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Buying your own WAPs vs. Internet service provider's wireless routers

Should you buy a wireless router from your Internet service provider or buy our own WAPs? Our wireless networking expert gives a case for each in this response.

We're installing Internet access in a new small office. Should we get a wireless router from our Internet provider or buy our own WAPs?

If you buy a wireless router from your Internet service provider, that router will have been tested for compatibility with your Internet service. If problems occur, your provider will be on the hook for support or replacement. If firmware updates are issued, your provider will test them and may even install that firmware automatically.

However, the wireless router offered by your Internet provider may not meet your needs. For example, you might prefer to buy your own router instead of leasing one for a monthly fee -- over time, purchase can be less expensive. Or your provider may include a "free" router with your service contract, requiring you to pay a relatively high price if you decide to discontinue service before the contract ends.

More importantly, wireless routers supplied with residential broadband are not business-grade devices. They are usually entry-level routers designed for home networks. A small office or business may have additional requirements that would be better satisfied by another device. For example, perhaps you want to protect your business network with a Unified Threat Management (UTM) appliance that provides on-board anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-spyware, intrusion detection, and VPN/firewall capabilities. Or perhaps you need to deliver WLAN coverage with more capacity or range than a single wireless router could deliver.

The bottom line: Don't let the tail wag the dog. Before you even look at your provider's router, decide what your office needs in the way of an Internet firewall or UTM device, and what your office needs in the way of wireless network infrastructure. If those needs don't match up with your provider's router, then buy your own device(s).

For more information:
Learn about Unified Threat Management (UTM) in this technical tip: Network security: Using unified threat management (UTM).
In this tutorial to firewalls you'll understand what they are, how they work, which types exist, which ones to buy and more.

This was last published in May 2008

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