traditional Wi-Fi routers : What is best for your home office?

traditional Wi-Fi routers :  What is best for your home office?
For many of us, the bog-standard, default router supplied by our Internet Service Provider (ISP) at the time we signed up for broadband was once enough.

For many of us, the bog-standard, default router supplied by our Internet Service Provider (ISP) at the time we signed up for broadband was once enough.
However, in the past decade, the widespread adoption of mobile technology including smartphones and tablets, Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart lighting and security cameras, are now causing our old routers to creak under the strain.
Each device we connect to our router demands bandwidth. The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the need for speed, capacity, and reliability in the home router space now we are faced with the added burdens of working from home and teaching our kids remotely -- not to mention using the Internet for entertainment rather than venturing out of doors.  
To keep our homes and remote work setups running smoothly now is the time to consider what type of router you need, for now, and in the future.  
When you search for different options online, a plethora of features are available: Wi-Fi 5 / 6, mesh, voice-assistant supported, Ethernet and wired, mobile and LTE support, and more. While many features could be superfluous to your purposes, there are two main types of product to consider: a traditional router, or mesh network.  
 A standard router acts as a central hub for Internet connectivity. Traffic and requests from devices granted permission to connect to the router -- usually through a password -- are funneled through one access point.
The benefits:
•    Price: Standard routers are generally more affordable than mesh network products. While you still may expect to pay hundreds of dollars for a premium router, there are many options out there that are budget-friendly and both quick and stable enough to keep your home office running effectively without further input.
•    Plug and play: In my experience, setting up a standard router is less of a hassle than a mesh network. For something that 'just works,' a typical router might be the best option. Set it up, make sure updates are automatically applied, and forget about it.
•    Speed and wires: Many routers today, such as the Netgear Nighthawk and Asus ROG, are designed with heavy bandwidth and streaming requirements in mind -- and have the technology inbuilt to facilitate it. Gamers and live streamers, for example, should generally stick with wired Ethernet connections that may perform better with traditional routers, instead of wireless-first products.
•    Separating devices: You can set up guest networks on most modern routers, but if you also want to keep all of your IoT devices on a separate network in the interests of security, most routers will allow you to do this without much hassle.

The disadvantages:
•    Coverage issues: As Internet access is distributed through a single point, this can mean that areas far away from your router will have slow or spotty connections that drop. However, range extenders can help remove this barrier and can still end up being cheaper than investing in a mesh network.
•    Overload: Unless extenders or channel separation features are used, too many connections may result in overloading, bottlenecks, lag, and drops.
•    Tweaking: If you want to tweak the more advanced settings on a router, this can often require annoying visits to a platform via desktop, rather than seamless mobile app connectivity we have learned to enjoy for many of our modern services.

Mesh networking:
•    While traditional routers are singular, centralized access points, mesh networking devices are decentralized. Instead of a device connecting to a single gateway to the Internet, mesh networks are created from multiple nodes that all provide web connectivity. For example, you could have a central 'hub' in the kitchen and then have satellite nodes in the home office, kitchen, or bedroom. 
•    When you are trying to access the web while in the kitchen, you would automatically connect to the hub, whereas you would jump on the node while you're in your home office, and so on.

The benefits:
•    Improved coverage: The main benefit of a mesh network is extended coverage. In larger properties with a lot of square feet, investing in a mesh setup will remove annoyances such as coverage blackspots.
•    A boost in reliability: As your device will connect to the nearest satellite node rather than a central point of access, this helps ensure that no matter where you are on a property, you are less likely to experience drops in connectivity.
•    Additional controls: Once a mesh network is active, many vendors will allow users to control their router through a mobile app. This could include keeping an eye on network traffic, rebooting, or even turning off the Internet entirely -- perhaps an appealing prospect for those with children.

Jan 24, 2021
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