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When you have a broadband connection to the Internet, security becomes an issue. Even if your ISP does not assign a static IP address to your account, you keep the same number for a much longer time than is the case with dial-up (weeks or days as compared to minutes). This provides a much greater window of opportunity for intruders and makers of mischief to locate and violate your system.

After installing the Linksys router, we visited the free service called "Shields Up" at
Gibson Research .

With the default installation, our computers showed up as not showing up- for all practical purposes,  invisible to cyber evil-doers.

The router has a very slick control interface accessed through its IP address in your browser. Here there is a wide array of advanced options for enabling special settings that may be required for Internet gaming, video conferencing, IP forwarding or filtering, and much more.

Although it appears to be top-notch in thwarting would-be hackers, firewall services are not the primary function of the device. If someone manages to plant a trojan on one of your machines, it will not detect the resultant unauthorized outbound traffic.

This unit currently ships with an optional presumably discounted version of Zone Alarm Pro, generally considered one of the best software firewalls available at any price. This allows inspection and control of virtually any aspect of Internet traffic through your system. It also includes an option to install PC-cillin, one of the better anti-virus packages.

Whether your system is susceptible to trojans and viruses is a function of who uses it and how. If careless or unsophisticated users will have access, it's probably a good idea to install and configure one or both of these options.



High Speed Internet Access
Network Router Upgrades LAN

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Linksys Cable/DSL Four Port Router

As prices continue their plunge toward affordability, multiple computer households are becoming more and more common. Old systems get handed down, and before you know it, you're ready for home or small office networking.

Meanwhile, as people become more familiar with the Internet and content grows exponentially, the luxury of high-speed (broadband) access begins to look more practical.

Not coincidentally, broadband internet and local area networks go together like pretzels and beer. Whether you have cable or DSL, your computer connects to the Internet through an Ethernet network card, the same kind of card used in local area networks enabling multiple computers to share data and resources.

Each and every computer you own can be configured to access the Internet through the same network connection, enabling multiple users to access the Internet simultaneously and independently.

Hardware solution enables independent access

There are several ways to accomplish this, and your broadband service provider would probably prefer you to choose their solution, which typically involves an extra fee for additional computers.

There are software solutions, proxy servers like Sygate. We used this for several years, installing two network cards in the primary access computer- one for the Internet connection, and another for the LAN. This worked fine, except for creating a minor drag on the primary system, consuming resources, and squawks from down the hall when I rebooted at the wrong time (which I'm prone to do with regularity).

So, we at last decided to upgrade the equipment with a network router. We chose the Linksys EtherFast Cable/DSL Router with Four Port Switch, primarily because of our satisfaction with other Linksys products.

This is a small device (about the size of a cable or DSL modem) that connects between the modem and the computer.

Upgrades existing LAN

This unit also serves to upgrade the LAN, as it incorporates a four port switch that will replace our existing hub (a switch is basically a smarter, more efficient hub). If you have more than four stations on your network, the Linksys unit includes an uplink port to chain it to another hub.

Although it contains ports for only four network connections (plus the one from the modem), this nifty little gadget is capable of handling up to 254 computers, with multiple simultaneous connections through a single IP number.

Compact enough for a desktop and attractively styled, the unit has a high quality look and feel which is carried through in its performance. The LED arrangement on the front conveys useful information, easily interpreted, about the traffic on your network as well as through the modem.

Easy Installation

Installation was relatively easy, and would likely have been easier if we knew less about it. If anything, it comes with too much instruction: a quick-start guide, a detailed user manual (which goes so far as to show you how to make your own Cat5 cables), a couple of how-to video's on the CD Rom, and a software-based installation wizard.

For most people, the wizard is probably the best bet. Just don't do anything at all until the software tells you to, and it should go off without a hitch. We got ahead of ourselves and had to start over a couple of times.

If you do run into difficulties, there are trouble-shooting wizards on the accompanying CD's. If all else fails, Linksys offers product support via their web site, email, or telephone.

So you'll know, the wizard reconfigures the card you're currently using for your Internet connection. If, like us, you have a multicard installation and one's a higher quality, you'll want to set it up as the Internet card before you run the wizard.

When you're done, you'll be able to remove the second card, since your computer will connect to both the Internet and your local network through the router.

Extensive flexibility, Great performance

The Linksys router functions as a DHCP server, automatically assigning IP addresses to the computers on your local network while presenting its own IP address to the modem. As far as the modem (and your ISP) are concerned, the service is still connected to a single network card.

In case your ISP has keyed your service to it, the Linksys router can even duplicate the MAC address of, and proceed to masquerade as, the original network card. Slick.

There are extensive setup options, providing the flexibility needed to function in almost any network environment.  With a static IP address, you can even configure it to permit your own web or FTP server.

In use, the router functions fast and flawlessly. Through it, each computer on the network goes online independently, without requiring any other system. Although it's hard to measure such things, it appears to be much faster than our prior setup.

Highly recommended

Costing only slightly more than software solutions, the Linksys Four Port Router is an excellent value, particularly for a new installation or for one being upgraded from 10 BaseT to Fast Ethernet. In that situation, it costs less than reliable Internet sharing software and a comparable network hub, while providing much higher functionality.

If you have a use or need for this kind of equipment, we highly recommend the Cable/DSL Router with Four Port Switch from Linksys.


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