As a network administrator I have the opportunities to work with a lot of networking equipment. Long ago I lost track of all the firewalls and routers that I configured. The list would read as a laundry list of equipment and include Cisco, Sonicwall, custom-built Linux servers and IPCop. The cost of this hardware can be intimidating, especially for the home user.
For my home network, for years I would buy a reasonably priced wireless routers which could be purchased and Fry’s, Best Buy or any of the retail stores in the area. I don’t recall ever purchasing a router online as typically you need it to replace the previous router which just failed.
I would buy “all in one” wireless routers which would be highly recommend by friends or coworkers. Once installed, they would work great for about 6 months and then fail. I would RMA the routers, and when the replacement arrived I would give it away, simply because I can’t do my job without my internet connection. The last router I purchased was a dual channel wireless N router, and sure enough, after about 6 months, it again failed. I noticed on this failure, that they way it failed was the key to my problem.
I noticed, that the first thing to fail would be the wireless connection. It would randomly drop all the wireless clients in the house and the throughput across the router would drop to a crawl, and I would see extremely high latency. The routers would then be extremely hot to the touch. Keep in mind, that my routers sit in a well ventilated server rack. When I restarted the router, it would boot up fine, and the symptoms would return once the port forwarding rules loaded. I did have a lot of port forwarding going on for a variety of services, but it didn’t seem excessive and the routers web interface would allow much more.
When my last wireless router failed, I drove down to Fry’s again and purchased a Netgear Prosafe VPN Firewall FVS318v3. This is a SOHO router and doesn’t offer wireless. I was insistent that I not have wireless in this router. The router does have a VPN component built-in, but I don’t utilize this feature for my purposes. When I opened the packaging, I was immediately happy. After I threw away the instructions, I noticed the chassis is metal, not plastic, and it has a small cooling fan built into it. After about five minutes worth of work, I had the router plugged in, configured, and completely up and running. The most important issue for me, is that after almost two years, I have never had to restart it, and it has never failed for me.
The router I replaced was a Cisco Linksys Dual-Band WRT610N. When I purchased the router, it retailed for about $200, so it wasn’t an inexpensive. I came to the conclusion, that between the dual band wireless, and a hefty set of port forwarding rules I was simply overheating the routers. I still use the Cisco, but it only provides wireless for the home office, and from time to time still needs a reboot.
Should this router fail for me, then my next step is to build an carry out an IPCop solution. I would prefer not to go this route due to the increase power demands and costs of running a computer as a router. I have run IPCop servers for three years with no downtime, issue or rebooting, so I am very comfortable with that solution.