Getting older, not necessarily wiser!
When you sign up with an Internet Service Provider (ISP), many times they provide a consumer grade all in one router. These will get you started, but they may not necessarily be the best fit for your home network.
For example, when I started with my ISP here in the Philippines, they provided a Huawei all in one router. This device, in addition to the routing function, also includes a fiber optic modem, 4 port switch, dual band WiFi, and a network USB connector. It providers a general purpose starting point for a small home network.
However, if you are planning on expanding your network, there are a few things you need to be aware of. And you might decide the off the self solution provided by your ISP is not for you.
First thing, regardless of the grade (consumer, business, enterprise, or what ever) all networking components share the basic core functions. That is they connect together various computers into a network. The biggest differences (aside from the price structure) are quality, scalability, reliability, and support.
Generally speaking something sold as other than consumer grade needs to to be able to run continuously, and have some redundancy built in. Most people would consider it much more critical if a piece of network equipment goes down at your local bank, than if something went down on your home network. The network equipment in your local bank must be more adaptable to changing network configurations also (scalability). And support provided by the manufacturer must be on a higher tier also.
Today, most name brand consumer network products are pretty good, I can only recall having one router and one hub ever fail on me. But for the price difference, you are not getting the same guaranties and warranty service that commercial equipment will have.
This is at the heart of most home networks. And depending on the size and scope of the network, may be all that is needed.
The below illustration breaks out the basic functions of this device (not counting control, power, or network storage).
Your ISP provides a DEMARK which in turn needs a modem to translate. This is where the cable, fiber, Cellular, satellite or other types of signals gets converted into Ethernet. The signal coming from the modem feeds a router which provides most of your network services, like DHCP. The router will in turn feed a wireless access point (if that feature is present), and a switch to provide multiple outputs (again, if that feature is present).
Some people decide to dump their ISP device, in favor of one they own personally. There are generally two main reasons for doing this.
First, the device provided by your ISP is probably not a top tier consumer device. The ISP, like any business is there to make money, and providing all their customers with top tier equipment (when cheaper devices will work) is not a strategy for profit.
Some will chose to replace the ISP provided device with a better one they have purchased or built (I have built a few routers before so don’t say that no one will build their own).
The other reason for switching to something you own is that in many cases, the ISP has installed their own software to control some of the features on the the device they are letting you use.
For example, the router provided by my ISP uses custom software. I had looked it up on their web site, in preparation for the install, as there were a few items I had specific settings I wanted to use. To my surprise, the interface was entirely different from what the manufacturer installed by default. And a little poking around under the hood showed me that there was booth a user and admin account, of which I only knew about the user account.
Now admittedly the security was lackluster, and not to hard to hack, as I needed admin access for some settings I planed on using. But the fact that it did not have the manufacturers software installed was a little disappointing.
Also poking around the admin account I find a few things disabled. One of the technicians confirmed that these items would be enabled for a business account (about 10 x the price). Needless to say, I had already hacked the admin account so I enabled what I wanted.
The point here is that the ISP imposed restrictions through customized software that would not be in place if I had purchased my own device. Why do they do this, I suspect they think most people will not notice and if they need the feature will upgrade their account. I would also guess that it might make troubleshooting scripts for the help center easier if certain features are not available for the consumer to change.
In this post we took a look at the basic consumer grade all in one router. We talked about why you might want to use something other than what your ISP provided also.
This has been a high level overview, without getting into specific options and configurations.