Like many of you, we have a bunch of devices connected to our home internet connection. A couple phones, tablets, laptops, a game console, TVs, etc. And more wifi devices keep coming! (You can get WiFi enabled thermostats and light bulbs now!) You need a fairly robust router just to manage traffic with all of these devices connected and if you have kids like I do, you need a way to manage internet security to keep the kids safe.
When I say “internet security” I don’t mean your 128-bit encryption to your bank’s website. I just mean keeping kids safe by filtering content, websites, and viruses. Sure, you can do these things on every computer/tablet/smartphone in your house, but why not do it at the router instead?
My suggestion is replacing your consumer grade router with a security gateway appliance. These are generally designed for small businesses but work great for a household. They have a TON of features and are designed to be a little more robust than a consumer router yet they don’t cost a whole lot more. My current favorite is the Zyxel USG20W. This is a rock solid device that is suitable for a small office but offers virus scanning and content filtering at the router. A content filter subscription is $76.99 per year and the anti-spam license is $109.99 per year. Very well worth it when you consider the cost to pay for this service per computer.
Oh I mentioned traffic management, didn’t I? Here’s the problem: if you don’t have any traffic management device on your network, it is easy to use up 100% of your bandwidth with a download or upload and no one else can use the connection during that time. (I upload large videos weekly and my connection was brought to a halt except for my upload.) It is tempting to order the next highest tier for internet speed, but that doesn’t really fix the problem. The fix is traffic management or bandwidth management or Quality of Service (QOS). By lowering the priority of the traffic that brings your network to a halt, and by defining the maximum upload and download speed to be about 95% of what you pay for, everyone will be able to share the connection well without one user sucking up all of the bandwidth.
By the way, the Zyxel gateway mentioned above does require some study. Or I can help you with it. It is not a real easy router to set up.