The Internet has taken the world by storm. The journey that began with wires, modems and endless connections is now a witness to the absolute necessity of wireless broadband. These can be found in homes, offices and small businesses. As we stand at the end of more than a decade of this marvelous innovation we feel being cheated owing to the number of challenges one has to face while operating it.
Many routers offer good service with extraordinary features but annoy us with their stupefying setups and security limitations.
With numerous sites, innumerable brands and infinite features the routers failed me as a person. After all lack of knowledge in gadgets was the biggest liability. My brother finally got a router which was our obedient kid. But as they say with time even the child left their parents at their own mercy, so did the router. My tolerance had reached the peak point when the router all of a sudden wasn’t friendly with me.
What next followed was our chase game and you know something? I lost and the router won.
From then onwards I decided to maintain a diary with a list of my failures with every gadget. And rightly as you would have guessed, router won once again. I made an attempt to explore which router had all that what I needed but being the chosen one I found no replacement. Yet again, before my hopes would crash I met my soulmate router who did make things easier. After all, it is more about looking beyond the imperfections.
And yes, the way I met my ideal router I felt you all should too.
To figure out the right one, you must know the limitations.
Below is a list that might help some of you.
A Maze Called Configuration
Configuration is as much a riddle for non-technical fellows as the fun it is for technocrats. The process is unending. How long will it take to set up? Will I get it right on the first try? Can I add up a new PC to the wireless connection? Is it as easy as a ladder and a snake game? The printer has no wire, will it connect?
Let’s get one thing clear. It is no snake game even for professionals. The network is different and hence the right setup is confusing.
Some of them as the Buffalo AirStation Wireless-N 300Mbps have crowded menus and multiple layers that make navigation painful. Others, such as the Netgear RangeMax Dual Band, rely on a protected setup that has a long series of instructions that have to be followed to get a new PC on your network.
Tip: Follow the instructions in sequence.
The brand Cisco has made things easier to set up devices by providing a summary screen with all relevant information about your wireless network.
On the other end, Buffalo keeps the radar on you to check if you have internet connectivity and the router is configured properly.
Apple’s AirPort Express is simplest to set up with neat features. It shares USB printers and audio across the network to a connected receiver. The range of the existing base can also be extended. Install Bonjour for a Windows PC. New PC cannot be added easily
Sharing is Caring, Probably the Router doesn’t know it
Money never falls from trees. So there is no need to buy network-attached storage (NAS) unit when the router can very well share files. USB ports are available to which an external USB drive is connected for file sharing and backup.
But every dream crashes as plugging in the drive and setting it up isn’t always easy.
The Linksys WRT610N Wireless-N Router has a complex setup screen that one has to fill out while attaching a USB drive to it.
Tip: check the software and your requirement.
The Belkin N+ Wireless Router has a separate software configuration utility that works for both Windows and Mac systems. It needs to be run only once to set up the external shared drive. After that, you can connect to the shared drive by entering its IP address. The product isn’t perfect, though. There is no way to password-protect the files on the shared drive.
On the other hand, the Netgear RangeMax doesn’t require any additional software. It can password-protect the files. It also offers a wide variety of access methods, including FTP and Web sharing, from its setup screen
Be firm to update the firmware, but Router is lazy
Router firmware is accounted to be the first line of security defence on your network. It must always be up-to-date. But vendors make it difficult for everybody. Research and finding firmware updates on the concerned websites is not everyone’s cup of tea. Working on a browser to track down the current version of update of the router configuration and download the same, it appears to be a tedious job especially when you have to upload it to your router in the right place in the router’s web control panel screen. The router is frequently improved with the same version number. This poses a grave challenge for those who want updates.
Tip: Enable automatic updates to escape the torture. (Check the firmware upgrade section in the web control panel of the router.
Belkin and Netgear offer some good options of routers to tackle this problem.
Numerous passwords, My Foot!
Neighbours, friends, relatives are the real pain especially when you own a router. But being Indian, sharing comes naturally to us. But once we give away the password, the devil in us knocks the door to invite a new password.
Tip: Grant temporary guest access that gives them only internet connection with no other information.
Belkin has an option called, “Hotel Style” which directs the user to a web landing page which has the facility of a special guest password.Uninvited Guests. Ouch!
Uninvited Guests. Ouch!
No network is 100% secure. It is unlikely that we check the guest list ever now and then. Plus the web UIs have many menus one has to go through. Sometimes, vendors hide the list under unconventional names. On the contrary, a notification would help.
Tip: Check the screens labelled as “Attached devices” or “DHCP client list”
Cisco includes the software Network Magic in some of its Linksys Routers.
Those with small businesses can opt for alternate DNS providers. But many do not bother once the connection is set up. But many don’t support alternate DNS options and also do not permit to enter your own DNS providers.
Tip: Make sure if the router supports alternate DNS settings.
Open DNS and Google Public DNS are worth considering.
End of the day, experiment with these options to better the performance or make peace with what you get from your router.