Note: This is a guest post written by Robert Dawson
4G routers can offer your business a huge amount of network flexibility – from quick site installations to increased network reliability, the benefits are substantial. However, finding the right router can be a challenge.
Do you have a business need for a 4G router? Not sure which features are important to you? We’ve compiled a quick guide that will explain everything you need to know and what needs to be on your company’s wish-list.
Do you need backup internet access?
Downtime costs companies a lot of money. A recent study based on feedback from technical teams around the globe showed that for every minute of lost connectivity, a large company could lose £5,000+. Now, that figure might sound excessive, and is likely to be a lot less for most SMBs, but losing your internet connection can still be costly – both from a financial and reputation point of view.
Having a 4G router that’s preconfigured and ready to go should you lose your circuit can be literally lifesaving for some organisations. Think about whether having this kind of reassurance on hand would be useful for you – even if it might only infrequently see the light of day.
How to choose a type of router
For some small-scale users, having a router that provides a single cellular data connection will suffice. However, for the majority of businesses you’ll need something that’s going to deliver a great deal more data. For these situations, you’ll want to find a device that offers the capability to handle more than one data connection to the router.
This is described as multi-SIM technology. This means the router has multiple slots in which it takes a number (usually between 2 and 18) of SIMs – normally from 2 or more network providers.
Using different network providers offers a significant performance advantage: If you run a 4G router that has only a single SIM or SIMs from just one provider – a loss of carrier coverage means a loss of network for you. Using a number of different SIMs from different providers means that even if their network goes down, yours stays solidly in place. Even if you lose a little capacity, you stay online and your end-user experience is unlikely to waver.
Questions to ask:
- Is this router for the business or a single user? If you’re buying for the business then multi-SIM is virtually essential. If you’re buying for one user then a single connection might suffice – depending on how important an ‘always on’ connection is for that individual.
- Is this router Multi-SIM capable? Check you’re buying a multi-SIM capable router and not one that merely offers a backup connection.
Choosing the appropriate configuration
There’s more than one way to configure a 4G router – and knowing which you plan to use before you purchase is the key to making sure you’re buying a device that’s suitable.
Most organisations choose to combine the capabilities of the SIMs they’re using. In doing so you’re effectively creating one connection to the internet – however, that connection is made up of connections from different carriers – making the connection more robust as well as significantly faster as a collective. This configuration is referred to as ‘bonding’.
Another option is to use each SIM’s data connection individually – attributing one to each user or application that’s using your network. Although this can sound attractive in principle, it doesn’t allow for a great deal of flexibility and can leave users without any connection if one or your SIMs or carrier experiences a problem. This configuration is referred to as ‘load balancing’.
Question to ask:
- Are we load balancing or bonding our cellular connections? If you’re not sure, there’s a little more guidance on how each option works here. It’s worth discussing your business’s specific needs with your IT department or a specialist provider to ensure you’re opting for the most appropriate choice.
Working with critical applications
It’s very common that critical users and applications need to be given network priority over those that are less critical. For example, voice and video traffic are sensitive to delays over your network (you’ll get gaps and stuttered speech) whereas email is not. How should your network handle different types of data? It’s usual for IT teams to prioritise the data traffic for applications that are high priority or just highly sensitive to delays. That means the sensitive traffic goes first, reducing the likelihood of poor user experience.
To achieve this using 4G, look for a router than offers ‘traffic prioritisation’ and work with your IT team or service provider to prioritise your applications and users.
Question to ask:
- Do you have systems that have to run no matter what? If the answer’s yes, then the ability to prioritise could be the difference between keeping your service running as it should – or watching vital processes grind to a halt.
There are lots of instances when running an Ethernet cable to every network device either isn’t convenient – or is outright impossible. In these situations, having wireless capability is useful and can actually dictate a lot of business decisions – from your chosen premises, network layout and organisation of working space – to the networking devices you use.
Just as with the broadband you use at home, it’s far simpler to install and support if wireless is built into your 4G router. However, not every 4G router on the market offers wireless connectivity – so if it’s a key factor – choose carefully. Similarly, some scenarios will require that you are able to offer guest access for visitors, which provides them access to the internet while not allowing them access to your internal network. Again, not all 4G routers offer guest access, so choose carefully.
Questions to ask:
- Do you have employees who will need WiFi in order to connect mobile devices?
- Would you like to offer guest WiFi access?
Understanding how your connection is being used can be the key to understanding a host of different things – are our applications running correctly? Are we being charged the right amount of money by circuit providers? Are we using and applying resources correctly?
To be certain, you might want to find a router that offers reporting as part of the software package – especially useful if you’re working with multiple SIM providers and don’t have the resources to constantly check and compare the services.
Note: This guest post was written by Robert Dawson