Never before have we seen so many exciting developments and enhancements to our theocratic activity. Recent changes to our meetings have placed a heavy reliance on technology.

One element that has changed drastically is our reliance on internet and WiFi. What was formally a “nice to have” is now an integral part of our week to week meeting activities.

As a result of this, our requirements for what we need in an internet connection and router have also changed dramatically.

Selecting a router can be very confusing. When reading a specification sheet at face value, there can appear to be no difference between a $100 router and a $2000 router.

So what should you consider when selecting a router for your Kingdom Hall?

Here are ten basic principles to follow:

If it’s free, it’s not fit for purpose at Kingdom Halls
Most Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) will supply a free router with any new internet connection. These devices are well spec’d and are everything that the majority of home users require. The problem comes when you have more than about five people connected at any one time. These devices do not have the processing power required to deal with this kind of workload and the first things that will suffer as a result are real-time services such of video streaming and VoIP.

Be prepared to pay more than you would at home.
This is a given but an appropriate solution for your Kingdom Hall is going to cost more than you would personally pay at home.

Ignore the buzzwords on specification charts
Most router spec sheets will provide a speed to measure WiFi performance. Titles such as AC1750 will be printed on the box to emphasise the theoretical maximum throughput that this particular WiFi router can achieve. But theoretical maximums are just that – theoretical. Real world speeds never approach these numbers.

Look for stability, not speed
While throughput is at least a tangible measurement to take into consideration, the most important statistic is the number of WiFi users that can be connected simultaneously. Unfortunately this is not a statistic that is ever printed on the box as it’s difficult to measure when every user is different.

Within the Kingdom Hall environment, it is safe to assume that most will not be using the WiFi too intensely. But we still require a router that can handle up to 100 simultaneous WiFi connections. Most consumer based routers (most routers purchased from a retail store) will either fail or experience degraded quality if more than about 15 are connected at one time. Some of these routers even set a hard limit of 16 simultaneous WiFi connections to avoid this eventuality.

To avoid this, choose a business grade router.

Choose a business grade router
They are not as highly spec’d on paper but they have excellent processing power and are designed to handle the workload of multiple simultaneous WiFi connections. You may not have heard of many of these brands as they are not generally found in a retail store so online research is a must.

Some Internet Service Providers may offer you a “Business Gateway”. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a business grade router but they are really glorified consumer devices. Again if the ISP is providing it, it’s probably fit for purpose.

Choose a router that supports Guest WiFi
Like on any network, there are certain devices and activities that are of higher priority than others. Examples of this are the sound desk laptop, the Vattendance PBX and Video surveillance DVR’s.

It is a great idea to place these essential services on a different network to those who are using it for general use. This provides a non-congested pathway for these devices to communicate. This is especially important if you are using a software such as Sound Box to handle Audio/Video. This software provides a Smartphone App which enables timing control to be handled by someone other than the sound desk operator. In this scenario, having the sound desk laptop and the smartphone on a separate WiFi network from everybody else is essential to ensure a stable connection.

In addition, a guest WiFi network generally allows a user access to the internet, but no access to other devices on the network. This provides added security, ensuring that one compromised device cannot affect anybody else.

Choose a router with good Quality of Service
Quality of Service (QOS) is a means of prioritizing internet traffic. If for example VoIP data from the Vattendance PBX and Windows Update data wants to access the internet at the same time, you can specify that the VoIP data always gets first priority. This is an essential feature if your available bandwidth is limited and you have essential traffic like VoIP that must be delivered promptly.

All routers offer some form of QOS. However in my experience, only business grade routers QOS actually work correctly.

Additional features to consider

a. Bandwidth limiting
In situations where bandwidth is scarce, you may want to limit the bandwidth use of your guest network. You will need a router that provides this feature. Please note that tweaking these settings require significant expertise.

b. Web Content Filtering
What kind of internet access will you provide? Will you allow any websites to be accessed or will you limit it to just a few? Will you place controls on social media, online shopping or inappropriate content?

How you administer your internet connection is a congregation decision but needs to defined before purchasing a router. Business grade routers generally provide a web content filtering feature to enable these kinds of controls.

Alternatively some congregations use a free service such as OpenDNS.

Plan for the future.
Is your Kingdom Hall in an area that will have Fibre or VDSL installed in the near future? Purchase a router that can handle both of these connection types.

On a side note, if you are in an area where Fibre to the Home is available, don’t hesitate to upgrade now. These connections are much more stable and will future proof your communications for many decades to come. Not to mention they cost about the same as ADSL so there’s no reason not to upgrade.

For New Zealand congregations you can check the availability of UFB Fibre here

For Australian congregations, your can check the availability of NBN here

Your personal favourite is not always what is needed.
No matter what solution you do choose, make sure it is easy to pass on to the next person.

It’s no good having a solution that is highly technical and difficult to manage simply because it is our personal favourite. Make sure that whatever solution you implement, it is understood by more than just you and easy to train others for.

While enterprise brands like Cisco, Juniper, Fortinet and others will provide a fantastic security solution, they are only understood by highly trained network engineers. So find a good balance between security, features and ease of use.