The centre of any home network has traditionally been the gateway and this continues to be the case for many people who may not have a broad interest or understanding of the latest wireless technology. Quite possibly the router in your house is the only device responsible for your network, so it’s important to make sure that the gateway device you choose is optimal for your needs and the devices you use daily.
The routers provided by ISPs have in the past been suitable for basic day to day tasks, after all, not many of us are asked to work from home at weekends, so the weekdays when the kids are normally at school doesn’t see much competition in the bandwidth tug of war. However, that was before the age of IoT, now everything is connected, and even someone living alone can benefit from additional traffic organisation on their network to keep things moving fluidly, as devices and services compete more and more for additional internet resources.
We’ve all experienced that moment when we are trying to watch a video, or whilst Skype calling on a personal computer, only to discover that the buffering time is taking extra-long, or maybe that voice call using the software of your choice suddenly starts becoming distorted. There are times when this can be attributed to a poor network connection to the internet, but more often than not it is likely down to your local environment, and maybe even someone locally competing for internet bandwidth. It can be very frustrating for everyone involved.
Enter Quality of Service and what it can do for you. For those of you not in the know, quality of service has been around for many years in a business environment alongside bandwidth management. Normally a feature found on smart and managed Ethernet switches and business grade routers, it provides a way of allowing network engineers to define types of traffic that are important to them and ensure that this traffic is always given a higher priority over other packets on the network. Like other technologies, these business features often make their way to consumer products, allowing for an extra degree of control for home users, perfect for those with a household of heavy internet users and minimising the potential bickering of teenage children trying to play games and stream TV at the same time.
Streaming services in particular, especially IPTV services, can all be improved by adding in a priority queuing system which can be assigned to devices. This comes in especially handy for home workers who have to share their network. For example, a VoIP phone which has to register to an internet server, doesn’t require a great amount of bandwidth as voice services are, in general, quite undemanding, however the importance of each packet cannot be overstated as a missing packet means missing content, and missing content in a call can mean missing a word spoken. Breaking down into a priority of highest, high, medium and low means that you can place your call above any other device or traffic type on the network.
Being aware of a gateway having QoS and implementing it, however, can be two different things. Many consumers will not necessarily understand the concept of ports and NAT translation well enough to define types of traffic, therefore ensuring that a system in place on a device by device bases is necessary. Most of us understand the concept of priority, after all, it’s no different to the motorway we drive on, getting into the fast lane should only be performed by vehicles and drivers that are competent to do so, thereby speeding up our highways to allow traffic to move faster. Choosing a router which allows you to easily define network clients, locking down IP addresses for reservations and implementing the rules may sound complicated, but a well-designed GUI can make this effortless, proving that anyone can get involved with some of the finer networking features used in today’s professional environments.
Giving the end user the chance to define what is important to them, rather than presuming, allows consumer routers to perform the same tasks as they always have, but more efficiently. Some service routers may already have QoS that is locked away by providers for their own services, meaning that over half of your bandwidth is dedicated to a TV service you may not even feel is a priority, when that device is in use.
While it may be second nature to look at the wireless performance and throughput of a router as a priority it should not be ruled out that the feature sets and the background of the vendor should also be taken into account. Be wary of ISPs handing you routers which may not best serve your own interests and go beyond looking at wireless specification and ensure that Quality of service is on the next router you buy.