Consumer-Grade Routers by Sam C. Chan

First published: December 12, 2005
Last updated: June 28, 2015

Retail "Wireless Router" = Router + Switch + Access Point (3-in-1)

ISP-provided "Router" = "Modem" + Router + Switch + Access Point (4-in-1) 

Class Price Range Examples
Travel $20~$50 Zyxel, TP-Link
Home $40~$125 WBR, Arris DG860
SOHO $75~$195 E2500, DIR-655, DIR-624 (2002)
SMB/Hobbyist $150~$500 D-Link, Netgear, Linksys
Commercial $500~$1200 Custom, Meraki, D-Link, Zyxel, TP-Link, Cisco
Enterprise $1000~$2500 Cisco, Dlink, HP
Carrier $2000~$4000 Cisco 12000, Kentrox, Belair

Access points  

Dlink DWL-8610AP

Why consumer routers are inadequate?  (SUMMARY)

  • grossly inadequate in-bound access support
  • weak on advanced security features
  • lacking fine granularity on settings
  • severely limited manageability
  • filmsy construction & electrical robustness
  • lacking/poorly implemented: VPN & Proxy Server, real DMZ

But might still be needed for businesses as supplement

  • it's a cost-effective way to add wifi APs (multiple) to the LAN
  • as primary perimeter router for SOHO environment, the simplicity + low costs out-weighs the shortcoming, especially when picking a model that's relatively high on IT-friendliness
  • as auxiliary routers, they can be repurposed quickly, for a myriad of scenarios

Disadvantages of Consumer-Grade Routers  (DETAILS)

  • performance
    • underpowered CPU 
    • insufficient storage (DRAM & flash)
      • limited entires in all tables
      • limited # of streams
    • admin pages lag severely, extreme data compression
  • less secure
    • patch frequency
    • patch coverage, availability
    • EOL period
  • poor reliability (electronic operations)
    • combining certain features tend to crash
    • some "advanced" features tend to be buggy-at-best
    • the slightest setting change triggers reboot
    • overheating is common under heavy load
  • less durable(physical/electrical damage)
    • underengineering: component specs
    • physical construction
    • inadequate ventilation
  • not IT-friendly
    • inconsistency
    • proprietary terminology (on a whim, dumbed down, hyped)
    • layers of wizards
  • lacking crucial features
    • less flexibility in all areas
    • CLI SSH interface
    • logging options & capabilities
    • expandability red/orange/blue/green zones
    • proxy, VPN, IPS/IDS

Advantages of Consumer-Grade Routers 

  • lower price
  • less bulky
  • less electricity consumption (and heat generation)



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