Besides the modem, your router is the single most important piece of equipment in your network. Some people, especially those with CenturyLink, have a combination modem/wireless gateway, which is set up by their ISP. Some people pay Charter extra every month to provide them with wifi. These are two practices which need to stop.
The built-in wifi on a DSL gateway modem is adequate, at best. A standalone wireless router is easier to configure, and can deliver much better range.
Paying for wifi (not paying for internet, but paying extra monthly fees for wifi) is a constant, repetitive waste of money. Don’t get wireless from your ISP. It’s cheaper to buy your own wifi router and configure it so you can securely connect to the internet without paying extra monthly fees.
It can be a daunting task to decide which router to get and configure it. If you have one of those wireless gateway modems, you have to disable the wifi on it to prevent network issues. Setting up the security can be downright confusing. Knowing which services to turn off to prevent network intrusions, while not stifling your own connections, can seem overwhelming.
It’s easier to just let your ISP handle everything, use the default passwords, and hope for the best. Easier, in this case, is not better. Default passwords are easily hacked, leaving your network open and vulnerable to be used to mirror malicious code. Leaving the wrong services enabled, like UPnP (active by default on most routers) can leave your entire network open for infection, allowing dangerous traffic to compromise everything by opening and exploiting common ports.
A big part of what we do is helping protect people from these kinds of exploits. For the cost of a basic service call ($75), we can come out to your house and set up your router so that it has a secure connection password, secure admin access so not just anybody can get in and change your network settings, and make sure that the security holes are closed.
Here’s some free information on routers that we would typically charge a consultation fee for. When you go to buy a router, look for the following, as a bare minimum:
- Support b/g/n/ac wireless protocols
- Dual band, so it can handle 2.4GHz and 5GHz traffic.
- Is not made by Belkin or Netgear. They both have reliability issues, especially in their lower-end models.
- Many routers come with a lot of bells and whistles. Most of them, you don’t need.
- You can also buy your own modem and stop paying equipment rental fees to your ISP altogether. Do some research beforehand, and make sure the modem you decide to buy is supported by your ISP. They require certain protocols in order to work properly.
- Know the difference between a modem and a router. The modem is the device that goes directly to the cable or phone line from the wall. The router is a device that connects to the modem. It provides wired connections for, typically, four devices and, usually, provides your wifi. If you have wifi, but don’t have both of these devices, you have a wireless gateway modem that does the job of both, but probably doesn’t do either exceptionally well.