Best Router for a Coworking Space: a Guide for Workspace Operators
Choosing the best router for a coworking space isn’t as exciting as choosing furniture, art or a coffee machine. It is, however, high-priority. If you don’t have a strong, stable internet connection, you won’t have members.
This guide is an overview of what questions to ask, what to look for in a router, and common pitfalls to avoid.
Coworking Space Router Basics
A router communicates and routes traffic between the internet and the devices in your workspace that connect to the internet.
In a coworking space, it’s important that, regardless of how many people are using the internet at any given time, you have the bandwidth to manage your members’ needs.
Your router should never be a bottleneck or your wifi (and members) will suffer. Your router needs to process all the data your coworking community needs processed.
Before choosing a router, you’ll need to know how large the space is, how many people you’ll have using your internet, and the speed and service level for the internet provider into the building. Your internet provider will tell you what speeds they have available.
If people edit video in your space, fast upload and download speeds are essential. If the majority of your members aren’t streaming, working with video, or doing other high-bandwidth tasks, you can choose a scaled-back commercial plan. So it’s important to know the needs and intended needs of your community.
Don’t sink extra money into blazing fast internet if you’re not going to use it, but be aware that slow internet will be a dealbreaker for people. No one has ever complained that the internet was too fast. Get the fastest speed you can afford.
Unique Challenges of a Coworking Space Router
Video editing and livestreams are the most demanding activities on your bandwidth. As livestreams, video calls and virtual events become increasingly common, this is—or will be—a challenge for you in your space.
Choosing the right router depends on the size of your space, how many levels your space has, and your wifi access points, which can overload and become bottlenecks themselves.
Recommended Routers for a Coworking Space
Here are three routers we use and recommend, depending on the space:
1. Mikrotik RB3011: This is a good overall router that allows connections through Ethernet or SFP (small form-factor plugable, if you have these) to your network. It has a dual core processor able to handle up to 250MB internet connections from your Internet Service Provider (ISP.)
2. Mikrotik RB1100: This is a faster router that allows connections through Ethernet. It has dedicated CPU cores for each port (or individual hard-wired connection in your center) allowing faster throughput per port.
3. Unifi Security Pro 4: This router allows SFP and Ethernet to internet providers. It comes with basic intrusion protection on top of the firewall functions. With intrusion detection bandwidth is somewhat reduced, but not significantly.
Workspace Router Pro Tips
One of the most important factors with routers is the quality of service (QOS). This balances the load between all users and devices so that everyone gets the bandwidth they need.
You don’t want any one person or device using all the available bandwidth. This is where QOS and load balancing through your router helps keep your network running smoothly.
As Deskworks IT Director Ryan Saucerman explains, the load balancing really is “the cool pro tip, yet almost no one does it.” He explains, “If you have 10 users and 1 of those users is utilizing 90% of the available bandwidth, there will only be 10% available, which may not be enough for video calls or live streaming for the rest. Limiting bandwidth per device allows a more balanced system and gives everyone the connectivity they need.”
Balancing the Load
Depending on the router you choose, there are many different ways to do load balancing. Mikrotik uses queues to manage bandwidth overall and per device. Unifi uses WAN speed tests to help shape queues to manage bandwidth per device. Each router handles this a little differently so looking through your manual and setting it up correctly is important.
Other router challenges revolve around third party services, including VOIP phones, printers, camera systems, and other devices. Fixes vary by the service that needs the access. The most common issue is port forwarding for services through the firewall allowing direct access.
Router Lease Time
Router Lease Time is the amount of time a network device can use an IP Address in a network. An IP Address is reserved for a specific device until the reservation expires. Be sure to lease addresses from the router for shorter periods of time. For instance, most set it for 24 hours, but Saucerman advises updating that to 15 minutes.
A standard router can only lease around 250 addresses. In this case, a lease table will be full by the end of day if you’re doing 24 hours. If you set it to 15 minutes, you can avoid holding up addresses to devices of people who are no longer in the space.
The Best Router for Your Coworking Space
The Satellite Deskworks team helps coworking space operators choose, troubleshoot and set up your workspace router. Our workspace management software powers 200 coworking spaces around the world and we’re here to help set up your IT infrastructure, as well.
We set up the QOS, do the load balancing and update the lease time. We look over the size and needs of your space to choose the best router for you. We’ll also help with all the service forwarding and address any incompatibilities you may have with your current equipment.
Contact our team to talk about how we can help with your workspace IT.