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Netopia R9100 Router Review

Netopia R9100 Router Review - PCSTATS
Abstract: Broadband technologies such as cable and DSL modems are becoming more popular than ever before, due to their high-speed access and always on connections.
 85% Rating:   
Filed under: Networking Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: Netopia Jul 14 2000   D. Deveaux  
Home > Reviews > Networking > Netopia R9100

Features Explained



The R9100 contains several features which may be confusing for those who aren't familiar with the technology. As such, this section will explain some of the technologies present in the particular router.

In order to communicate across a network of more than two people, there has to be a way to send packets (pieces of information) to the appropriate computer. The easiest and most cost-effective way to do this is through the use of a hub. A hub takes the information sent from one computer and broadcasts it to all other connected computers, which can lead to a rather large amount of network traffic, depending on how many computers are connected at any given time.

To prevent this, a switch can be used. Unlike hubs, switches can actually determine where packets of information need to go on the network, and send them to the right location without having to do much broadcasting at all. To do this, it uses a unique code that is burned into every network card called a Media Access Control (MAC) address. Since each MAC address is different, the switch has no problems determining where a packet must go, once it determines the MAC addresses of all connected computers.

Hubs and switches are fine for inter-network communication, but what about communicating with other networks? This is where a router comes in. Using a protocol called RIP (Router Information Protocol), routers are able to determine the best path to send packets from one network to another. If you've ever tried using the TRACERT (Trace Route) command in Win9x, you'll see the route that is being taken to get to a particular location. For example, if you type "tracert www.PCstats.com" at a command prompt, you'll see all the routers that are used to connect to our website from your location.

In the R9100's case, it is mainly designed to pass along packets from your internal network to the Internet. Back in my article on building a home LAN, I mentioned a few specific IP address ranges that are considered "non-routable." In essence, these addresses (such as 192.168.x.x) are ignored by routers, so information will not be transferred past them.

While on the subject of IP addresses, another feature of the R9100 is the built-in DHCP server. DHCP, or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, is a way of assigning IP addresses to a group of computers. A DHCP server has a list of IP addresses that are leased to other clients on the network. The R9100 allows you to set both the IP address ranges, and the length of time clients may use an IP address before having to renew it (lease time).

So how can the router be used to actually "share" an Internet connection? This is done through a process called Network Address Translation (NAT). When using NAT, the router automatically "translates" any internal IP address into a single IP address that is visible outside the network. For example, if you ISP assigns you an IP address of 20.0.0.2, then the router will automatically convert all address information to that IP. Not only does this allow the sharing of an Internet connection (as an ISP will only see the outgoing IP address that it assigns), but it also provides an extra layer of security. With NAT enabled, any address inside the network is not directly accessible outside the network. There is a way around this for corporate users however, and it is called Virtual Private Networking (VPN).

VPN provides a secure connection for remote users who need access to LAN resources. Unlike traditional dial-up connections, VPN works over a highly-secure communication link over the Internet. This makes VPNs a fairly cost-effective solution for business travellers who are often visiting remote sites, yet still require access to important documents available on the office network. The R9100 supports various encryption standards, and can function very well with the included Dial-Up Networking VPN support found in Win9x and NT. In addition, the router can replace a dedicated Windows NT server for providing VPN access.

Finally, to provide a high secure networking environment, the R9100 has a built-in firewall. Firewalls work on the principle of filter sets, which define what can leave the LAN, and what can enter. Incoming filters affect what can enter the LAN from an outside network, while outgoing filters affect what can leave the LAN onto an outside network. Using filter sets, it is fairly easy to block access to certain programs such as ICQ or Napster, as you can tell the firewall to block access to the ports these programs use for communication.

Now that some of the more advanced terminology relating to the R9100 has been discussed, it's time to see how easy the router was to install and configure.

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Contents of Article: Netopia R9100
 Pg 1.  Netopia R9100 Router Review
 Pg 2.  — Features Explained
 Pg 3.  Installation
 Pg 4.  Effectiveness

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