How to add enterprise features to your $50 router
Let's face it: most of us don't earn our monthly salaries by working online. If you are like most people, Internet means Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and maybe a few more similar sites for you. So, why should you invest your money into an expensive router, when a cheap one will do the same job?

To begin with, better routers provide better security features, and this is something you shouldn't skimp on. But don't worry; your router can get access to many robust, enterprise-level features for free. This article will show you how to make it possible.

If you are familiar with Internet technologies, at least to a certain degree, you may have heard about router firmware upgrades - that's exactly what we are going to do. Don't worry, we aren't going to open the router case and replace its parts! Even though, on a side note, people who did that have greatly improved the Wi-Fi signal power by using a few inexpensive components - low cost ufl cables and 8dBi Wi-Fi antennas.
Have you heard about DD-WRT? It's the most popular third-party router operating system, and its features are fantastic! To give you an example, it is able to run as a standalone application on regular PCs, turning them into fully featured routers. You may think that turning a PC into a router isn't a wise investment, but this may be the perfect usage scenario for that ancient Pentium 2 laptop that collects dust in the closet.

DD-WRT can work using several modes:

1) In client mode, it works just like your existing router OS. It simply picks up wireless signals, and then it is able to share them with other devices.

2) In bridge mode, it outputs Internet signal to its LAN ports, allowing you to connect LAN-based clients to the router.

3) In repeater mode, it receives the Wi-Fi signal, and then it re-transmits it using the same network parameters. The clients will benefit from having access to a stronger signal, but apart from that everything will remain the same. You won't need to set up a new network, or do anything else.

For best results, you should position the repeater close to the half of the distance that separates the main router and the clients which need a stronger signal.
Are you ready for more? This router OS comes with a strong set of features! It supports VLANs and SSIDs, for example. It can create several types of networks, with each one of them using different security protocols. Frankly, I don't understand why you wouldn't want to use WPA2, because all the other security protocols can be easily cracked within minutes or hours, depending on the available CPU power and the complexity of your password. Actually, WPA2 can be cracked as well, but its encryption algorithm - AES - is much harder to decipher.

DD-WRT also offers QoS control, allowing you to set up and manage network and Internet traffic according to your desires. Quality of Service allows you to limit the speed of the data which flows to and from a particular device, while boosting the speed for the devices that matter the most. If you run a business that uses VoIP services, for example, you will definitely appreciate having access to QoS, especially if your router OS didn't include this feature.

Believe it or not, the same router OS can also work as a VPN server, using the OpenVPN protocol. Actually, it can run as a client as well! And with all the hosting spying craze that's going on, it's comforting to know that you can build your own virtual private network by using your old router, without paying a dime for that.

What about hotspot features? Well, DD-WRT includes them as well! You can set it up to run as a public or private hotspot, which only accepts connections from clients that have the needed network access information.

If you run a small business, you will be happy to find out that DD-WRT supports lots of remote administration features. It can work as an integrated server and client for SSH, and it also includes support for a great variety of storage options, including SD cards, USB memory sticks, JFFS2, and more.

If you are into programming, you should definitely consider playing with the included DD-WRT scripts. You can specify what happens when the router boots, for example. Or you can adjust the Wi-Fi broadcasting power by simply tweaking a variable.

I hope that you are as excited as I am! DD-WRT offers lots of great features, and it has the potential of turning your old router into one that would cost several hundreds of dollars when bought in a store.

However, you should be aware of the fact that replacing the manufacturer's firmware with a custom solution will probably void your warranty. More than that, if something bad happens (a power outage, for example) while you are updating the OS, your router may freeze and never recover. The risks are minimal, and even a bricked device can be restored in 99% of the cases. Nevertheless, I felt the need to let you know about these potential risks anyway.

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