VPN Router for Small/Medium Sized Business - Sonicwall, Cisco or Netgear

Posted on 2004-10-05
Last Modified: 2006-11-17
I am preparing to purchase a router for a company with 8 computers on site. We are interested in having 2 off-site PCs connect to our NT4 server via VPN over a  DSL connection. The president of the company is not comfortable having his network connected to the internet. Can I get recommendations on a router tailored for small to medium sized businesses with good security, speed and relative ease of configuration? I am not familiar with Cisco's operating system, although I am interested in learning it, however I am comfortable configuring a router with web-based setup. We are hoping to spend no more than $800 for the router including VPN client licenses. Are the NetGear's Pro Series routers secure enough for business use? How do they compare to SonicWall routers which I have used in the past? Are the Cisco IOS routers difficult to configure (I have a strong DOS background and a little familiarity with Unix)? Can I get a few suggestions?
Question by:ehcruzan
LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 12234349
You could upgrade the server to Windows Server 2003 which has built in VPN services and fire wall, and skip throwing in another piece of hardware into the picture. The fact is, the day of MS supporting NT 4.0 are coming close to an end, and regardless of the fact that for most small businesses NT 4.0 is just fine, MS had decided to kill it off ASP. So why not kill two birds with one stone and take care of both issues at one time?
LVL 43

Accepted Solution

JFrederick29 earned 50 total points
ID: 12236508
Take a look at the Linksys RV016 VPN/Firewall router.  It has a built in 16 port switch which will give you the number of ports you require on your LAN as well as VPN capabilities and a firewall.  Configuration is web based and quite simple (compared to Cisco).  If you are interested in a Cisco solution, the PIX 501 would be a relatively inexpensive solution and would provide the VPN/Firewall services you are looking for.

The RV082 model has an 8 port switch if you don't want to spring for the 16 port router or you already have your switching requirements taken care of.

Author Comment

ID: 12238011
Dr-IP: Thanks for the reply. A few follow-ups: We actually have never had problems with NT4 requiring support and it's simple enough to reload the server and restore a backup should that happen. Moving to WS2003 is an expense that we can't justify at the moment especially since we only have 8 users accessing a DOS based program and storing documents. Is the firewall in Windows Server 2003 comparable in security and performance of the Cisco or Sonicwall products? Is it taxing on processing power?

JFrederick29: Thanks for your reply. A few follow-ups: Does the Cisco PIX 501 have a web-based configuration? If not, is it relatively simple to setup with VPN support. I'm not really a fan of Linksys products but I will admit I haven't purchased any since Cisco has taken over. I do however prefer to use one of the brands more involved in business products. Do you have any other suggestions. Thanks again.
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LVL 43

Expert Comment

ID: 12238140
I personally would choose Linksys over Netgear or D-Link but that's my own personal experience talking.  Yes, the Cisco PIX comes with PDM (PIX device manager) which is a graphical configuration utility which eases configuration.

I would not recommend using Windows as your router/firewall as it will use processing power and also is not as reliable as a hardware device.
LVL 79

Assisted Solution

lrmoore earned 50 total points
ID: 12238977
I'm a big fan of the Cisco PIX firewalls, as well as the Linksys VPN router/firewalls, specifically the RV082..both have simple to use GUI and simple VPN client. Linksys has a new "QuickVPN" client that makes it a snap. Just tried it out this morning and it works great. No extra licensing or other issues to worry about with either one.

If you want to go the extra mile and add things like in-line anti-virus and spam filtering to the firewall, you might look at the Fortigate products. I've heard good things about them..

I'd also like to throw in a plug for the Symantec product line:

And, I will also parrot JFrederick29 - I would never use any Windows software to be my router, firewall, gateway, VPN or provide any layer of protection for my network. Just too many holes in the underlying operating system.

LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 12241242
I know some people will disagree with my opinion, but for most small companies I think the firewall and VPN services in Windows Server 2003 are more than sufficient for most small companies. It’s easy to setup, can update it’s self automatically, and in most cases the load on the server is undetectable.

Now given a choice without a budget, I’d go with a PIX firewall, but not everyone has that kind of money to spend. That’s why I end up sometimes using Windows servers in place of routers and firewalls. It’s what they have, and it’s a lot better than just sticking everything out in the open. Although I must say my favorite low cost firewall solution is an old PC with two NIC’s in it running a Linux firewall running off the floppy. It takes a little skill to setup, but it works very well and can outperform a lot of considerably more expensive solutions.


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