What Is the Difference Between a Home Network and an Enterprise Network?
In today's digital age, technology is an integral part of people’s daily lives, personally and professionally. From streaming movies on smartphones to collaborating with colleagues across the globe, the “digital revolution” is changing how people communicate, collaborate, and consume media. For example, digital marketing agencies today can now leverage various digital channels, including email, search engines, and social media, to display ads and generate leads and sales. And like most companies, these online marketing firms need a reliable network infrastructure to create and refine their campaigns.
Now more than ever, businesses of different sizes and market reach depend on networks. This technology enables employees to share valuable information and interact with their target audience. In this article, you’ll learn the primary differences between a home network and an enterprise network and how each option can impact your personal and professional life.
Comparing a Home Network and an Enterprise Network
The number of IoT-connected devices worldwide is expected to reach 43 billion by 2023, nearly a threefold increase from 2018. Simply put, IoT, or the Internet of Things, refers to the internet-based connection of everyday objects, such as personal computers (PCs), smartphones, and surveillance systems.
These days, almost every device people have can interact with other devices, access remote data, automate processes, and enable users to communicate with each other. This connectivity of physically separated systems wouldn’t be possible without a robust network ecosystem. Whether working from home or operating a business, knowing which network solution suits your needs is crucial to improving productivity, efficiency, and protection.
Here’s a rundown of the typical features of a home network and an enterprise network:
With a residential or home network, your PCs and other connected devices comprise a “workgroup.” This setup has the following characteristics:
- All devices and PCs are equally part of the network, meaning no device can manage the network.
- Each PC has a distinct set of user accounts that are not public or shared via the network.
- Usually, only a few or no more than a few devices are on the network.
- User account settings, including the “user account control” and “Windows update settings,” are entirely user-controlled and are not monitored by or logged on a remote network.
Home networks use routers with the following features:
- Wireless access to PCs and other IoT devices
- Up to 64 client devices capacity
- Usually have Ethernet ports for wired device connectivity
- Some have USB (Universal Serial Bus) connectivity for storage or file sharing
- Supports WPA wireless encryption standards
- Supports firewall setup and other configuration options
A corporate or enterprise network can be a large, or medium-sized organization’s internet-based network. These types of networks typically have the following specifications:
- At least one server
- A user account on the “domain server” (not on a PC)
- Server settings that enable network administrators to configure permissions for all connected computers and devices
- Group policy enforcement for PC settings, including Windows security updates and user account management
- Domain-wide logging of user activity
- Data storage on the server that can also be centralized to ensure transparency and accountability
These features mean that a user on an enterprise network can log into any PC on the system using the same credentials. Moreover, corporate networks use different routers with the following components and features:
- Integrated service devices that can provide network, functionality, and data protection in one device
- Hardware-based VPN (virtual private network) access for clients and staff working remotely
- Highly configurable and support advanced features for monitoring connected devices, such as setting quality of service (QoS) for devices, ports, and traffic categories
- Sometimes require separate devices to install wireless access points and use external network switches to link wired devices
- Typically contain high-quality parts that can last for many years, compared to consumer devices using cheaper components that break down within several years of regular use
As you might have noticed, home network features are often good enough for a typical user. On the other hand, enterprise networks offer more options that businesses can capitalize on to improve their efficiency. Now that many people are spending more time in their homes (even more now that work setups have become more flexible), having a robust network is crucial.
An enterprise-grade network is essential if you have a home office or use IoT devices for business purposes. Many small businesses prefer home networking systems rather than industry-grade ones. However, this preference may compromise your network's reliability and safety, opening up cyberattack vulnerabilities. Slow network traffic and potential data breaches can also cause significant problems for any company.
The Pros and Cons of a Home Network or an Enterprise Network
The internet is no longer just for browsing or catching up on social media. The internet can power your home, from locking systems to temperature controls to automated lighting. More importantly, this connectivity empowers people to work from home and communicate with friends, family, and colleagues from various places.
Still, your network setup should ensure no “dead spots” or weaker signal areas in your house. You require consistent bandwidth to keep you online during Facetime, Zoom, or Skype calls without interfering with other family members’ work.
Below are additional considerations when choosing between a home network or an enterprise network.
A consumer-grade access point might be able to support 30 to 50 devices. In contrast, an enterprise network solution with multiple access points can accommodate many more devices in a larger environment.
Due to their unique position in the market, businesses can select from consumer-grade and enterprise-grade wireless solutions, depending on their needs. However, you must consider the scale of the application when determining the best option for your business.
