ROUTERS<@VM>Know your WAN access technology before you choose any one of these affordable IP/IPX routers<@VM>Know your WAN access technology before you choose any one of these affordable IP/IPX routers (cont.)

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

A popular current misconception holds that network routers will soon be as rare as rotary telephones. Don't believe it.

The SmartSwitch Router 600 from Cabletron Systems works with a variety of connections and includes optional hardware encryption and VPN support. Its price ranges from $2,495 to $2,995.

It's true that Gigabit Ethernet-class switches with Layer 3 routing modules are replacing high-end routers for handling traffic at the core of high-speed networks. But as the Internet becomes a more strategically important information pipeline for organizations inside and outside of government, the jobs of standalone IP access routers at the edges of departmental LANs will increase in importance.

Routers work by directing data packets from one network to another according to various network protocols and network operating systems. Most new routers can also bridge LAN traffic over a WAN by keeping track of the logical addresses of workstations on another LAN and passing data packets directly on to them.

The main challenge routers face is the inherent difficulty of efficiently managing multiple protocols. If overpowered by this task, routers themselves can become major network bottlenecks. But for groups of users on small branch office LANs that need to be connected to their main offices over various types of WAN connections using Internet protocols, the routers listed in this Buyers Guide are hard to beat for efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

I scoured router manufacturers' Web sites for access routers based on IP/Internet Packet eXchange protocols that were designed primarily for use in remote, small branch offices. (Keep in mind that the routers featured here are generally part of much larger product families; I couldn't list them all, so contact the manufacturers or check out their Web sites for more information.)

Basic connections

The simplest and most basic of these routers employ analog 56-Kbps telephone connections or the Integrated Services Digital Network basic'rate interface of two B-channel 64-Kbps lines for top uncompressed throughput speeds of 128 Kbps. Most of them employ a single 10Base'T Ethernet connection for up to 10 LAN users; others incorporate a small Ethernet hub of six or eight ports for several dozen or more users.

Models such as Chase Research Inc.'s IOLink SOHO, Ericcson Datacom Inc.'s Congo Data and FlowPoint Corp.'s FlowPoint 128 can cost as little as $500 and represent a true bargain for network administrators seeking to connect a small branch office with a limited number of users to a central office site.

The multiprotocol routers listed perform at slightly higher levels of functionality than basic IP, ISDN or basic telephone service models, but are also designed primarily for connecting small branch office LANs to central sites. In addition to using standard telephone or ISDN access lines, many of them also provide leased-line 56- and 64-Kbps, dedicated T1, fractional T1, X.25 or frame relay connections.

D-Link Systems' DI-106 has one ISDN and six Ethernet LAN ports, along with an ISDN BRI line, and uses Stac LZS compression. It's priced at $499.

The units often feature optional access modules for combining variuos types of connections. Such a module adds several hundred dollars to the cost of a base unit, but it can be well worth the expense if you need dedicated access.

ADC Kentrox's Pacesetter Pro, Develcon Electronics Ltd.'s Orbiter 5100 and Eastern Research Inc.'s SpanNet 2500 Series fall into this category and are also generally capable of handling a wider range of interior and exterior routing protocols than their lower-end relatives. Base prices for this class of router can be as low as $1,295; additional models for various WAN access options generally cost $500 to $1,000.

A new category of products dubbed multiservice routers is beginning to emerge. The products in this category are capable of adding analog voice, fax and voice over IP to basic data services. Cisco Systems Inc.'s 1720/1750 Modular Access Router Series, IBM's 2210 Nways Multiprotocol Routers, Motorola's Vanguard 6435/6455 Series and Xyplex Networks' EdgeGuardian Integrated VPN/WAN Access Router are good examples.

Range of routers

Multiservice routers are flexible and scalable, providing modules for servicing all or most of the standard WAN access technologies ranging from ISDN to T1, as well as providing support for most IP/IPX-related routing and network protocols. They generally come in a variety of models that bundle options for enhanced security, including encryption, firewalls, advanced network management features and virtual private network support.

