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Netgear RT314 DSL/Cable 4-Port Router Review
Author: Chris Oh
Date Posted: January 26th, 2001
In a world where everything revolves around the Internet, there is nothing more important than protecting your investment and keeping your info private. There are many things about your computer that you might not be aware of, there are many open ports in a standard computer connected to the internet and any one of those open ports can be a gateway for a hacker to get into your system and access your files. This is of course, not good. There are safeguards you can take and programs you can use to close these ports so they cannot be accessed but the problem is still there, the ports exist and are still visible to the intruder. Someone once told me that even if you have good security, a persistent hacker would eventually gain access. This canít be more right, no matter how much security you have installed in your system; people will find a way in. This is where firewalls come into play. Firewalls are systems, which control access policy between two or more networks. Suffice it to say that firewalls keep people out of your system while letting you do your job normally. Corporations and institutions have and maintain hardware firewalls because they want their private and sensitive information to remain in their own computers and they donít want anyone outside of their network to get access to it. These firewalls are very hard to penetrate and are very good investments. Enough about firewalls. Today at SystemLogic.net take a long due look at a network router from a well-known company known as Netgear. The RT314 is a good solution for those of you who had jumped on the broadband bandwagon but donít have anything to share the connection between your systems with.
Routers, What Do They Do?
The principal of a router is simple. Since there is only one IP given to an account, the router is connected directly to the broadband connection and then it internally splits the IPís into internal IPís (as opposed to the one external IP you get) and each of the internal IPís are given to a computer on the network.
As you can see, all the PCís connected to the router share the same ISP provided IP but they have different internal IPís so the router can differentiate them from one another and make sure that signals go to the right place. The only reason why there are different internal IPís is that so the router can keep track of which computers are using the internet and what signals are going to which computers. This works both ways. When sending something to the ISP, the computer, lets say PC1 (internal IP 200.20.20.01) sends an email, the data will go to the router and then the router will send it with the external IP (206.12.656.20) and when someone replies, the data will go to eh external IP and then to the router and the router knows which computer the data will go to because of the internal IP. So to sum it up in a clamshell, routers basically route the data from the ISP to the counters and vice versa. Go figure.
Alternatives To A Router
A router allows a broadband signal to be split into multiples signals allowing easy sharing. What are the alternatives? First of all, you can network all the computers in the home and have one as the host server, which is the computer physically connected to the broadband line and the other computers. This computer then shares the Internet connection with other computers on the network through software such as Win98SEís Internet Connection Sharing. The obvious downside to this is resources eaten by the software and the fact that the host computer must be on at all times for the connection sharing to work. If the host is down, so are all the other computers. Another solution for more people is to purchase multiple IPís from your carrier. Most telephone and cable companies provide broadband service but only include one IP address so only one computer can use the Internet at a time when they are connected through a hub. The downside to multiple IPís is the cost, which ranges from $5-25 per IP. Another alternative is to just use one computer for the Internet, which is obviously out of the question for me.
Advantages Of The RT314
A router is a router is a router, they just connect to the internet on one end and they connect to the wall on the other. This is fine for people who only have one computer. But Netgear took a page from the common sense book and decided it would be easier for people if they included a switch in the same enclosure. This is good because there is no need for an extra hub or switch to share your connection with. Plug the router in, plug 1 or more computers into the built-in 4-port switch, and you have 4 internet-ready computer. Also, sharing files and playing games over the LAN is possible just like with any other switch.
Built-in firewall action going on for you folks making secret covert operation plans. There is a built-in hardware firewall in this puppy and it acts to protectÖ
TCP/IP, RIP-1, RIP-2, DHCP, NAT,PPTP, PPPoE
||12 V DC 1.2A
Localized plug for North America, Japan,UK, Europe, Australia
|Dimensions||W 253 mm (9.95Ē)
D 181 mm (7.1Ē)
H 35 mm (1.4Ē)
|Environmental Specifications||Operating temperature: 0ļC to 40ļC
Operating humidity: 90% maximum relative humidity, noncondensing
|Electromagnetic Emissions||FCC Part 15 Class B
VCCI Class B
EN 55 022 (CISPR 22), Class B
LAN: 10BASE-T or 100BASE-T, RJ-45
|Package Contents||RT314 router unit
Category 5 cable (white) User guide
|System Requirements||Cable or DSL modem and Internet service
Network card for each PC
Network software (e.g., Windows)
Internet Explorer 4.0 or higher
OR Netscape 4.0 or higher
Take it out of the box, plug in power, plug in Internet, and plug in computer. How hard is that? Not very and thatís all you need to do to get this router up and running. When they say plug and play this is what they meant. The hardest part of setting up the router is manually configuring your DHCP information and you really donít even have to do this. Itís also a good thing to mention that the RT314 has a built-in DHCP server. When you plug the router into the computers and the Internet connection, all you need to do is restart your computer and it automatically sets it up for you.
