Make the Internet Work for You

Turn your existing home Internet router into a powerful tool for:

  • Improving Your Network Speed
  • Providing Additional Security
  • Helping to Manage the growing number of Internet-connected devices in your home
  • Keeping your Family safe

Read on to see how a simple, and free, upgrade to your existing Internet router can make a world of difference to your home network.

If you aren’t using a router with your home Internet connection,  you should.  In case you aren’t familiar with routers, they take your existing Internet connection and make it available to multiple devices.  Some useful things that most off-the-shelf routers can do for you:

  • Extend Your Wired Internet connection to one (or more) wireless networks
  • Make your single Internet connection available to multiple devices (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, game console, printer, security camera, etc….)
  • Provide firewall service to shield your devices from the Internet
  • Provide network (IP) and Domain Name Service (DNS) information to all of your devices
  • The list goes on…..

Typically router manufacturers provide software (typically called Firmware) that provide the above functionality.  Depending on the vendor, some software can do much more than the list above, but, universally, the software provided with routers is basic and includes only basic control of your router.

With technology today, your router is capable of so much more!  From yesterday’s article about OpenDNS, you can see that your router has the ability to push information to each of your devices.  What if we continue that focus on security a little further and recognize that your router can also help you to:

  • limit the amount of time that certain (or all) devices can connect
    • In my home, I automatically turn off the ROKU devices’ connections to the Internet in the evening so my kids can’t watch TV or movies all night.
    • Same with computers, tablets and iPod/Iphones… Internet service is disabled on my kids’ devices at night so they can’t stay up all night texting, playing or watching
  • Enable Quality of Service (QOS) on my connection to ensure key devices work when they need to
    • My phone service is VOIP, so the QOS setting makes sure that the phone will work even if all the kids are streaming videos on the connection
    • I can ensure basic web browsing all the time so my wife can check her email or browse the web, even when heaving video streaming is going on
  • Enable VPN access to my home network
    • I can set up a secure pipe to my home network so I can access my files from anywhere without worrying about security
  • Connect a USB printer to my network without having to keep a computer on all the time
    • Reduces the expense of my having to buy a “network-enabled” printer

There are many other features that my router software can provide, but these are the ones I use most often.

So how can YOU enable these features on your router for free?  Simple, just download a new firmware for your router… just not the version that your router manufacturer provides… choose an OpenSource alternative.  Today there are (2) popular free router firmware versions that you can choose from.  Both are infinitely more advanced than the stock version that comes with your router.  Let’s look at the major choices:

  • DD-WRT – DD-WRT is a Linux based alternative OpenSource firmware suitable for a great variety of WLAN routers and embedded systems. The main emphasis lies on providing the easiest possible handling while at the same time supporting a great number of functionalities within the framework of the respective hardware platform used.
  • Tomato – Tomato is a small, lean and simple replacement firmware for Linksys’ WRT54G/GL/GS, Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54 and other Broadcom-based routers. It features a new easy to use GUI, a new bandwidth usage monitor, more advanced QOS and access restrictions, enables new wireless features such as WDS and wireless client modes, raises the limits on maximum connections for P2P, allows you to run your custom scripts or telnet/ssh in and do all sorts of things like re-program the SES/AOSS button, adds wireless site survey to see your wifi neighbors, and more.

For me, DD-WRT is more technical, has more options, but takes longer to learn how to configure.  Tomato is more user-friendly.  It’s still very powerful, has all of the above-mentioned features PLUS is configured from a more intuitive-looking GUI.

In the end, either choice is excellent.  You’ll have to play around with both to see which you like better.  The good news is that it’s easy to change from one to the other, and, if you don’t like either, you can go back to your original firmware.

Tomato is my firmware of choice, and, coupled with OpenDNS, provides me the flexibility, control and security to keep my connection fast AND safe for my family!

About the Author Wayne

Hi I'm Wayne.... Husband, Father, professional tinkerer! I love to learn new things and to share them with others. Follow me as I try to figure it all out and then share it with you!

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