Should I Rent or buy equipment for my home network?

This is a common rant I make on social networking sites, so I figured I’d just make it here and use the article to drive traffic to my blog. This article is geared to people in the US. I personally highly favor Ubiquiti wireless gear, because it is insanely reliable, they didn’t pay me. Other companies offer similar equipment and support to Ubiquiti, I don’t use them, I’m not implying they are bad.

From every possible angle, it is better to purchase your own equipment instead of renting equipment from your ISP.

Why renting stinks…

Your ISP will be more than happy to rent you a Modem/Router/Wireless access point combo. It’s almost the same device you can buy on Amazon or a local big box store. The drawback is they “brand” it. They customize the software on the device. It basically does exactly the same thing, but with different menus. I think there is a logical fallacy with that, essentially, Arris, Motorola, and a few other, specialize in making modems and network gear. Your ISP specializes in selling you internet, TV, and phone service. Your ISP reprograms these devices from manufacturers. The manufacturers made something that worked, the ISP threw the software away and tried their best to do it themselves.

Reliability rented modems are WAY more likely to fail. I would guess it’s because of inefficient or poor programming, but I can say with confidence that Arris Modems from Arris usually do not have an issue until they get unplugged, then the issue is that the device is unplugged. The ISP modems are almost ALWAYS refurbished, and they typically fail at least once every 6 months, but generally more often.

Cost – Generally not a lot (~$10/mo) , but over a 2 year period is ~$240. In addition to set up fee (generally waived) and service call fees (generally $50/visit). Assuming in 2 years you have 2 service calls, that’s $340+ in a two year period. In a 5 year period its ~$840, assuming 1 service call a year, which based on my experience is common for most consumers, with no service calls over a 5 year period, its ~$600. So… $600-$840 over a 5 year period.

Energy – Dealing with some guy who barely speaks english is a hassle, waiting on hold is a hassle. I don’t think this requires any explanation.

Why buying your own is better

Reliability – Most Arris or Motorola modems that do not have customized software on them generally just work, and can be expected to do so for a VERY long time. I have some that have been in a closet, connected to the internet for 5+ years. They generally only need to be replaced when you upgrade to a bandwidth tier that current (old) modem does not support or it gets fried. by an electrical surge (a Battery like the one below can effectively prevent this).

Cost – based on my experience, I expect to get ~5 years out of any networking gear I purchase.
I will spend ~$40 on a standalone modem on Amazon.
I will spend ~$50 on a Router that works with my preferred AP on Amazon
I will spend ~$120 on each Wireless access point on amazon, Most people only need one.

Thats $210. That’s less than it costs to rent a less reliable device from your ISP for 2 years. I expect this equipment to last 5 years, and it most likely will. Because of the savings, I will also go ahead and purchase an APC Backup Battery, so when the power goes out I still get to surf the internet on my laptop.

Assuming 1 service call per year from a technician (maybe not my ISP because it’s not their gear) the cost goes up to $460, with the battery the cost over 5 years goes to ~$510. With your own equipment, I can say it is much less likely for failures to happen which require a  service call.

Lastly, when your gear fails, you only have to replace the part that broke, so the cost continues to go down over 10, 15, and even 20 years. You might say there are security implications, that’s why I choose ubiquiti devices. Other companies make comparable stuff, but I have ubiquiti gear in client locations that is pushing 7 and 8 years at this point, and it still get software updates and even without the updates, there have not been any known, reasonable vulnerabilities to the devices in that time.

I think in most cases the savings over a five year period is much more likely to be closer to the more optimistic end of a total cost of $210 dollars. With the benefit of a much, much more reliable network.

I’ll be updating this article over time.

Image licensed for reuse – Original here