Staying connected to the Internet is an integral part of daily work these days. Apart from the fact that most work tools are now cloud-based and require connectivity to access, the Internet is a great resource that we often need to consult.
For most organizations, getting all their workers connected to the Internet in the most effective way is a necessity. Thankfully, technological advancements have provided a lot of options for us. Wireless Access Points and routers are two of the most popular ways that organizations connect people to the Internet.
In this article, we’ll be looking at the best ways to choose a WAP or router in 2020. Choosing an effective product requires the same knowledge, whether you’re selecting a WAP or router. However, we must first consider the differences between both.
What’s the difference between a Wireless Access Point and a router?
A router is a network device used to connect digital devices to a managed local area network, providing Internet access to all the connected devices. Devices can usually connect to a router, either using Wi-Fi or Ethernet cables. However, for a router to work, it must be connected to the Internet Service Provider’s (ISP) customer premises equipment. As such, they are usually supplied by the ISP.
A Wireless Access Point (WAP), on the other hand, is a device that acts as a portal through which multiple devices can connect to a local area network. Typically, a high-speed Ethernet cable runs from a router to the WAP, which then transforms the signal into a wireless signal that other devices can connect to. In most cases, WAPs only allow for wireless connections (Wi-Fi) from the end devices to be connected to it.
Although both equipment are quite similar in that they help multiple devices connect to the Internet at once, they also share some key differences:
- A router can be used to manage all the devices on it, while a WAP is only a device that provides an alternate location for the devices to connect through.
- All routers can function as access points, but not all access points can be routers. As such, access points often require a router to work.
Large organizations rely on multiple WAPs to help numerous devices connect to the Internet at once. However, for smaller organizations and home needs, a router will likely be good enough to meet the requirements. Your choice of equipment depends on your needs and how many devices you need to connect.
Tips for Choosing a WAP or Router
- Decide between a SOHO or enterprise device.
Being clear about your needs is a key part of the decision-making for buying a WAP. Aside from having an impact on the amount you’ll have to spend, it also determines the kind of performance you’ll have to deal with.
SOHO refers to Small Office, Home Office routers. As the name implies, these routers or WAPS were created for small businesses. They can typically connect less than 25 people and have fewer configuration options.
Enterprise WAPs, on the other hand, can connect hundreds of clients with better performance. On the flip side, they cost a lot more and typically require a controller or cloud management. Cisco’s mr18-hw is an excellent example of an enterprise WAP.
- It must support either 802.11n, 802.11ac, or 802.11ax.
If you’re not familiar with Wi-Fi standards, you may not understand what these numbers mean. This coding of numbers and letters were created by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to describe Wi-Fi connections.
Although there are many standards, the least you should really choose is 802.11n. It’s compatible with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz and can support speeds of up to 450 Mbps. Considering that the performance of these access points and routers are typically lower in real-life environments, 802.11n is the minimum requirement for work today.
802.11ac and 802.11ax are more recent versions, debuting in 2014 and 2019, respectively. 802.11ac comes with a speed of 1.3 Gbps while 802.11ax comes with 3.5 Gbps. They may both be more expensive and currently offer a couple of options that may not be important for all organizations.
- It needs dual-band support.
The 2.4 GHz has been at the core of wireless connections for the last few years. But then, the year is 2020, and you need to stand up to speed. Organizations that rely on the Internet to work can no longer rely on 2.4 GHz as it has become very crowded and less functional.
When purchasing an access point, it’s essential to check that it’s compatible with both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The reason for continued 2.4 GHz support is so that your older devices can be connected to the network. 5 GHz compatibility is usually only found in older devices.
Recent releases of the 802.11n support both bands, but you should be more careful with older versions that only offer support for 2.4 GHz.
- Should be able to handle multiple spatial streams
One of the immediate benefits of the 802.11n was that it introduced MIMO wireless communication. This allowed us to transmit independent data signals from each of the multiple transmit antennas of the access points.
While the technical details may require some more reading, it’s pretty easy to figure out the best option to choose.
In short, the more radio chains and antennas an access point has, the faster and more reliable it is. The minimum choice should be an access point with a 2×2 radio. However, if possible, you can go for a 3×3 radio access point.
Most devices that will connect to the access point will be 1×1 or 2×2 devices, e.g., phones, tablets, laptops, etc.
You don’t need to be too computer-savvy to be able to buy equipment that can serve your organization. What you really need is to have the right information at your fingertips. With the tips shared in this article, it doesn’t matter whether it’s your first time buying an access point or your tenth; you’re guaranteed to make a great purchase.