As mentioned, they usually offer voice over IP support along with connections for several analog lines for standard voice and fax transmissions.

Most provide options for two or more autosensing 10/100-Mbps Ethernet ports, integrated 56-Kbps channel service units or T1 data service unit/channel service units, automatic ISDN backup and more. The bare-bones cost of such units can be as low as $1,295 or slightly more, but expect to pay $4,000 or more for a model featuring all the options you want. Nevertheless, that can be a bargain for a powerful standalone device powered by a RISC processor that can provide dozens of users with instant high-speed Internet access for less than $100 per user.

How do you pick a router from the large selection available? You can start by checking the following features to see if the access router you have in mind will meet your performance requirements:

Security. Anytime you move data from one device to another, especially from LAN to LAN over a public WAN or VPN, security concerns are inherent. Even at the low end, IP access routers should include user authentication measures such as support for the Password Authentication Protocol and the Challenge Handshake Authentication Protocol. Remote access dial-in user service is another user authentication tool.

ZyXel Communications' Prestige 641 has an asymmetric digital subscriber line modem that provides throughput of up to 8M upstream and 640K downstream. It's priced at $399.

Software- or hardware-based firewall protection, such as Cisco's optional IOS Firewall, guards LANs against outside attack by filtering out illegitimate data packets, as well as offering other features, such as Java blocking, denial-of-service detection and prevention, audit trail and real-time alerts.

For mission-critical applications, consider a router with a built-in or optional 64-bit key IP Security Data Encryption Standard module or a triple DES module with a 168-bit key.

When moving traffic across a VPN, look for support for tunneling standards such as IPSec, Generic Routing Encapsulation, and Layer 2 Forwarding and Layer 2 Tunneling and protocols. Cisco and other makers of modular access routers generally provide these as options with their families of products designed for remote users, branch offices or large departments.

Quality of service. QOS controls let routers provide high levels of traffic availability and predictability. This can translate into determining which users or applications have access to how much bandwidth, with priority going to mission-critical applications.

High-end multiservice routers such as Cisco's 1720/1750 series provide such services as committed access rate, whereby traffic types are classified and specific allowable bandwidth is allotted for each type.

Policy routing also classifies and prioritizes traffic by IP precedence but doesn't set allowed bandwidth, as does CAR.

Weighted fair queuing provides consistent response time by scheduling low-bandwidth traffic to the front of the queue to reduce response time. Generic traffic shaping controls and smooths outbound WAN traffic to a specified bandwidth.

The Resource Reservation Protocol reserves guaranteed bandwidth for specified applications from one end of the WAN to the other.

Management protocols. Most of the routers listed in the accompanying table support Simple Network Management Protocol and Telnet protocols that allow them to be managed from central consoles elsewhere on the network.

If vendor-specific management software such as Cisco's CiscoView or Cabletron Systems Inc.'s clearVISN is included, it usually is an SNMP version optimized for its own product.

Tips for buyers

'Determine which WAN access technology you'll need before buying an access router.

'Remember that modular routers offer the most flexibility.

'Add Data Encryption Standard options for mission-critical applications.

'Keep in mind that virtual private
network access'which offers secure, cost-effective connections'is the wave of the future for Internet routers.

'Don't get confused by protocol acronyms. Ask your vendor what they mean.

Cost-cutting measures. IP/IPX protocol spoofing and Network Address Translation/Protocol Translation help manage the costs associated with using access routers over WANs.

Protocol spoofing saves money for users by getting dial-up ISDN lines to shut down when inactivity is detected, thereby reducing online costs.

NAT/NATP protocols help reduce Internet charges by allowing users to map multiple local IP addresses to a single IP address provided by an Internet service provider.

The Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol saves money by allowing configuration of devices to be handled by a central server. The need to install a DHCP server on a separate PC on the network is eliminated, thus reducing LAN installation and maintenance costs.

Compression. With compression technology such as Stac LZS, the data transfer rate passed through the router can increase by up to 600 percent, reducing online costs.

Flexibility. There are a couple of factors to consider here, the first of which is the router's ability to handle the various existing WAN technologies such as leased lines, frame relay, ISDN, Switched Multimegabit Data Service and others.

Second is the router's ability to handle various IP routing protocols such as the Routing Information Protocol and RIP2, ARP Address Resolution Protocol, the Proxy, the Internet Control Messaging Protocol and others. Finally, you may want the flexibility of adding voice and fax services to your high-speed data routing.

Obviously, if your needs are simple, keep it simple with an inexpensive, straightforward router.

But if you need more, a high-end modular unit will be the answer.

Easy setup. Routers used to be a bear to install. Users often had to write their own lines of code to make them operate properly.

Most of today's models, particularly at this end of the service scale, come with Microsoft Windows installation wizards that make it possible even for nonprofessionals to install them in minutes.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.

Vendor Product WAN access options Security Management Price
ADC Kentrox
Portland, Ore.
Pacesetter ISDN, plain telephone service PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, IP filtering SNMP Enterprise MIB II $795
SOHO Pacesetter ProISDN, frame relaySameSNMP Enterprise MIB II
Pacesetter T1 T1, ISDN Same SNMP Enterprise MIB II $1,695
Alpha Telecom Inc. U.S.A. Networking Division
Sunnyvale, Calif.
NetRouter 1040 ISDN PAP/CHAP, Caller ID SNMP MIB II, Enterprise MIB $1,295
Cisco Systems Inc.
San Jose, Calif.
1720 Modular Access Router Series ISDN, POTS, leased line, 56/64Kbps DDS, T1 fractional T1 PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, IPSec DES and 3DES encryption SNMP, Telnet, CiscoView, CiscoWorks 2000 $2195 up
1750 Modular Access Router Series Same Same Same $1,495 to $2695 up
Cabletron Systems Inc.
Rochester, N.H.
SmartSwitch Router 100 ISDN, ISDN leased line Optional 56 Kbps DES encryption, firewall SNMP $565 to $725
SmartSwitch Router 500 SeriesT1, leased line, frame relay, X.25SameSNMP$1,595 to $1,695
