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SOHO Networks and Routers Explained

Quick Answer

A SOHO network is designed to be used by small or home offices. This network uses a purpose-built router called a SOHO router. The primary function of a SOHO network is to connect all devices in the network to each other and the internet.

Now that you understand the basics of a SOHO network you need to know a few more things. Below, I will cover everything from what SOHO even means to what you need to set up a SOHO network. By the end of this article, you will be an expert in SOHO networks!

What Does SOHO Mean?

If you’re from Manhattan or London, you may be thinking of the Soho neighborhood in your respective city. Obviously, SOHO means something else in this context. The question is what?

SOHO stands for Small Offices/Home Offices. So a SOHO network or router is any that is designed for a small or home office. It can also be used more loosely to describe any router used in a small or home office. However, there are routers specifically designed for SOHO purposes.

The term also has some flexibility in its definition of “small.” A small office in this context is usually somewhere around 10 people or less. That said, a SOHO network can support more than 10 people and their devices. 

What Makes a SOHO Network; Router Different?

At first, it can seem like a SOHO network is the same as a regular home network. The two share many characteristics after all. The differences are in their connection styles, extra features, and security.

When it comes to connections, home networks have shifted primarily towards wireless connections. These routers have only a few Local Area Network (LAN) ports for wired connections. The rest must be achieved by WiFi.

SOHO routers on the other hand focus on wired Ethernet connections. Most SOHO routers will have at least 4 LAN ports. Routers with 8 ports are also common. 

Some SOHO routers will have extra built-in features. These can vary from device to device, but common features include built-in switches and dual-band WiFi. 

Since SOHO routers rely on wired connections a built-in switch will be extremely helpful. Consolidating devices means less to set up. Dual-band WiFi on the other hand can be useful for those devices not on a wired connection.

The third difference comes in the form of security. Since SOHO networks are used for work purposes they need to be secure against any threat. Manufacturers of these routers will sell them with firewalls. Some routers will also be sold with VPN encryption for further security.

What Are the Benefits of a SOHO Network?

The typical SOHO router is more expensive than the typical home router. However, it is less expensive than an enterprise setup. Due to this, any small or home office needs to weigh the relevant benefits and drawbacks. At a certain point, it will become more cost-effective to get one than not. 

Some of the benefits include the built-in features mentioned above, ease of installation, and comparable affordability.

The built-in features like switches, dual-band, firewalls, and VPNs can be very useful. Without these features built-in, business owners need to find them elsewhere which can add to costs and complexity. This also ties into the ease of installation.

Since SOHO routers often serve multiple purposes they can reduce the number of devices that need to be installed. Additionally, these routers and networks aren’t as complicated as a full enterprise setup. The business will not need to hire specialized installers.

Costs are reduced when specialized employees are not necessary. This combines with the price of the device itself. While more expensive than a home network they are less than an enterprise network. Between these two aspects and the fact that a SOHO router can cover multiple purposes business owners can save money with a SOHO network.

What Are the Drawbacks of a SOHO Network?

Of course not everything about a SOHO network is perfect. If it were, everyone would use them. In fact, some of the drawbacks can be significant. Some of the biggest ones include inherent security vulnerabilities, poor scalability, and cost relative to a home network.

While SOHO routers often come with built-in security, they also have some significant holes as well. Some of these vulnerabilities come from user errors. Improper setup, use, and maintenance can lead to several problems.

That said, there are plenty of issues that come from the device itself. Unfortunately, these security holes are often difficult to patch even when you know they’re there. They are well known to those who care to know. If someone wanted to exploit these weaknesses they could.

Security aside, these SOHO devices do not have much room for growth. SOHO routers are designed to support small numbers of people and devices. As those numbers increase so does the strain on the network. A SOHO router will not be able to keep up.

Additionally, they are not designed to support the redundancies that you would need in a bigger network. Once a SOHO business grows beyond that point they would have to replace the devices or suffer from overwhelmed devices.

Then we get back to the cost. While cheaper than full enterprise setups, businesses have to worry about the additional costs. These additional costs can take the form of replacement devices when they grow or losses from cyber attacks.

What Does a SOHO Network Require?

If you decide to go with a SOHO network you’ll need to know everything it requires. The basic requirements include a router, switch, modem, ethernet cables, and the devices that you wish to connect.

You will also need network cards for each connected device. If you purchase a router with several functions built-in you will not need to purchase other devices to fill the gaps. Luckily, these multipurpose routers are common.

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