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Sharing an Internet connection on a home network

What modem-sharing product should you use on your home network? We present some of the pros and cons associated with WinGate, RideWay, and ICS from Microsoft.


Recently, I wrote an article titled “A beginner’s guide to home networking,” in which I gave you some tips for setting up your home network. Since then, many of you wrote asking how to connect to the Internet from every computer on that network. In response, I’ve put together a list of programs that can help you with your dilemma! In this article, I’ll focus on these LAN modem-sharing products:
  • WinGate 3.0
  • RideWay 3.0
  • Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) included with Windows 98 SE

WinGate 3.0
I first stumbled across WinGate when I set up my home network a few years ago. This program is very solid and comes in multiple flavors. Here’s the list of the different versions of WinGate, along with some pros and cons associated with each version. Follow this link to get pricing information on WinGate products .

WinGate Home
WinGate Home is the version of WinGate that I am currently running on my home network. I tried all three versions of WinGate before I finally chose this particular version. The reason? Simplicity.

WinGate Home practically sets itself up on your Windows 95/98 machine, with little to no trouble at all. The best part about this version is that it not only sets your computers up to view the Internet, it makes sure that all of your computers are set up properly on the home network. All you have to do is answer a few questions, decide which computer is going to have the Internet connection, and then figure out which hard drives, CD-ROMs, and printers you wish to share with your network. The computer restarts itself, and you can immediately access both your network and the Internet.
  • Pros: Extremely simple setup for home network and the Internet.
  • Cons: Limited number of connections. You can only connect up to three people using this version of WinGate. Very few options for power users.

WinGate Standard
Are you comfortable setting up your own network and installing the modem sharing software? If so, WinGate Standard may be ideal for you. Not only does this product offer more control of the setup than with WinGate Home, but you also have more options to use in configuring the connection to the Internet. These options include proxies for WWW, SOCKS, FTP, and POP3, which can provide flexibility with Internet applications.

WinGate Standard also has a site-banning option to keep younger family members from viewing inappropriate Web sites. Finally, you can implement "rules" to keep certain computers from being able to access certain sites, while other computers on the same network can access the same sites with no problems at all.
  • Pros: More options available than in WinGate Home. Allows control of Internet content to entire network or specific computers. Available with different licenses so that more than three computers can connect to the Internet.
  • Cons: Could be difficult to set up for novice network users. A user must have a strong understanding of how a network runs, and how to use proxies.

WinGate Pro
The WinGate Pro product is ideal for use in an office environment where there are multiple computers accessing the Internet. This version of WinGate can support multiple connections to the Internet as well. Because this product is also the most complicated version of the WinGate family, however, I recommend it for use only by "power users" and network administrators.

WinGate Pro offers everything that the Standard version does, plus more, such as remote administration from anywhere within the network, a detailed user database to allow certain users to have access to certain sites (while others have no access at all), and client authentication.
  • Pros: Everything you could possibly want out of a LAN modem-sharing software is in this version of WinGate.
  • Cons: Unless you are running a network in an office, the price will most likely keep you away from this one. As with WinGate Standard, you must have a strong understanding of networking, and database administration wouldn’t hurt either.

RideWay 3.0
Unlike WinGate, which comes with different versions, RideWay only comes in one version. Unlike WinGate, however, you don’t have to be a savvy network administrator to run this program!

I came across RideWay while I was looking for a decent modem-sharing client. After reading some great reviews of the program, I decided to download it and give it a try. I must say that I was very pleased with this program. Not only is it easy to set up, there is no client required on the other machines within the network in order to access the Internet. Instead, the client computers must be set up to use a proxy to connect to the RideWay server, and those machines access the Internet through that server. As is the case with WinGate, you can specify restrictions for a user, and you can block access to certain Web sites. Follow this link for a complete list of features provided by RideWay 3.0 .

As far as pricing goes, RideWay varies depending on the amount of users that you wish to have connected to the Internet server. Follow this link for RideWay’s price list .
  • Pros: RideWay is a very good program for its price. It has multiple features that network novices and experts will find very useful.
  • Cons: Some network novices may not understand all of the functions RideWay provides. Network administrators may find that this software doesn’t provide the tools necessary to run on a larger network.

Internet Connection Sharing (ICS) provided with Windows 98 SE
If you thought that Microsoft wasn’t going to get a piece of the home networking action, you thought wrong. One of the new things that Microsoft included with its Windows 98 Special Edition was its own version of modem sharing over a network. Called Internet Connection Sharing , or ICS for short, it allows networks to be configured so that any number of client computers (running Windows 95 or 98, of course) can access the Internet over a server computer. However, this approach is a very basic way of hooking up a home network to the Internet, and doesn’t provide many options. This product’s feature set is comparable to WinGate Home.

I decided to try ICS when I first upgraded to Windows 98 SE to see what it was like. I had trouble getting it installed and running at first. When I finally did get it working, I found that I preferred WinGate Home to ICS by a huge margin. The ease of use and installation of WinGate Home had won me over. If you cannot afford WinGate or RideWay at the moment, however, I would definitely suggest giving ICS a try. Here’s a link to the Microsoft FAQ page on how to set up ICS.
  • Pros: It’s free with Windows 98 SE.
  • Cons: You must have Windows 98 SE on the server computer for this to work. If you have Windows 95 or 98, you simply cannot run the program.

Making your choice
When it comes down to choosing a modem-sharing client, the final choice is up to you. Determine what you really need in order to connect to the Internet via your home network. Do you need a simple setup like WinGate Home, or would you rather have total control of the software, like in WinGate Pro or RideWay? Remember that you don’t need many features if you simply want to connect your network to the Internet.

I believe the products I’ve discussed here are among the best you can find in terms of the price, features, and function. However, there are many different kinds of modem-sharing software available. I recommend that you shop around to find the one that best fits your needs. Here are some links you can use to read about some other products of interest:
To share your experiences using any of the products mentioned above, please post a comment or follow this link to write to Ed . If you have technical questions, please use the Live Help option in our left navigation bar or post your question in the TechRepublic forums .

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