For smaller businesses looking to expand and upgrade their network, it's tempting just to send
someone down to Best Buy to pick up a few new routers and switches. After all, consumer-grade networking products are usually less expensive, and delivery times mostly depend on where the buyer stops for lunch on the way back to the office.
However, this really isn't a good practice, for a number of reasons. Except for the smallest of startups, consumer-grade equipment like you find in big box stores simply isn't up to the standards as the enterprise networking equipmentbusinesses really need.
Here are five reasons to think twice before buying off-the-shelf network hardware.
1 - You get what you pay for.
Those lower prices aren't simply to drive sales: Consumer-grade network equipment is more likely to fail, and more often. Most low-priced consumer electronics are built to much less rigorous specs, and are unable to keep up with the amount of data traffic, temperatures, and 24/7 operating stress of a business environment.
Just like how you wouldn't expect shoes from Wal-Mart to last long, the same is true for a router from Wal-Mart. Low prices mean lower build quality and a vastly decreased operational lifespan.
2 - They're made to be thrown away.
An average homeowner isn't looking five years down the road and considering how their household's broadband usage may change over time. They're just picking up a router that will work right now and the manufacturers know that.
Beyond the higher likelihood of hardware failure, consumer-grade network equipment is virtually never upgradeable. It has to be replaced. That means even more trips to Best Buy over the years.
The upgradeability of business hardware ultimately means much lower ongoing operating costs.
3 - Warranty and support, or lack thereof.
If you're currently using a consumer-level router, you might want to take a close look at the fine print in its warranty. Many of these low-cost routers explicitly exclude business use in the warranty, undoubtedly owing to the greater demands of a business network.
Even if the warranty doesn't exclude office use, be prepared for long wait times on hold if you need support. Unlike business-grade network hardware, there's no priority access and your call is probably being routed overseas.
4 - Security concerns.
Another area where consumer network hardware can't compete is in the realm of system security. Most home systems offer basic WPA2 encryption, but few other options, and no offerings with higher security ratings.
In fact, most can't even be linked together, meaning every security policy change has to be manually implemented on each piece of equipment.
The operating systems powering business-level IT equipment gives administrators more secure encryption methods, as well as easy deployment of additional security policies across your entire network.
5 - What's on the inside matters. Really!
At the end of the day, most consumer-grade hardware is designed to be barely adequate for the needs being filled, because a router is a disposable commodity to most consumers. On the other hand, business-grade networking equipment is designed with the future in mind - a quality business network has more to offer, so your operations have room to grow.
The faster CPUs, greater amounts of RAM, and vastly more intelligent operating systems justify the higher costs, and pay off through consistently better performance across its extended lifespan.
Know The Difference!
Sure, there are still companies using home networking hardware in their offices, but that doesn't mean you should too! The vast differences in overall reliability, security, and long-term utility make consumer-grade equipment far more trouble than it's worth, despite the lower prices.
To hear more about how affordable business networking products have become, just drop us a line to discuss trade-ins or upgrades!