4G cellular connections are increasingly being used by businesses to connect their sites to the internet or to other sites on their Wide Area Network (WAN). Using 4G can be very useful if you need sites connected fast, or in remote places, or perhaps for backup or disaster recovery scenarios. A 4G connection for businesses almost invariably involves the use of a 4G router that contains one or more slots for SIM cards, plus the means to connect cellular aerials and the local area network (LAN) of the site.
Approaching the purchase of any IT network device can be daunting. Can you be sure you’re getting impartial advice? How can you be certain you’re not just being directed to a product any reviewer is hoping you’ll purchase?
The truth is, you can’t – so instead of pointing you at a series of ‘recommended products’ or ‘must have features’ – we’ve spoken to a 4G networking expert and asked how they would support a client to choose a router that was right for them.
Your business and networking requirements are unique, so instead of opting for a ‘one size fits all’ solution, take the time to consider some of the following questions…
“What’s The Router Going To Be Used For?”
Not all 4G routers are created equal – so depending whether you’re using a router for business or leisure is going to decide the level of capability you require. One of the big differences to consider from the outset is whether you need a device that’s able to use more than one cellular connection to provide an internet connection.
If you’re a business user then the answer here is likely to be a yes – and the feature you’re looking for is referred to as a ‘multi-SIM’ capability.
Performance and reliability is the primary reason multi-SIM is appropriate for businesses, If your end users or customers rely on stable and robust communication, then the cost of a slow or intermittent connection might run to far more than inconvenience.
4G routers that use only 1 SIM are targeted at leisure users or business sites with few users for whom performance is less of an issue.
Be Aware Of The Multi-Sim/Sim Failover Difference
There’s a big distinction between a router that offers multi-SIM capability and one that offers merely a SIM failover service.
If the router you’re looking at has two SIM slots it doesn’t necessarily mean it offers two cellular connections – instead, it might just mean that there’s room for a ‘back up’ sim should the primary cellular connection experience a service issue.
Routers that offer true multi-SIM technology combine 2 or more connections – and in some instances can utilise 18 or more SIMs to provide a high capacity connection. It’s not common for a business to require this scale of connection – so in most cases around 6-8 SIMs will perform more than adequately.
If you’re not sure how many SIMs will suffice, consider what’s needed for you network applications to run – and check against connection speed of the SIMs you’re planning to use.
“Is Bonding Or Load Balancing Right For Your Business?”
When using more than one SIM, depending on the types of application you’re running, you’ll need to decide whether bonding or load balancing your cellular connections is right for you.
If you’re bonding, you’re essentially using the router technology to combine all of your 4G connections into one – whereas with load balancing you’re attributing a single connection to each application or end user. Owing to its stability, many companies favor bonding to increase internet speed – and since it’s unlikely that you’re ever going to be using the full capacity of your connection, any issues with a single connection aren’t noticeable.
“Do You Have Priority Applications That Must Run?”
A lot of businesses have core applications that have to run for service to be provided. It’s not just dropped connections that cause application issues, you might have applications for which a slowed connection can cause problems. This can especially be the case if you have real-time applications.
If this is the case for you, looking for a router that offers traffic prioritisation at the point of configuration is a good idea. You’ll be able to make sure mission critical applications continue to run, even if others are slowed or halted.
“How Important Is Reporting On Data?”
Relying on the different carriers to provide accurate information on your data use can sometimes prove taxing – for many this isn’t done as standard, so takes time and effort if you want to get certain figures.
If you’re keen on keeping an eye on data use then finding a router with built-in reporting capabilities can be very helpful. In doing so you can compile crucial information on budgets, application use and much more.
“Do You Need To Access Your Network Wirelessly?”
There are a variety of reasons that wireless access to your network can be helpful – the physical setting of your network might require it, guest users might not want to (or be able to) plug an ethernet cable into their device, printers and other network peripherals might be awkwardly located – and so forth.
Not all 4G routers offer a wireless connection – but some do, so if your business could benefit from the flexibility that brings, be sure to check – it’s not always built in.
“Will You Be Connecting To Devices That Are Inconvenient To Provide Mains Power To?”
4G routers will often be connected to a small switch, a wireless network access point or other low power equipment. When you’re connecting small sites, vehicles and outdoor locations it is sometimes inconvenient to plug all of these into mains power. In these situations, it simplifies the installation if you can power them over an Ethernet cable, using Power Over Ethernet (POE). If you’re in this situation, you might want to consider looking for a router that can provide power to other equipment via Power Over Ethernet.
Not essential – but a nice feature to take advantage of if you’ve got the need.
“Do You Have The Budget To Upgrade Again Down The Line?”
4G technology has now been around for quite some time – and while it offers excellent performance against anything that’s gone before there will be a time it gives way to a more sophisticated technology. Some routers that are currently on the market are capable of handling the next generation of connectivity – often referred to as 4G+ or 6LTE.
If budgets are tight and you’d like a router that can keep up with advances in technology, look for something that supports these cutting edge developments – it might cost you a little more in the short term but could save you a costly upgrade should you require faster connectivity in the future.
Where To Read More
Our expert’s questions cover a great deal – but if you’d like to learn more, this guide is a great place to find out a little more technical info from a dedicated networking and communications company.
Be careful when you’re shopping for a 4G router. Consider these questions carefully and note your answers – if you’re not sure that the device you’re viewing is suitable, seek professional advice. Your 4G router is an integral part of your infrastructure, it pays to get it right.
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