- Fast connections are worth sharing
- Routing is the core of your shared network
- Dedicated devices - the alternatives
- What are the individual functions that make up the device?
- Buying a modem/router/switch
- Buying a device with an Ethernet switch
- Buying a device with wireless networking
- What about security?
- DIY vs ISP?
- Summary of features
Buying a modem/router/switch
In most home and small office situations, there is no need to have a separate ADSL modem and router. Consequently, an ADSL modem/router/switch or ADSL modem/router/switch/wireless is a cost-effective way of adding Internet connection sharing to a small network. Certainly if you do not have broadband and are starting from scratch then this is probably the best option.
The downside with modem/router devices is that if you ever want to upgrade either the modem or router capabilities, you are forced to replace both. On the one hand it can be worth paying extra for a device with all the latest features, meaning you won't need to upgrade for some time. Alternatively, you can choose a basic device to get you by now while you wait and see what your needs are in the future.
Don't buy a device with an integrated ADSL modem if you are thinking of switching to cable Internet or wireless Internet later on, however. If you think you might try a few different broadband service types, then a separate modem and router are definitely on the cards. A router/switch combination, however, is always a good investment.
Buying a device with an Ethernet switch
Almost all devices will have wired Ethernet interfaces, and those with built-in switches will have multiple. The benefit of using an Ethernet connection is that the router becomes completely independent of any computer.
The biggest limitation is the number of Ethernet ports available. However, it's worth remembering that if you ever need more you can simply expand by adding a switch. This is a cheap and easy way of expanding the number of computers on the network, without having to buy a router with more ports.
The downside with devices having an Ethernet interface alone is that, should you encounter networking problems on your computer(s), you won't be able to log in to the router to configure it. Additionally, you need to know the IP address of the router in order to connect to it. If you change the default value or if your PC is misconfigured, your router could seemingly disappear from the network. Although it is always recoverable, things might be a lot easier to manage if a USB connection to the device were available to fall back on. At the end of the day, however, an Ethernet interface is all you need on a router.