SmartSwitch Router 600 Same Same SNMP $2,495 to $2,995
Chase Research Inc.
Nashville, Tenn.
IOLink SOHO ISDN PAP/CHAP, NetSAFE Firewall SNMP MIB II, Enterprise MIB, Telnet $549 to $799
IOLink ProDual leased line, ISDNSameSame$995 up
Develcon Electronics Ltd.
Orbitor 500 ISDN NetSAFE Firewall SNMP, Telnet $500 up
Orbitor 530Leased lineNetSAFE FirewallSNMP, Telnet$699
Orbitor 5100Optional ISDN, leased line, frame relayNetSAFE FirewallSNMP, Telnet$1,199 up
D-Link Systems Inc.
Irvine, Calif.
DI-300 (W & MW) ISDN PAP/CHAP, RADIUS SNMP, Telnet $399 to $499
DI-1137C-1TP ISDN, leased line, T1/E1, fractional T1, 56-Kbps DDS PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, NetProtect Firewall SNMP, Telnet $1,299
Eastern Research Inc.
Moorestown, N.J.
SpanNet 2500 Series ISDN, leased line, frame relay, T1, fractional T1, switched 56 Kbps Secure software updates SNMP, Telnet $1,375 to $3,995
Efficient Networks Inc.
SpeedStream 5621 Digital subscriber line PAP/CHAP SNMP MIB II, RFC 1695 for ATM, ADSL Forum MIB $500 up
SpeedStream 5660 DSL PAP/CHAP Same $500 up
Engage Communication Inc.
Aptos, Calif.
IP Express XL Series T1, fractional T1, frame Relay, 56/64-Kbps DDS Password protection, IP filtering EngageView, SNMP, Telnet $895 to $1,195
ExpressRouter XL SeriesLeased lineSameSame$1,195 to $1,495
Advanced ExpressRouter Leased line Same Same $1,495 to $4,495
Ericsson Datacom Inc.
Goleta, Calif.
Danube Leased line, switched 56 Kbps, ISDN PAP/CHAP, IP firewall, IPSec SNMP MIB II, Telnet $1,095
CongoISDNPAP/CHAP, Caller IDSNMP MIB II, Telnet$495 to $675
Emerging Technologies Inc.
Melville, N.Y.
ET/R1000-2T/4T T1 N/A SNMP $2,495 to $3,195
FlowPoint Corp.
Los Gatos, Calif.
FlowPoint 128 ISDN PAP/CHAP, FlowPoint FireWall SNMP, Telnet $499 to $599
FlowPoint 144ISDLSameSNMP, Telnet$499
FlowPoint 2200Symmetric DSLSameSame$599 to $1,198
IBM Corp.
Armonk, N.Y.
2210 Nways Multiprotocol RoutersISDN, leased linePAP/CHAP, IBM VPN security softwareSNMP/Telnet$1,264 up
Intel Corp.
Santa Clara, Calif.
Express 8100 Series ISDN, leased line, frame relay, X.25 PAP/CHAP Intel DeviceView, SNMP, Telnet $549 to $699
Express 8200 SeriesISDN, leased line, frame relay, X.25, T1PAP/CHAPIntel DeviceView, SNMP, Telnet$699 up
KarlNet Inc.
Columbus, Ohio
Remote KarlRouter 56/64-Kbps leased line, T1 Firewall filtering SNMP MIB II $2,950
Kingston Technology Co.
Fountain Valley, Calif.
EtheRX Internet Access Router ISDN, POTS Encryption N/A $479
Irvine, Calif.
EtherFast 4-Port 10/100 Analog Router POTS Software-based N/A $199

