Updated: May 8, 2020
Choosing a router for the office is a piece of knowledge all IT support professional must know. But this does not mean you have to be an IT support professional to choose a capable router for your office. How do you choose it? There is mesh, and it is 5G, and wireless G, N, AC is thrown around a lot without any explanation as to what that is. Confusing? Yes, it is. Here we break down what you are supposed to look for when choosing the right WiFi router for your office. It is not going to be easy, but With our breakdown, we are confident in a perfect execution from you.
Space - placement of router in your office
The main factor to take into consideration is space. Is your office long or round or square or rectangle or maybe an obtuse triangle? The middle or centre of the office is the best place to distribute signals from, but it is not always the most convenient location when you think of power (since your WiFi router will need power). Most power points are along the walls, and your landlord most likely has not installed one nor a LAN point in the middle of the office. We are assuming you have a nice landlord when we mention LAN. Depending on your luck, there may or may not be a ready to use LAN infrastructure, if there is, great. Regardless, please have a look at the diagram we have drawn here.
So how would the size and shape of your office affect your network?
Excuse us for the less than professional drawing. The green dot is the ideal placement for a Wifi router in the office because it evenly distributes your connection bandwidth and retains most of the signal strength within the confines of your space. Wifi routers placed in the spots we have marked red are to be avoided at all costs, what is happening here is most of your bandwidth, almost seventy percent of it is wasted.
The spots marked yellow or amber are the next best thing, even if your connection point or modem is at the red point, you can simply use an extended ethernet cable to bring your WiFi router as close to the centre of your office as possible. What we want here is to distribute your signal as evenly and maintain signal integrity within your property.
Budget - Choosing the most affordable WiFi router for your office
While budget is always an important issue, skimping on any IT hardware, let along a Wifi router in this case, is never a good idea.
When running a business, budget has to be set aside for your IT infrastructure. We believe in the bare minimum. You could spend more on the brand you are more than welcome to do so. But do not do it on our account. It does not make any sense for any organization to pay your management a colossal salary and still ask for a budget over an office router.
We understand how tough and forward we sound right now, but are you going to negotiate floor space with your landlord or the amount you need to pay for it? In this case, you are negotiating if your entire staff has wireless internet connection versus most faculty or some staff. So the question does not make sense. What you need to be asking yourself is, if you pay your ISP for 100 Mbps, how do I ensure all my staff has 100 Mbps. Your budget should not be tied to how little you can spend but how little internet bandwidth your team requires to work effectively. Part of learning is changing the way you think and we need you to change your mindset before proceeding with this tutorial.
Antennas - choose the correct antenna on your WiFi router
Antennas are useful. Remember TV antennas? Those old days when you had to adjust for a clear signal on your television. You had to change the antenna for a clearer picture. TV antennas design means to collect messages and convert them into images. It is still hard to believe that there is no proven correlation between TV radio signals and cancer.
So what does an antenna on a wireless router means? And there are those with so many antennas, some as many antennas as a spider has legs. But these are not cosmetic but functional in reason.
One antenna means one connection. Ten antennas mean ten links. Now you are thinking, LIES! How come my family can survive on one antenna! You fool you trying to trick us. Well, no, no tricks. Imagine the antenna as a car dealer, so you connect to it or are the only player, the card dealer or antenna deals all the card to you. Fast, convenient and beautiful. It is a comfortable place to be with a healthy connection and speed. Now someone else sits beside you or is in the house and connect to the same WiFi; the card dealer now has another player on the table. So obviously the card dealer does not give you all the cards; first, he gives you a card and then the other user/player a card, and then you get one and he gets another. Your wife is home now and connects to the wireless network on your pathetic one antenna (sorry), she now sits at the table, and the dealer starts giving her a card as well slowing the entire process down. Of course, an excellent single antenna router can do this process so seamlessly and quickly (at the speed of processor versus light) that you may or may not experience a reduction in bandwidth. If your home internet bandwidth is fast and reliable, chances are your dealer has an unlimited number of the card to deal. And this is how an antenna works in terms of single versus more. Let us proceed to the next subject!
Type of WiFi router for your office
Before buying a router, we must understand how different WiFi routers are designed for different specific uses. Since we are talking mainly discussing office WiFi router, we need to pick a specific range of routers designed for your needs. If we are not careful, we may end up purchasing a router meant for gaming, which might sounds great at first, but you must understand a gaming router is designed to provide low-latency and is not very friendly in providing great connection to multiple users. A WiFi router designed for home use is designed around the premise of casual use, they do not have the necessary functions installed in them for specific needs a business might require. Especially when you are looking to make use of certain advanced settings such as port forwarding or domain settings for your local network.
