A router is an amazing device, often combining a radio transceiver, a wireless access point, a data encryption service, a router, a web server for administration, a basic firewall, a DNS server, a DHCP server, a 4 port switch, and a gateway into a tiny box powered by primitive hardware that costs a few cents to manufacture. Enthusiasts have designed alternative firmware to make these devices do even more.
First, capacity. A Toyota Corolla is a great car, but it’s not the right vehicle to tow a boat. Second, reliability. The $45,000 router will likely never need to be unplugged, in fact it has multiple redundant power supplies and a battery backup, so that even if you unplugged it, it would continue to operate.
You see, a home router is designed to be as inexpensive as possible, and is intended to realistically support 2-3 users. Home routers, due to the inexpensive components used will occasionally be interrupted by parity errors and unhandled exceptions, which is why they occasionally need to be restarted. Many micro businesses prefer the occasional interruption to spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a more robust device. However as businesses grow, these interruptions become more frequent as these very inexpensive devices struggle to keep up with the demands of 10 or 20 computers, inevitably all trying to stream internet radio while sending large file attachments. You can actually feel these devices heat up under the stress, as they try to pass along all the tiny individual packets of data to their intended destinations. Even at home, the use of peer to peer software like Bittorrent will often bring these routers down because of the quantity of simultaneous connections and the massive volume of ones and zeroes that are being pushed through its tiny capacitors.
Part of Bright Bear’s philosophy is that small businesses should have access to the same quality of service that large businesses do, which is why we don’t recommend repurposing home routers for offices comprised of more than a couple individuals. To this end, we have built a commercial grade router into our industrial strength security appliance, the Grizzly Secure Gateway, at a price that is well within reach for most small businesses.
Bottom line, if you have a very small business, and you don’t mind occasional loss of connectivity, there is no cheaper short term way to share an internet connection than to repurpose a router intended for home use. If you own the business, and it grows past a couple of employees, you will eventually tire of seeing your employees enjoying unscheduled breaks throughout the day due to outages. If you’re a large business, you’ve probably already spent the money because interrupting a few dozen people or an e-commerce website, even for just a few minutes, can become extremely expensive.