Vendor Product WAN access options Security Management Price
Lucent Internetworking Systems
Murray Hill, N.J.
SuperPipe 95 ISDN PAP/CHAP, Caller ID, IPSec, DES encryption SNMP, Telnet $1,295
SuperPipe 155ISDN, T1, frame relaySameSNMP, Telnet$1,795
Memotec Communications Corp.
Herndon, Va.
CL2500 frame relay Optional SNMP $1,195 up
Microtronix Datacom Ltd.
London, Ontario
Access 3000 ISDN, frame relay, POTS, T1, X.25 N/A SNMP, Telnet $1,100
Access 9000SameN/ASNMP, Telnet$1,800
Motorola Inc. Internet and Networking Group
Mansfield, Mass.
Vanguard 100 ISDN, frame relay, X.25 N/A SNMP $890 up
Vanguard 320SameN/ASNMP$1,244 up
Vanguard 6435/6455 Full range of options via enhanced daughter cardsN/ASNMP$2,500 to $3,530 up
Multi-Tech Systems Inc.
Saint Paul, Minn.
RouteFinder Series Leased line, frame relay PAP/CHAP Bundled software, Telnet $799 to $1,139
MultiFRAD SeriesFrame relayPAP/CHAPBundled software, Telnet$1,999 to $4,199
NetSpan Corp.
Richardson, Texas
MultiRouter LT/Sync DDS, T1 Bundled software SNMP $949
MultiRouter EN/SyncDDS, T1Bundled softwareSNMP$1,099
Netopia Inc.
Alameda, Calif.
R2020 Dual Analog Router POTS Caller ID Telnet $715
R3100 ISDN RouterISDN, POTSIP firewallSNMP$585 to $815
R5100 Serial Router Frame relay IP firewall SNMP $895
Nortel Networks
Simi Valley, Calif.
BayStack Advanced RemoteNode (ARN) ISDN, POTS, leased line, T1, X.25, fractional T1, 56/64-Kbps DDS, N/A SNMP, RMON $1,745 to $4,495
NX Networks
Westborough, Mass.
GT 60/70 Optional modules for most WAN protocols PAP/CHAP, ARCFOUR, DES and 3DES encryption, RADIUS, firewall SNMP, Telnet $648 to 1,398
GT 90 Same Same SNMP, Telnet $944 to $1,694
GT 900 Same Same SNMP, Telnet $1,695 to $1,995
Santa Monica, Calif.
RouterMate R64/R64R Frame relay, POTS N/A SNMP, Telnet $995
RouterMate R56/R56RFrame relay, POTSN/ASNMP, Telnet$995
RouterMate RT1/RT1R Frame relay, T1 N/A SNMP, Telnet $1,495
Pivotal Networking Inc.
Sunnyvale, Calif.
StarGazer 1700 POTS PAP/CHAP SNMP $395 to $945
StarGazer 1800ISDNPAP/CHAP, IPSec, DES encryptionSNMP$495 to $1,395
StarGazer 1900ISDN, frame relayPAP/CHAP, IPSec, DES encryptionSNMP$495 to $1,395
RAD Data Communications Inc.
Mahwah, N.J.
LAN Ranger MBE Series Dial-up, leased line, frame relay, DDS, ISDN PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, firewall SNMP, Telnet $1100 up
Ramp Networks Inc.
Santa Clara, Calif.
WebRamp 410iISDN, POTSPAP/CHAPSNMP, Telnet$599
WebRamp 510iSDSL, ISDNIP filteringSNMP, Telnet$590
3Com Corp.
Santa Clara, Calif.
SuperStack II NetBuilder 43x Series ISDN, leased line, T1 IPSec, IP firewall, DES and 3DES encryption SNMP $5,295
Shiva Corp.
Bedford, Mass.
AccessPort ISDN Smart Detect software ShivaRemote, AccessSwitch $717
Sync Research Inc
Irvine, Calif.
FrameNode 3600 Series ISDN, frame relay Dial backup NetView/390, SNMP $995 up
Xyplex Networks
Littleton, Mass.
SOHO-Network 1000 Router ISDN, frame relay PAP/CHAP SNMP $500 to $675
EdgeBlaster MultiFunction WAN Access RouterT1, fractional T1, frame relayPAP/CHAP, IPS+ D360ec-based VPN tunnels, Caller ID, RADIUSSNMP$1950 up
EdgeGuardian Integrated VPN WAN Router T1 Same, with hardware-based encryption SNMP $5,445 up
Zoom Telephonics Inc.
ZoomAccess 2 POTS, ISDN, leased line PAP/CHAP, RADIUS, IP filtering firewall WebManage software $1299 up
ZoomAccess 8POTS, ISDN, leased lineSameWebManage software$1,377
ZyTrax Communications Inc.
Saint-Laurent, Quebec
WarpTwo ISDN Proprietary SNMP $400 to $480
ZyXel Communications Corp.
Anaheim, Calif.
Prestige 128 Plus ISDN PAP/CHAP, RADIUS SNMP $599
Prestige 641Asymmetric DSLPAP/CHAPSNMP$399
Prestige 310Cable ADSLPAP/CHAPSNMP$299


  • Records management: Look beyond the NARA mandates

    Pandemic tests electronic records management

    Between the rush enable more virtual collaboration, stalled digitization of archived records and managing records that reside in datasets, records management executives are sorting through new challenges.

  • boy learning at home (Travelpixs/

    Tucson’s community wireless bridges the digital divide

    The city built cell sites at government-owned facilities such as fire departments and libraries that were already connected to Tucson’s existing fiber backbone.

Stay Connected