Managing a SOHO's network can be a daunting challenge. The good news is that with limited resources of staff and equipment, a network can be protected and given network management for free.
In September, I mentioned the release of the Re-Router gateway product from Untangle. This product is a Windows-based gateway software that can work on a nondedicated PC. Untangle's flagship product is a dedicated Linux-based OS that is run on dedicated hardware, either your own or one purchased from Untangle.
Now that Re-Router has been on the market for a while, I had a chance to download it and install it on a test system. Re-Router's gateway for Windows installs on Windows XP Home and Professional editions, and there are a couple of points that are worth passing along if this product is being considered as a gateway solution.
First of all, the Re-Router product is a VMware-based virtual machine (VM) that is installed on the desktop operating system. Because Re-Router is using virtualization technology, the XP system should not be virtual machine in this situation. The Linux-based full install product, however, can exist as a VM if provisioned correctly.
With the Re-Router VM, the guest operating system resembles the Linux-based product that has been out for a while from Untangle. If you have worked with the Linux-based product, the gateway option products are the same on the Re-Router VM. This includes the commercial add-ons and support offerings from Untangle.
In regard to a storage footprint, the Re-Router VM is a 850-MB install file that has the actual VM file around 1.5 GB after the installation. The system hosting the Re-Router VM also should have a good amount of memory installed, at least 1 GB per Untangle's Web site recommendation. This is because we are effectively taking a dedicated system's functionality and consolidating it with the existing PC's operating environment. The Re-Router VM is assigned an amount of RAM during the installation process, and that should be at least 512 MB for an effective installation.
Installing the Re-Router VM is quick and painless, and the only real decision is how much RAM to allocate to the VM running Untangle. In considering this product for use in the SOHO, select the most capable Windows XP system in regards to RAM to be the host for the Re-Router VM as that will help performance for all connected systems.
For the network side of the configuration, if only one network interface is available, the Re-Router VM must be used. If there is more than one physical interface available, the traditional installed Untangle must be used (though the functionality is the same for both products). Further, the Re-Router VM cannot be used with managed switches on the SOHO network, which is an important factor in certain deployments. For SOHO sites with wireless LANs in place, the Re-Router VM has some specific configurations that will work and others that will not work. These configurations are shown on the Untangle Wiki site.
Overall, Untangle can't make it any easier to get a SOHO protected with an easy-to-use gateway product. Both the Untangle Re-Router VM and the installable Untangle are free downloads from the Untangle Web site.