Having a constant, lightning quick connection to the Internet in our homes is an appealing idea for many of us. After getting this type of rapid access to the Web either through a cable modem or a DSL Internet connection, the next thing on your wish list might be to have multiple computers in your home all sharing this high-speed access through one IP address. Thanks to new products available from Linksys and Sybergen, it’s now possible to make this dream a reality.

Linksys Cable/DSL Router
Linksys has made a device called the Linksys Cable/DSL Router, shown in Figure 1, that distributes Internet access with a single IP address. For about $189 retail, you can purchase this hub to distribute your access throughout your home. This is great if you have that kind of budget, but what if you need a simpler, cheaper solution?

Figure 1
The Linksys Cable/DSL Router

Introducing SyGate
Sybergen’s SyGate product does almost the same thing as the Linksys Cable/DSL Router but is completely software-driven and is considerably cheaper. SyGate allows multiple computers to access the Internet using one IP address. Compared to the price of a Linksys hub, SyGate is fairly inexpensive. For about $30, you can have three computers connected to the Internet. The maximum number of computers you can connect using SyGate is 10, for around $100. SyGate’s concept is simple in design, its interface is straightforward, and it’s easily configured. Just load SyGate on your point of Internet access computer, and it will do the rest.

Lets take a closer look
As you can see in Figure 2, SyGate comes with a main console where the entire configuration takes place.

SyGate’s main console

From this screen, you can customize the software to suit your needs. It’s divided into two panes. The left pane describes the Internet access computer complete with computer name, status of SyGate server, network information, and log list. It’s set up using the familiar Windows collapsing/expanding folders tree design.

The log list is a particular favorite of mine. As illustrated in Figure 3, the log list lists all the computers on the network and, by enabling me to look at the IP addresses, allows me to see where the users of these computers have been surfing on the Web.

SyGate allows you to see where the users on your network have been surfing.

Configuring SyGate
The configuration process is fairly simple. As many of you know, planning how to handle the computer addresses is a big part of any network implementation. With SyGate, the process is the same for both a business and a home network. Deciding on static or dynamic IP addresses is all you really need to do. Once that decision is made, the rest is relatively easy. SyGate comes with the ability to do either static IP addressing or issue IP addresses via its own built-in DHCP server. The DHCP module can be configured just like any other DHCP server. Figure 4 shows SyGate’s DHCP configuration page.

The DHCP configuration page

Other nice features
Using SyGate, you can automatically disconnect idle machines from the Web after a specified amount of time. In addition, you have the ability to ban certain IPs from accessing the Web. If you’re a parent and are concerned with your child accessing the Internet when you’re not home, this is a great feature. The software also comes with the ability to put a password in place so none of the configurations can be changed.

SyGate vs. Linksys
There are a few things you need to know about SyGate before you decide to buy it. First of all, when comparing SyGate to the Linksys Cable/DSL Router, some of the shortcomings of Sybergen’s product become clearer. One drawback is that SyGate does not have its own built-in firewall. Sybergen does offer a firewall product, but it is an additional purchase. Another minus is that since SyGate is completely software-driven, there are some additional devices—such as a small hub, for example—that you have to buy. The Linksys Cable/DSL Router, on the other hand, comes with a hub, router, firewall, and the distribution software built in. SyGate also requires you to place an additional NIC in your point of access computer. The Linksys Cable/DSL Router does not.

In the final analysis
When choosing between Linksys and SyGate, your decision could come down to how large a budget you have or how sophisticated you need to be. No matter which one you choose, you are sure of having your needs met because both the Linksys Cable/DSL Router and Sybergen’s SyGate are great products if you want to have several computers sharing Internet access through the same IP address.

Matthew Mercurio is a system administrator in Louisville, KY. Follow this link to write to Matthew.

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