A consumer-grade network might be enough to operate your business from a small space. Suppose you intend to relocate your business to a larger location. In that case, enterprise-level equipment might be necessary depending on your new location's size, design, and building material.
Enterprise hardware supports multiple access points and is better suited to high-density areas than consumer-grade equipment. An organization's building size is often determined by the number of people that use the facility. With more WiFi-enabled devices and network users, the system will need more processing power to handle the high-traffic load.
Another advantage of a corporate network is scalability. Whether expanding your home office, building an extended part of your house, or preparing for more connected devices, enterprise networks can provide reliable support for significant adjustments. When you prepare your network for expansion, you can save money and prepare for future developments.
If your business expands, you'll probably focus on physical logistics and financial support. Still, you may overlook how that scenario can affect your network. However, growth can also impact your network systems, whether you experience spatial expansion or a staff increase. For instance, new employees can mean more network traffic, more data processed via routers or switches, and more bandwidth to serve those users.
You also have to think about how your employees will access your network. If you implement a bring-your-own-device policy, will newer electronics work with your existing network? Additionally, do you need VPN services to encrypt your data for remote access? When expanding your business location, you must ensure that wireless signals or network connectivity are available in all critical areas.
If you use consumer-grade networking equipment, you may have noticed that the signal does not reach all spaces equally or is obstructed by specific structures. A business-grade network can help resolve these problems.
Due to the limited number of supporting protocols, home networks generally do not offer sufficient internal and external defense against attacks, such as viruses, Trojan horses, and hacker intrusions. That’s why home routers might provide less protection.
Business-grade routers have more routing protocols, SNMP (simple network management protocol), policies, and a unified management protocol. This capability can enhance the network's protection and prevent data breaches. Home routers are ideal for simple network environments.
On the other hand, enterprise network configurations are complex, and more robust enterprise routers are necessary to handle the following variables:
- WAN (wide area network) interfaces
- Increased bandwidth and load balancing
- Elastic flow control
- Connection number limit
- VPN applications
Unfortunately, most people don’t take the lack of quality protection seriously until after a breach. You may be setting up a repeat scenario if you’ve been unlucky enough to experience cybercrime on your home network and are still not considering other options like an enterprise-grade network.
Cyber threats can come from many sources, but businesses can remain unharmed by implementing a protected network. Fortunately, you can help protect your customers’ information and company documents. While some consumer-grade routers offer basic encryption and protection features, enterprise-grade routers typically provide advanced options.
Home networks use routers that usually have low density, weak signal strength and coverage, poor forwarding capacity, and limited bandwidth. If you use this system publicly, like in enterprises, you might experience severe protection-related issues.
Enterprise routers have more advanced hardware, such as cache, CPU (central processing unit), and memory. They might also have better forwarding capacity, so more users on the network can access the internet simultaneously. A typical residential router can connect 10 to 15 users, while large enterprise routers can accommodate 50 to 150 users.
Your budget is the deciding factor when choosing between consumer- or business-grade network solutions. Wireless routers are available at most electronics stores. On the other hand, enterprise-level hardware is pricey due to its features and installation and maintenance costs. That said, enterprise-quality hardware is more durable, can support more users, and provides better protection for your business operations. Since finding a happy medium between budgetary concerns and network requirements can be challenging, it is best to determine what suits your situation best and plan accordingly.
Enterprise networks use more stable CPUs that work faster than home routers. Business networks might also have a “flash memory” to save your projects when your router suddenly powers down or restarts. Routers with higher RAM (random access memory) and flash memory can make network expansion easier. Consequently, corporate networks process and distribute data faster than residential networks.
A home network is ideal for personal use. However, an enterprise network is an excellent choice to optimize business operations – you'll have faster internet access and better connectivity. Aside from the information above, it will also help understand the critical role of the following network components in establishing a reliable network.
- Network adapters: This component enables a device, like PCs, printers, and other network-ready devices, to connect to a network.
- Patch panels: This hardware provides a central hub for router connections.
- PoE/Power over Ethernet: This technology provides centralized powering for devices, including access points, IP (internet protocol) cameras, and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) phones, simplifying setup and reducing clutter.
- Fiber media converters: These tools are ideal for extending the network's reach and enabling high-speed internet connectivity over long distances using fiber optic cables.
In conclusion, whether you're a remote worker or a business owner, using the appropriate network is essential for connecting devices, accessing the internet and cloud-based software, exchanging information, protecting data, and monitoring operations.