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Just as a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, a network is only as secure as its most vulnerable node. Given the increasing prevalence of teleworking in businesses of all types, it’s hardly surprising that corporate IT departments are now broadening their responsibilities to include the securing of company employees’ home networks. This often includes providing them with wireless broadband routers.
With any scalable-solution purchase, decision-makers must strike a balance between functionality and cost. If your company is looking to achieve that balance with its wireless broadband routers, you may want to consider the Linksys WRT54GL.
The WRT54GL offers many of the features you would expect from a home broadband router at a fraction of the cost of many competing products. It boasts a generous four-port, 10/100-megabit full-duplex switch for wired equipment and supports encrypted Wireless-G and Wireless-B connectivity for Wi-Fi clients.
This router also is highly customizable and can be configured for use with many common technologies, such as port forwarding and triggering, DMZ hosting and VPN pass-through. This flexibility makes the device a smart choice for business purposes, but it also leaves home users wanting for little, because access can easily be tailored for gaming, remote PC connectivity and peer-to-peer networking.
The WRT54GL is relatively painless to deploy. The unit’s initial configuration can be accomplished either by having the end user run the supplied setup CD or by having a savvier hand launch a browser window and navigate to a graphical user interface in which even the most granular device settings can be configured. This gives end users the freedom to take the “do it yourself” approach without sacrificing the capability for direct access by tech support.
Through the years, Linksys’ BEF and WRT models have maintained the same core, easy-to-understand user interface and assign-IP address schemes that their earliest products used. This consistency means that the router you support today looks, feels and drives the same as the one you might have set up nearly 10 years ago, even though it uses newer technology and has updated features. It also means fewer growing pains for your users and easier support calls for your help-desk staff.
The WRT54GL has everything you need to secure a user’s home network. Network address translation can hide anything behind the external interface, and standard 64-bit and 128-bit WEP encryption/WPA/WPA2 support allows users to quickly encrypt wireless traffic inside the network.
Security can be further enhanced by enabling Media Access Control (MAC) address filtering, ensuring that only approved devices are able to connect to the network. Additionally, logging is available for both security and diagnostic purposes and can prove invaluable when troubleshooting connectivity issues.
The WRT54GL doesn’t use 802.11n technology, which somewhat dates the unit, but the limitation shouldn’t really impact most home users. Connecting Wireless-N chipsets will simply throttle back to the router’s 54-megabits-per-second 802.11g speed upon negotiation. Because most private broadband connections are still well under 10Mbps, there will be more than enough overhead for full-speed Internet traffic. In fact, users will need Wireless-N’s higher throughput only if they perform a lot of machine-to-machine file transfers on the local network — a relatively uncommon practice.
The WRT54GL also lacks an accessible standby button, a common feature in other routers. It’s not unusual these days for users to disable wireless equipment when they’re away from home — or even overnight. Standby buttons offer the convenience of leaving the router connected to the Internet while blocking actual traffic to and from it. They are especially useful for DSL connections, which typically take longer to renegotiate.