Friday, January 12, 2007

Aging modems and routers might be slowing down your network

by Douglas E. Welch, techiq@welchwrite.com
Reader/Listener Line - 206-338-5832


Over the last several months I have noticed a growing issue for those of you who were early adopters of DSL and cable modem broadband connections. Many of you have been happily working along for years, without ever upgrading your modems or routers. While the cliché "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" usually applies in these cases, you might find that upgrading your modems and routers could gain you a substantially better online experience.

I first started to notice issues when wireless networking finally moved into the home in a large fashion. More and more people were buying laptops and wanted to use these computers throughout the house, instead of being tied to their desk. While I usually had no problems adding these routers to homes which had recently purchased broadband (this is the generic name for high-speed Internet access) as I upgraded longer-term customers, I found it difficult, if not impossible to get the router working.

A pattern soon began to emerge, though. It seems that the older modems simply weren't up to the task of communicating with the newer routers. Their internal software was probably written in the days when companies only expected you to connection 1 computer directly to the modem. Sure enough, after the customer contacted their Internet Service Provider (ISP) and received a new modem, the router was easily installed.

In the past, most companies would simply upgrade your modem for no charge, but now I am finding that most ISP's (including SBC/AT&T) and Earthlink will require you to purchase a new modem from them, or purchase your own modem from your local electronics store. In some cases, most notably AT&T, they will even sell you a combination modem and router that not only shares your DSL connection, but also provides wireless access.

Finally, even if you aren't experiencing any obvious problems with your modem today, you might not be getting all the network speed for which you are paying. Older modems, and older routers, like an older computer, process data at a set speed. Older units might be acting as a bottleneck on your network, slowing your Internet access, even though your computer might be able to accept data at a much higher rate. The installation of a new router might increase network speed by a significant amount.

If your modem or router is over 4 years old, or you are experiencing problems with your connection or installing a router, you might consider upgrading. Contact your ISP for information and pricing.

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