Networking

Product review: Linksys 8-port router

Have you been dreaming of the perfect router for your SOHO environment? If so, Ed Engelking may have found the device of your dreams. Find out more in this product review of the Linksys EtherFast 8-port router.


Linksys has developed a winner with its 8-port Broadband EtherFast Cable/DSL Router device. Designed to support up to 253 users, this device is a perfect fit within a small office/home office environment, and could possibly even meet some of the needs of a midsize business environment.
TechProGuild's editor in chief, Erik Eckel, heralded the benefits of the Linksys 4-port router in a recent edition of the IT Certification Corner.
A little background if you please
To make your life in networking a little bit easier, the device has a built-in DHCP server/client so that all devices connecting to the router can automatically be assigned an internal IP address. By default, the EtherFast Router gives connected machines a 192.168.x.x address, but that can be easily modified to use other addresses, such as the 10.x.x.x address. This feature is helpful if you are operating within a large environment with more than one Linksys router operating at the same time and you want to separate your networks.

You can also use this device to direct traffic to static IP addresses within your network. This process, known as “server proxying,” is very useful. For example, if you have a Web server running at the internal IP of 192.168.1.100, you can forward all HTML traffic that hits your Linksys router to the internal Web server. Then, the Web server responds and sends the request to the router, which then forwards the information requested back to the client. This process ensures a secure network because all traffic is directed to a single Internet IP address—and is then redirected by the Linksys router to other ports—which keeps your internal network hidden from hackers.

The Linksys router is controlled via a Web-based interface that can be easily upgraded via a download from the Web. The great thing about this is that you don’t need any outside technology other than a network cable and power supply to set up the device. Once you’ve installed it within your network, you simply open a Web browser on a computer connected to the device and type in http://192.168.1.1 to access the device.

What’s new this time around?
Linksys has made several updates to the 8-port version of the router. Most concern the connectivity of the router to outside networks. Examples of these changes are:
  • QoS built in
    To reduce the amount of data loss and to prioritize specific ports within the router, such as port 8080 for Web services, the device now offers Quality of Service, which is built in to the device.
  • IPsec pass-thru support
    With built-in IPsec support, you can utilize VPN to access a remote network while using the router.
  • SNMP management support
    With SNMP management support, you can control port security, IP multicast, and packet filtering. In addition, you can filter employee/end-user access to the Internet.
Older Linksys routers can incorporate these new technologies. Get the latest firmware update for your router by visiting the Linksys Web site.
Product specifications
The table below contains product specs for the Linksys EtherFast 8-port Cable/DSL Router:

Linksys EtherFast 8-port Cable/DSL Router


An issue to consider before purchasing this device
When I first received the router from Linksys, I was excited about the possibility of running a private network within the TechRepublic network. Through trial and error, I discovered that there is a limitation to this device when it comes to large organizations.

As indicated in the table above, the WAN port of the Linksys router only supports a 10BaseT connection. For some companies, such as TechRepublic, only devices that support a 100BaseT connection can operate within the network. So, if you would like to use the device within your existing network, make sure that you’re running a 10BaseT infrastructure or that your 100BaseT infrastructure supports a 10BaseT connection.

Can this device help you manage your network?
If you run a network within a SOHO environment that uses 10BaseT connectivity, the Linksys 8-port router can help you manage your network. Not only does it route traffic and serve as a DHCP server, it is also a great firewall device as well. Hackers trying to get into your network will have a difficult time accessing any service past the firewall.

The device supports Windows 2000 operating systems, as well as the WinSock 2.0 specification from older Windows operating systems. If you are running a Linux workstation or server, you will find that Internet connectivity as well as network connectivity will become a breeze. Because most ISPs don’t support Linux, you simply connect the Linksys router to your WAN connection and connect your Linux machine to the router and then you’ll be able to get Internet connectivity.

Finally, the cost of purchasing these devices is minimal compared to routers from large vendors such as Cisco or 3Com. The Linksys 8-port router costs $199.99 (average retail price), whereas other routers average $500 to $2,000, depending on the model and vendor.
If you have experience using a Linksys router within your SOHO environment, we’d like to know what you think of the product. Please post a comment below or send us a note with your thoughts.

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