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All routers have a life expectancy. If yours has been with you for some time, you may not be getting the performance and security you need.

Most businesses are really great at upgrading their mobile devices every three to four years. But when it comes to their router, there’s a tendency to hold on until it stops functioning altogether before buying a new one.

This is a mistake.

The humble router is an often-overlooked device that’s critical to unlocking great performance from your laptops, computers and smart devices that rely on a fast internet connection. Keeping your router up to date will ensure your network’s performance doesn’t become sluggish or a bottleneck.

If your router has been kicking around for a while, you really should be budgeting for an upgrade. Here’s why.

1. Connect more devices while retaining raw speed
Generally, the circuitry and electronics in a router will last longer than its useful life. That’s because the useful life of a router really depends on whether it is compatible with the latest wireless standard, currently WiFi 6. WiFi 6 is much faster than its predecessor – 9.6 Gbps compared to 3.5 Gbps for WiFi 5 – so the router you bought a few years ago will not be enough to deal with speeds today.

Now, it’s fair to say that most small and medium-sized businesses will not need anywhere near those speeds to operate effectively. But WiFi 6 is less about boosting the speed for individual devices, and more about improving performance when a bunch of devices are connected. Your router can only communicate with so many devices at once, so the more gadgets you add, the slower the network will become.

If you have a lot of devices checking in 24/7 or you regularly transfer files around the office – and definitely if you offer customer-facing WiFi – then you will benefit from the faster connection available.

2. Boost your security
A huge advantage to owning an up-to-date router is security. Many older routers stop getting firmware updates as the manufacturer sunsets the product, which means you won’t have the latest security protection. Some very old routers do not even have WPA2 encryption, which has been the preferred security protocol since 2006!

While most organisations today use WPA2 to secure their WiFi networks, the latest version, WPA3, is closing some of the vulnerabilities in this decade-old standard. WPA3 makes it harder for hackers to crack passwords by constantly playing the password guessing game, and has far better encryption tools to protect sensitive data

The latest routers support WPA3 and come with additional security features built in – things like access controls, firewalls, spam filters and virus scanning to keep your network traffic safe.

3. Add performance-enhancing features
Even if you’re not ready to jump on the WiFi 6 bandwagon just yet, manufacturers are continuously adding a slew of features to their routers that go beyond simple WiFi connectivity. For instance, most routers these days come with smart antennas. These do a much better job of assembling signals and beaming them toward devices that are moving around, which makes connections more precise and, therefore, more reliable – even on the go.

It’s also common for routers to have dual-band (or even triple-band) connectivity. This means the router is transmitting data over two radio frequencies — 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The lower frequency has a longer reach while the higher frequency moves more data around faster. Picking up both frequencies means less congestion and faster wireless speeds in most cases.

There are plenty of other features available to enhance performance, which may be useful to you depending on the size and type of business you operate and your budget. For example, some business WiFi routers offer wireless guest access, so you can keep your customers’ WiFi virtually separated from your main business network and apply different security settings. And there are routers with 4G support which ensures there is always a backup connection available if something goes wrong with the broadband.

Buying advice
SMEs have unique needs when it comes to staying connected. We recommend you upgrade your router every three or four years, and choose hardware that delivers a fast and reliable connection while protecting your data.


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