Whether you’re working from home or back in the office, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you have a reliable internet connection and data backup. The best networking products just work, and these are the router, server, and network attached storage (NAS) brands that our readers recommend for staying secure and connected at work.
Business Choice Routers for 2021
Asus and Cisco. Cisco and Asus. The combo doesn’t roll off the tongue exactly, but the two are in lock-step together at the top of their game—at least as far as PCMag readers are concerned. This is the third year the two have topped the Business Choice awards for routers. Cisco is the winner for enterprise-level routers, and Asus remains the leader among the router vendors targeting small office/home office (SOHO) and small-to-midsized business (SMB) setups.
Asus scores an 8.6 on a scale from 0 (extremely dissatisfied) to 10 (extremely satisfied) for overall satisfaction. Cisco’s 8.4 is the same as last year.
As in previous years, the simple-to-use Asus routers score well ahead of the rest when it comes to installation and setup, shooting up to 8.9 from last year’s 8.7. Value is an Asus strong suit, though it tied with Linksys at 8.3. Value is Cisco’s only downfall, as its 7.2 isn’t stellar, but Cisco doesn’t exactly sell low-cost (or low-end) routers, which accounts for much of the expense. Perhaps most importantly, when it comes to keeping the work network alive, both Asus and Cisco tie for reliability with an exceptional 9.0.
Last year, we saw entries here from Linksys, Netgear, and TP-Link, but TP-Link doesn’t make it for the business side in 2021. Linksys and Netgear do, but their overall scores drop to a tie of 8.1. Not a great trend.
For more, read The Best Wireless Routers.
Servers/Network Attached Storage for 2021
PCMag readers have put Synology and its network attached storage (NAS) devices on top of the Business Choice awards eight times now, and for 2021, it earns an 8.9 for overall satisfaction.
If your business needs are a little more high-end—meaning you’ve got an enterprise full of employees who need storage and other back-office functions—you need a server from Cisco, which finally takes over the number one slot for high-end servers, earning an 8.5 overall.
To be clear, a NAS device and a server both store data, but that’s where the similarities end. A NAS device is a sub-class of a server better suited to homes and small businesses, where users are getting software mainly from the cloud. A server has a lot more smarts, supports client/server applications, and works best for a larger number of users. We do compare the two categories head to head in our survey results, but it should be noted that Synology and Western Digital (WD) are primarily NAS vendors, while Cisco and Dell make servers.
Dell ties Cisco for satisfaction with servers, but couldn’t keep ahead of it on most other measures. The exception is Dell being a tenth of a point ahead of Cisco in value. As with the win it has above for routers, Cisco’s core strength is amazing reliability. That 9.1 is fantastic (even if it comes in behind Synology’s 9.4).
Also note Synology’s impressive take for readers’ likelihood to recommend. An 8.9 out of 10 is not a score we see often in that metric. That said, it still didn’t translate to much of a Net Promoter Score (NPS), which is the measure of how users talk about a company’s products. Its 64 NPS (out of 100) is enough to make Synology the highest praised brand in this survey, but that number still falls in the “detractors” option in the definition of NPS. It’s better to be a “passive” with a score between 70 and 89. (Read more about that in our Best Brands of 2020.)
For more, read Things Business Owners Should Know Before Buying NAS Devices.
The PCMag Business Choice survey for Routers and Network Attached Storage was in the field from March 15, 2021, to April 5, 2021. For more information on how our surveys are conducted, read the survey methodology.
You could win an Amazon.com shopping spree! Sign up for the What’s New Now mailing list to receive invitations for future survey sweepstakes.