he says. "Then, you can assign the Ethernet ports of the router to the desired VLAN, broadcasting separate Service Set Identifiers (SSIDs) for each VLAN."

You can also set up other VLANs to segregate traffic on your network, so that sensitive data from one department stays contained within that department's own network.

When choosing a wireless router, Scheck advises finding one that supports WPA/WPA2 security or better. WPA2 is currently the latest and best security encryption technology used in wireless routers.

Things to look for
TechHive executive editor Michael Brown recently examined the important features all business routers should possess in Powered On. He cites the most important ones below.

IPv6 support
Internet Protocol version 6 is in the midst of replacing IPv4 as the protocol for directing Internet traffic. IPv6 uses 128 bits to define an IP address, compared to IPv4's 32 bits, so it can create a much larger pool of addresses, and is a must for any business router.

DMZ port
Brown notes that if your computer needs direct access to the Internet, be it through an email or Web server, a business router with a dedicated DMZ port is necessary to isolate that computer on a dedicated sub-network from the rest of your network. Then if your system ever becomes compromised, the hacker won't be able to gain access to all computers on the primary network.

Content filtering
Think of this as the equivalent to parental controls on a consumer router. With content filtering, you can block access to certain Internet content by using keywords or blacklists (prohibited URLs), advises Brown, or by allowing clients to access only permitted sites through a whitelist.

When you're shopping for a business class router, ensure you find one with at least IPv6, a DMZ port and content filtering, and you'll be well on your way to utilizing the coverage, security and functionality features your business needs to stay competitive.

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