Free as a Bird
If you’re on the lookout for a wireless router for your small business network, the NETGEAR WNR2000 is a good place to start. This router is a reliable, feature-rich product that offers superior functionality at a surprisingly modest price. And not only is it easy to set up, but it automatically checks for downloads and installs firmware revisions.
The WNR2000 comes with all of the standard amenities one would expect in a wireless router, including a 4-port 10/100 switch, 802.11b/g/n support, network address translation, port forwarding and triggering, DMZ support, remote management and logging. The WNR2000 also features a technology called RangeMax, which boosts the unit’s overall signal range by 50 percent or more when a client connects using a RangeMax-compatible NETGEAR adapter.
While this alone makes for a competitive package, given its relatively low price, the WNR2000’s real surprises are in its ease of use and capabilities that go beyond these common expectations.
Connecting to clients is painless, thanks to NETGEAR’S Push ‘N’ Connect technology, which lets users establish a secure, encrypted Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)-standard wireless connection between a Wi-Fi-enabled computer and the router with just a few simple steps.
To connect a machine, users simply scan for access points using their wireless software, just as they would with any other access point. Once they locate the NETGEAR device, they simply select it, and press the Push ‘N’ Connect button on the front of the router. When the button is pressed, the router passes a security token to the connecting machine to complete the negotiation. The connecting machine is online, and no further configuration is required.
The WNR2000 can also be configured to automatically check for and install firmware updates upon login. This feature is leaps and bounds ahead of some routers, which require that .bin files be downloaded and applied using flashing utilities.
Why It Works for IT
Not only does this router offer all the standard features of its competitors at a surprisingly reasonable price, but it also boasts several unique features that make administration easier and network setup a breeze. If a problem does crop up, NETGEAR offers 24x7 customer service and a full one-year warranty on this router.
One particularly outstanding feature the WNR2000 offers is the ability to levy network traffic controls on connected machines. With this feature, IT departments can control which websites are blocked on an end user’s machine while the user is on the network. Administrators can even set a schedule as to when users are allowed to access blocked sites. While not an all-inclusive Internet-filtering solution, this can help keep users off of prohibited sites.
While exciting in concept, the premise of features such as NETGEAR’s patented Push ‘N’ Connect and proprietary RangeMax technologies is inherently flawed because most mobile end users (especially enterprise clients) will have reasonably up-to-date notebook computers that already include integrated non-NETGEAR network chip sets.
Because NETGEAR currently does not offer a mobile chip set that supports these proprietary technologies, users will need aftermarket cards plugged into their already Wi-Fi-enabled machines to realize these features. This is neither logical nor practical in most cases. This means these two technologies will most benefit the minority of teleworkers who use desktop computers — which do not have wireless network cards — making the purchase of a compatible NETGEAR card less redundant.
Jason Holbert is a Tier II desktop support technician at Harcros Chemicals, a chemical distributor in Kansas City, Kan.