SOHO Routers and Networks Explained

Learn about routers and networks for small offices and home offices

A SOHO router is a broadband router built and marketed for small offices and home offices. Since the workload for these types of businesses is 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. Since these types of networks are meant for businesses, they may also include printers and sometimes ​voice over IP (VoIP) and fax over IP technology.

Home office
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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 continue to feature wired Ethernet. Typical examples of Ethernet SOHO routers that are commonly used are the Ubiquite EdgeRouter, the Asus BRT-AC828 (8 ports), and the Netgear Orbi Pro (4 port).

Modern SOHO routers require almost the same functions as home broadband routers, and in fact, small businesses use the same models. Some vendors also sell routers with advanced security and manageability features added such as 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 all-in-one printers include Wi-Fi support to join a home network.

SOHO networks sometimes 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 types of networks. Unlike larger businesses, 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 meet the company's future 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 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.