Here is the front view of the router; itís nice and simple, nothing to be ashamed of on your desk. The unit has 2 LEDís for each computer, a LINK LED that is on when there is an active link to each computer and there is also an ACTIVITY LED that is on when there is data being transmitted through the router to and from that particular PC.
On the back view, you can see the ports on the switch for 4 computers, the AC adapter port, the master connector for the Internet connection, and a serial port connection for updating the firmware.
Once the hardware installation was complete, we wanted to see what the web based configuration utility was. The great thing about this configurator is that the setup menu can be access from any web browser of any computer connected to the router via a http link such as http://192.168.0.1. All you do after that is enter the username and password and youíre all set for setting the stuff up. If youíre not into all that web stuff or if youíre afraid Microsoft will try to hack your router, you can telnet into it also.
Here at SL, we have a Verizon ADSL connection split to 2 computers (sometimes 3) with a D-Link switch. When we moved to the router, we were expecting some sort of performance hit or incompatibilities with Napster or Diablo II. As we moved all our connections to the router and set up the network again, we found the response time was the same and file transfer speeds were identical to the D-Link unit. When testing access speeds across the network with Sandraís Network Benchmark with a Win2k and a Win98SE machine, we hit the standard 9100kB/s and sometimes got to 10668kB/s. Not a bad performing switch at all. All this time, I kept the router right next to me but there were so many lights flashing it distracted me from my work so I had to move it someplace where it wouldnít distract me. As for performance, the switch was able to handle anything we threw at it including file serving, web serving, serving files to all the greedy monkeys on Napster, and plain old file transfers. As for routing performance, I have no idea how to test this but we can safely say that the Internet is there, it works, and it works fast. Just as fast as before with no reason on why it should work faster.
Needless to say, there were problems, some big some small. Specific instances for example, we were using CuteMX before using the router and we were able to download more than 10 files simultaneously but with the router, we could only download one at a time. This might be because the router wont let you open more than one connection any specific host. There were no available information on this happening and fixes. We tested this again with our D-Link switch and everything was file. Also, there was another thing that we couldnít do with the router. We were trying to make calls from the Internet to telephones using Net2Phone (IP telephony). Although we could make the calls, we couldnít hear the person we called but they could hear us. This was because we were sending a signal out to their phone using our ISP IP but when they replied and said something back, the data went to the ISP IP expecting to reach a computer but it hit the router instead and the data got ďlostĒ. This is a known issue and might not be fixed anytime soon.
As for firewall performanceÖ this is a great firewall. The good thing about having a firewall as opposed to just closing your ports is that a firewall completely hides your computer from the outside world of the internet while blocking ports keep your computers visible but ports secured. How I see it is that if you want something done, you have to go all the way. An invisible computer is better than a protected one. When I went to dslreports.com and tested the computerís security. I passed with flying colors and no improvements were suggested. Props to Netgear on the high quality firewall.
Pros & Cons
After taking a long hard look at the router, I have decided that it is a great piece of machinery but Iím sticking with my good old switch just because I get free extra IPís from Verizon, otherwise the Netgear would be the winner hands down. If you have multiple computers and only one Internet connection, forget about ICS, go with this solution because it offers a lot more for a good price ($150). Throw in the extra security of a firewall and you get more bang for the buck. If youíre a security freak, youíll love the features, if youíre a control freak youíll love the setup features, if youíre a performance freak, youíll be safe with this unit. If not for the incompatibilities with some important services, this would earn a near perfect score. Also, some advanced setup features are not available in the web-based interface so youíll have to telnet to it. But aside from that, this unit has the most bang for the buck today with all the features of a champ at the price of rookie.
Rating: 8.5 SystemLogistics