SOHO Routers and Networks Explained

Home office
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SOHO stands for small office/home office. SOHOs usually consist of businesses that are privately owned or individuals who are self-employed, so the term usually refers to both a small office space as well as a small number of employees.

Since the workload for these types of businesses are often primarily on the internet, they require a local area network (LAN), which means their network hardware is structured specifically for that purpose.

A SOHO network can be a mixed network of wired and wireless computers just like other local networks. Since these types of networks are meant for businesses, they also tend to include printers and sometimes ​voice over IP (VoIP) and fax over IP technology.

A SOHO router is a model of broadband router built and marketed for use by such organizations. These are often the same routers used for standard home networking.

Note: SOHO is sometimes referred to as a virtual office or single location firm.

SOHO Routers vs. Home Routers

While home networks shifted to predominantly Wi-Fi configurations years ago, SOHO routers continued to feature wired Ethernet. In fact, many SOHO routers did not support Wi-Fi at all.

Typical examples of Ethernet SOHO routers were common such as the TP-Link TL-R402M (4-port), TL-R460 (4-port), and TL-R860 (8-port)

Another common feature of older routers was ISDN internet support.

Small businesses relied on ISDN for internet connectivity as a faster alternative to dial-up networking.

Modern SOHO routers require most all the same functions as home broadband routers, and in fact small businesses use the same models. Some vendors also sell routers with more advanced security and manageability features added, like the ZyXEL P-661HNU-Fx Security Gateway, a DSL broadband router with SNMP support.

Another example of a popular SOHO router is the Cisco SOHO 90 Series, which is meant for up to 5 employees and includes firewall protection and VPN encryption.

Other Types of SOHO Network Equipment

Printers that combine the features of a basic printer with copy, scanning, and fax capability are popular with home office professionals. These so-called all-in-one printers include Wi-Fi support for joining to a home network.

SOHO networks sometimes also operate an intranet web, email, and file server. These servers can be high-end PCs with added storage capacity (multi-drive disk arrays).

Issues with SOHO Networking

Security challenges impact SOHO networks more than other kinds of networks. Unlike larger ones, small businesses generally cannot afford to hire professional staff to manage their networks. Small businesses also are more likely targets of security attacks than households due to their financial and community position.

As a business grows, it can be difficult to know how much to invest in the network infrastructure to keep it expanding to meet the company's needs. Over-investing too soon wastes valuable funds, while under-investing can significantly impact business productivity.

Monitoring the network load and the responsiveness of the company's top few business applications can help identify bottlenecks before they become critical.

How Small Is the "S" in SOHO?

The standard definition limits SOHO networks to those that support between 1 and 10 people, but there isn't any magic that happens when the 11th person or device joins the network. The term "SOHO" is used only to identify a small network, so the number isn't as relevant.

In practice, SOHO routers can support somewhat larger networks than this.