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View Full Version : Help Broadband Newbie, Please!


Linda Rawson
June 3rd, 2005, 03:13 PM
My remote neighborhood may soon be joining the 21st Century by acquiring DSL service.

Believing this type of service to be impossible this far away from the central office, I have never learned about broadband routers. :confused:

Our small business has 8 or 9 computers, presently networked through a Netopia R3100 ISDN router, which has served us very well for many years.

Would any of you kind experts and souls be able to advise me on the currently reliable makers of broadband routers, or on any other aspect of networking via DSL?

Thank you!

Dan in Saint Louis
June 3rd, 2005, 03:38 PM
I'd be inclined to use a stand-alone DSL "modem" as provided by your DSL service, and attach my own routers. I've had good luck with both NetGear and D-Link, but I've never tried more than 4 machines at a time (well, 5 one day - just hooked a cheap hub to one of the router ports and the router's DHCP kept handing out addresses without missing a beat). At the 8-machine level you might also look into Linksys.

If your business hosts its own Web site or mail server, you will want a fixed IP Address. That costs a little more but ensures that the DNS servers that translate "www.tapcis.com" into [64.202.163.8], for example, can always find you. This is not an issue if you only use it for reaching OTHER servers.

If your ISP knows this is a business they will probably insist on business-class service anyway, which generally includes the fixed IP Address.

On the desktop side of the router take all the usual spyware/antivirus precautions, although you have a great degree of protection anyway because the Network Address Translation (NAT) feature of the router hides your internal addresses from the outside world. Still, that won't keep out anything that finds it way in via email or the Web browser.

Does the Netopia bundle an ISDN converter into the router? Do you already own it? If financially convenient, there may be a way to just pipe the output of the DSL "modem" into that router and continue as you are now.

Judy G. Russell
June 3rd, 2005, 03:53 PM
I have used Linksys for some time, for a regular router and then a wireless router, and have just recently replaced the cable-company-supplied-modem with a Linksys modem. I find them easy to install, easy to set up and rock solid reliable.

Linda Rawson
June 3rd, 2005, 10:42 PM
Dear Dan,

A knight in shining armor! Thank you.

I'd be inclined to use a stand-alone DSL "modem" as provided by your DSL service, and attach my own routers. I've had good luck with both NetGear and D-Link, but I've never tried more than 4 machines at a time (well, 5 one day - just hooked a cheap hub to one of the router ports and the router's DHCP kept handing out addresses without missing a beat). At the 8-machine level you might also look into Linksys.
The DSL provider, Qwest, offers several DSL modems:

Actiontec GT701-wg
Actiontec 1520 and 1524
Intel PRO/DSL 3200
Intel PRO/DSL 2200
Intel PRO/DSL 2100
Cisco 675/678
Arescom NetDSL 800
Accton DSL 1000

Netgear, D-Link and Linksys do not appear on their list, oddly enough. Have you heard of any of these?

If your ISP knows this is a business they will probably insist on business-class service anyway, which generally includes the fixed IP Address.
They don't require a fixed IP address for business accounts.

Does the Netopia bundle an ISDN converter into the router? Do you already own it? If financially convenient, there may be a way to just pipe the output of the DSL "modem" into that router and continue as you are now.
Yes, we already own the Netopia R3100 router. It can be converted into an ethernet hub, but for $119. My understanding is that switches are faster than hubs. I am not sure it is worth the money to convert the R3100 into a hub.

I am not familiar with Linksys's products but would like to hear more about them if you recommend their equipment. Netgear offers something that to my untutored eye looks suitable, ProSafe VPN Firewall 8 w/8 Port 10/100 Switch Model FVS318 for $90 at Newegg.

Thank you again for your advice.

Linda Rawson
June 3rd, 2005, 10:46 PM
Dear Judy,

Do you know anything about the BEFSR81 model? Have you ever had to use Linksys tech support and if so, how was the experience?
Thanks, Judy. I appreciate the help here!

Judy G. Russell
June 3rd, 2005, 11:11 PM
I've read about that router, and I don't recall ever reading anything bad about it. As for Linksys tech support, I've never needed it. And that says quite a bit about how easy the Linksys equipment is to set up, because otherwise I'd have been whining...

sidney
June 4th, 2005, 01:36 AM
Dear Judy,

Do you know anything about the BEFSR81 model? Have you ever had to use Linksys tech support and if so, how was the experience?

