Why You (And Your Business) Need a New Wi-Fi Router

Using an Older Wi-Fi Router Kills Your Time & Profits

This is an update to a 2015 blog.

According to a 2013 AT&T poll, 98% of small businesses use Wi-Fi. And the poor performance of that Wi-Fi may be one of the most effective killers of the small business bottom-line. The solution is to trash your current Wi-Fi router, and replace it with a business-class, modern unit.

The majority of both home and business Wi-Fi routers use the 802.11n standard. Although a great improvement over the older 802.11g, it still limits data transmission to a theoretical maximum of 600mb/s. However in the real-world, that speed is rarely over 200mb/s.

The new 802.11ac standard allows a theoretical maximum throughput of 1300mb/s, with 1000mb/s real-world performance.

In addition to 3x greater raw speed, many new routers offer additional "lanes". Most older Wi-Fi routers offered only a single channel, with only one device at a time able to communicate on that channel. Newer models offer up to three channels, each able to support one device at a time. So not only is each channel up to three times faster, you may have up to three times the channels.

Not only do the older standards dramatically hamper computer-to-computer and computer-to-server performance, they also hurt Internet communication performance.

If you are thinking (you are, aren't you?), you may be asking yourself: If my Internet speed is far less than 200mb/s (typical is 15-50mb/s), then why should I be concerned about Wi-Fi that is far faster than that? Isn't the Internet connection itself the bottleneck?

Great question, and even better reasoning. But these older routers slow down all communications, including Internet, simply because everything within these routers is slower. Here is a real-world demonstration:

ENVIRONMENT

  • Internet provider: CenturyLink
  • Internet Bandwidth rating: 15mb/s maximum
  • Wi-Fi router (old): CenturyLink Zyxel C1000z with 802.11n (the model currently deployed by CenturyLink)
  • Wi-Fi router (new) ASUS RT-AC3200 with 802.11ac
  • Test computer: Apple MacBook Pro with Retina
  • Both routers are 15 feet from the test computer, separated by standard home interior wall

To test the Internet performance, the test computer ran the speedof.me latency, download, and upload tests three times on each of the routers. No other applications were running, no other devices were accessing the Internet or router at the time of the test.

RESULTS

  • Computer to router connection speed: old router is 130mb/s versus 878mb/s for new (6x faster)
  • The average latency (ping) performance: old router is 54ms versus 55ms for new (dead heat)
  • The average download performance: old router is 6.18mb/s versus 13.91 for new (2x faster).
  • The average upload performance: old router is 4.76mb/s versus 5mb/s for new (wins by a nose).

This graph records the six tests. The first three data points are with the new Wi-Fi router, the last three data points are with the old Wi-Fi router.

CenturyLink Zyxel C1000z Wi-Fi router

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS

  • For file transfers, either computer-to-computer or computer-to-server, using an older Wi-Fi router takes 6 times longer than a new unit.
  • For Internet activity, using an older Wi-Fi router takes more than twice as long as a new unit.

To put this in terms the bean-counters can understand, if a user is spending 1/10 of their time in the process of transmitting data (a conservative estimate), and the employee earns the US average of around $50,000/year, then the cost to the company for this one employee working with an old router, is at least $2,500/year! (10% of $50,000 is spent transmitting data, at least half of this time is wasted.)

Now, let's multiply this by the X number of employees within the organization.

This is how old technology kills small business (and large business as well, but they typically are proactive for such things.)

There are several 802.11ac Wi-Fi routers to choose from. At the time of this writing, we are recommending only the ASUS RT-AC3200 (2 channels), or preferably the ASUS RT-AC5300 (3 channels). Of the many features, I find the most important to include automatic anti-penetration and malicious website blocking. These are features only otherwise seen in units costing much more.

So, for $315 or less, plus one hour consultant time to configure and install (to be done properly, this is not a DIY job), your business will likely make back this investment in under a month if you have one employee, and in a day if you have 20.

Now that is smart business.

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