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A consumer router may support a virtual private network (VPN) connection, but that's a far cry from the network and security capabilities that a business-class router can provide. All it takes is some IT talent and know-how to set one up.
You're hearing a lot about virtual private networks (VPNs) these days, whether it's from people who want to tunnel to another geographic area or people who want a secure connection to the internet. A VPN router is an attractive solution for small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that need secure communications because it allows the VPN tunnel to exist between two networks and it may also allow inbound secure connections for employees in the field.
But just because a box carries the moniker "VPN router," doesn't mean it's the right one for your business. In addition, just because it works and appears to create a secure tunnel doesn't mean it's actually secure or that it's the type of tunnel you need. As is the case with most things in IT, a great deal depends on the task you have in mind and how you need to accomplish it.
Ultimately, the rationale for a business-class VPN router boils down to having features that support the kind of networking operations that your particular business needs. These might include a higher level of security than you'd expect or need in a consumer environment, often prompted by the need for compliance to regulatory restrictions imposed by things such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
But as a baseline, the router also needs to support enough VPN sessions to make it useful to more than one employee, and it also needs to include the ability to configure and manage the VPN as well as integrate it with other security features, notably those pertaining to remote access and identity management.
Other key features include the ability to have multiple wireless networks available so that customers can have access to the company Wi-Fi bandwidth without compromising the business' production network. The router also needs to support as many employees on the wireless network as necessary (with room for growth), and be able to handle as many VPN tunnels as those employees require, even if it's almost all of them.
What's interesting is that there can be very little cost penalty involved with choosing a business-class VPN router over a consumer-grade router. The aforementioned Cisco Small Business RV260W VPN router is actually less expensive than the consumer routers aimed at gamers or movie watchers, but it has equal or better specifications.
It has dramatically better security, and the ability to be managed as part of the overall company network. For example, the Cisco router, like the D-Link router and most other business routers, supports standard management features such as Simple Network Management Protocol (SNMP). For IT professionals, that's a boon; however, for consumers, it's practically irrelevant.
While you have to give up the snazzy design of the consumer routers if you go with a business-class choice, you'll end up getting a lot more that's useful—and you'll likely get it as a much better price. But what's more important is that, by going with a business-class VPN router, whether it's wireless or not, you take a significant step in maintaining the security of your business.
The only drawback is that you'll need to make sure you've got the IT talent on staff that's required to take advantage of those capabilities. Frankly, in the current technology and security climate, that can be the best investment of all.
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