The best thing about LinkSys is their products. The worst thing about LinkSys is their customer/tech support. If you get a LinkSys and have any questions about it, ask here. It isn't likely to fail other than the chance of any electronics to arrive DOA and have to be replaced by the vendor.

You should have a firewall between your DSL modem and the rest of your network. You can get a modem with built in firewall and 8 port switch, or have the 8 port switch separate, or have the firewall with 8 port switch separate from the modem, or have three separate boxes. If you are just getting the equipment now, you might as well look for what is available in all three possible configurations.

The Netopia is probably a quite old model and it would not be worth $119 just to turn it into an old expensive hub when a new 100Mbps switch costs a lot less.

I would go for just a modem and a combination firewall/switch because sometimes the only way to tell if there is a problem with the DSL line or if it is with the modem is to swap in a different modem to see if it helps.

Linksys, Netgear, and D-Link all have ok reputations. I tend to lean toward Linksys only because I tend to stick with what is famliar and I've been using their products for quite a while.

-- sidney

Dan in Saint Louis
June 4th, 2005, 09:12 AM
The DSL provider, Qwest, offers several DSL modems:
...

Netgear, D-Link and Linksys do not appear on their list, oddly enough. Have you heard of any of these?
Those are the DSL converters (converts the data from the format by which it is carried on the phone line to the TCP/IP format used on Ethernet). They are usually called "modems" although some argue that is not what they really do (MOdulate/DEModulate).

The NetGear, D-Link, LinkSys etc products we have been discussing are routers: they take the TCP/IP data from the "modem" and "route" it to the station that requested it. Nice pictures at http://www.dslreports.com/pictures (http://www.dslreports.com/pictures) help explain it.

Yes, we already own the Netopia R3100 router. It can be converted into an ethernet hub, but for $119.
No point in that, even if they meant "router" instead of "hub". It will be less expensive to buy a new one.

My understanding is that switches are faster than hubs. I am not sure it is worth the money to convert the R3100 into a hub.
They are, but even more importantly the routers we are discussing act as firewalls via Network Address Translation.

I am not familiar with Linksys's products but would like to hear more about them if you recommend their equipment. Netgear offers something that to my untutored eye looks suitable, ProSafe VPN Firewall 8 w/8 Port 10/100 Switch Model FVS318 for $90 at Newegg.
Linksys has, I believe, been bought by Cisco - the Rolls Royce of Internet switch gear. When I think of them I think of big networks with hundreds, yea thousands, of stations. I would not hesitate to use them for 8 stations, of course, but I also think NetGear and D-Link would work well in that situation.

I am not familiar with the model you mention, but its specs as listed at NewEgg sound fine. It is essentially an 8-port version of my 4-port router.

Thank you again for your advice.Oh, this is fun! I don't often get to "talk tech"!

fhaber
June 4th, 2005, 10:19 AM
Both the Netgear and the Linksys 8-porters are good vanilla machines. Besides customer support (what can you expect for $50-80?), there's not much to differentiate them (unless you're an inveterate tweak like me). The only downsides I can think of are that both are older units, and are limited to 6-800kBPS on extremely fast cablemodem connections, which you won't get out in the sticks (g).

Tip: Don't waste a lot of time reading 2001-2 reviews. Both units have changed a fair bit under the hood. They're faster, and have better firmware than what was reviewed.

An interesting option is to buy at your local Radio Shack. You pay $15 more, and can return it if you get infant failure. This is important for us city rats who have to rent a car to get to those big box stores that America loves.

Gary Maltzen
June 4th, 2005, 11:55 AM
Linda,

Is your connection only supporting outgoing requests, not making internal web/email/etc servers available to the public?

Note that Qwest is supplying you a router, not just a DSL modem.

The Cisco 67x series were workhorses for a long time although a CBOS upgrade about a year ago killed the ability to act as a public DNS server (it modifies all returned A records to show your external IP)

One friend had two different Actiontec (1524?) routers supplied by Qwest that died mysteriously. He now has an Actiontec (-wg: Wireless-G support) that has been working well for about a year.