Just like you would never ask your staff to use their mobile phones as their work computer, you would never buy a gaming laptop for your admin assistant. Maybe the managing director or the owner of the company demands a gaming laptop or computer, but they own the company and get to decide your pay and what company car they should buy. So let's not get ahead of ourselves with this logic when choosing a WiFi router.
Of course, you go to a hardware shop or challenger and ask for the fastest; the sales staff leads you to a gaming router, you furrow your brow but believe what he says. What do you know right? But now you do, they have a sales target and have no idea what they are doing. They are retail staff, and if they had a semblance of a brain, they would be doing your job or be an IT specialist. Harsh, well, the world is cruel. So you should be too, take everything with a pinch of salt! But it would help if you found something right for you. Which is easy to overcome if it says gaming on the box, don't buy it. If it says home router on the table, don't buy it.
You know what you are buying the product for, and you have yourself to blame for not reading the box and trusting a human being with his agenda. Why can't you behave yourself? So when you are at the shop, focus, read the box. Sales staff who ask you to many questions make them search for what you want. I always convert sales staff into personal shoppers. You know you are going to buy something, make them work for it. Make them find all the routers and line them up in the corner of the retail store while you furrow your brows and look at the entire spread with disgust. Like they are not showing you what you want, they will panic and keep running and screaming finding the router they believe you think you deserve. Fun, I know. That is how we do. Why should we run around the store, we already walked there, they should be doing the exercise, those slackers.
MIMO - Multiple inputs and output WiFi router for your office
If you do not have any idea what MIMO is, you better start reading up. We had wireless G and then N and then AC, AD, and AX. and so on. These are new standards and iterations of connection. With each upgrade in speed, measures need to keep up, and routers need to keep up. In any case, at the current moment, it is mostly wireless AC standard or AD. Don't overthink it. What we need to focus on now is MIMO, which is a real game-changer. While rules in connection are helpful, that is all that they are, nice — no need to worry about them. But MIMO is abbreviated multiple inputs multiple outputs. MIMO sounds a lot nicer and more comfortable to remember, therefore abbreviations! These routers are great for simple office shapes that are like round or square. You need to buy one and put it there at the coloured placement recommended, and that is all there is to it.
But what is MIMO, it is a different way of distributing bandwidth. Remember the card dealer we talked about, fire the card dealer. That is what MIMO has done. Everyone gets a dealer, well maybe not fire him hire more. Of course, based on our logic, eight antennas would mean eight card dealers, right? Wrong, it means an unlimited, exponential, or an infinite number of car dealers. Every person gets their dealer or multiple dealers. It could be you by yourself, and you have many dealers dealing with you and giving you the bandwidth.
MIMO design work with high-speed internet; you know the new 10 Gbps internet speed they advertised. Any other router will not even deliver anything close to that speed (kind of a scam), not even half or a quarter speed given! Enter MIMO, which can handle that much speed the technology is so that such high speed achieved. Previous standards and connections struggle with such high speed, wireless of course. Wired all you have to do is have a gigabit switcher and Cat6 Ethernet cable.
Choosing MESH WiFi routers for your office
What is a mesh? We have talked about it before, we did. Mesh makes sense for your office if of an irregular shape. Like the shape of a shoe or two floors or L, which is a shoe or triangle or rectangle. It is such an ample space that needs proper distribution.
With a great MIMO router, chances of spending all that money on such a powerful solution that the last person at the other corner of the office has to tether or hotspot iPhone(apple-maniacs) or Samsung. Sorry. We don't take sides; we think you are all stupid.
So in this kind of office, you will need proper distribution and connection throughout, such a delivery is overkill in a standard round or square office, you are merely killing speed for what? But in an oval or long office, your fibre point could be by the door, and the corner office needs the connection. Therefore the best option is mesh. Here you would think should I go with two mesh or three mesh system. There is no four mesh; don't be stupid. Since each connection is a wireless hop, more hops equal more latency and less bandwidth. So in most manufacturers, they know after the third hop, there is a significant drop in connection. But one information that would be useful is to ask your boss, or if you are the boss, what is the area or size of your office.
Once you have that information, look at the box of the mesh you are looking to buy. And if the numbers match or are within range. Meaning if a two mesh system which is less expensive than a three mesh system says the limit is 2000 to 3000 square feet. And your office is an odd shape and a total of 2200 square feet. You should buy a two mesh system and not a three.
How to install, there is a booklet, don't make us explain. We are trying to focus on the topic. In case you have forgotten it is "choosing the right router for your office." Congratulations. You have done it.
Thank you for reading 'IT Support 101: Choosing a WiFi router for your office'.