Best router for a small company?
September 11, 2007 9:27 AM   Subscribe

What's the best router for a small business?

I'm looking for a new router. My current router (linksys) is connected to two switches (60-70 users) for my DSL connection. My Linksys constantly needs to be rebooted.
posted by Macboy to Technology (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think there's a 'best router' for small business. It depends on what kind of IT staff you have, what kinds of applications you're running, what your budget is, etc.

My default recommendation is generally just the linksys wrt54g, because it's cheap, easy to admin and generally works. If you're finding that it's 'not enough', you should probably talk to a network admin in detail about your needs.

One thing you can try, depending on the model and version of linksys you have, is the dd-wrt firmware. It's more stable and has lots more features.

Just make sure you know what you're doing, because you can brick it if you aren't careful.
posted by empath at 9:31 AM on September 11, 2007

I'd recommend the Cisco 871 as a bare minimum. My small office (20 people) used to use a d-link SOHO router, it kept crashing, so we bought a Cisco 851. For your size office, the 871 would be better. If you've got more money, definitely go higher than the 871, though. Routers are one of those common chokepoints.
posted by fvox13 at 9:34 AM on September 11, 2007

Avoid d-link and belkin.
posted by phaedon at 9:35 AM on September 11, 2007

I was going to recommend a Cisco, but the problem with a Cisco is that you need a "Cisco guy" on staff or on call. It can end up costing a lot more money than you expect.

You can get by with a Netgear, D-Link or sonicwall in lots of cases, it really just depends on what your network is like.
posted by empath at 9:36 AM on September 11, 2007

Response by poster: Empath -
I have the wrt54g and its been nothing but a headache. Has anyone tried the new Linksys RVS4000?
posted by Macboy at 9:39 AM on September 11, 2007

Avoid the < $100 consumer junk routers like the linksys wrt54g, cheap d-link and belkin stuff. they're just not reliable enough, both in hardware and software. rebooting a router=pissed off>
For 60-70 users I'd expect to pay several hundred dollars for a router with SNMP management. I don't know that market at all though, so no advice there.

An inbetween solution is something like the Netgear FWG114P, which for $115 seems to get you more robust hardware than the consumer junk. Can't tell you if the software is any good for 70 users, but I'm using it at home with three computers and it's been good. I've also gotten recommendations for the Draytek routers like the 2910G, at about $300. I've never tried one though.
posted by Nelson at 9:44 AM on September 11, 2007

I've been using an RVS4000 for about a month and have had zero problems. I'm usually the only user, however, so I can't speak to how it would handle 60-70 at once.
posted by sanko at 9:47 AM on September 11, 2007

You don't really need a "cisco guy" for a lot of their smaller routers, as they have a fairly easy to use web configurator. Anyone who has any business installing a router should be able to figure it out. If not, they'res always gurus on usenet who are more than willing to help out.
posted by fvox13 at 9:53 AM on September 11, 2007

Best answer: If you have 60 or 70 users I think you need something more serious than a 4-port SOHO 'plastic box.' I think you're into Cisco territory. (Also: you have 60+ users on your DSL connection? Ouch.)

If you don't want to go the Cisco route, which can be understandable (sometimes it feels less like buying a product than joining a religion, complete with its own sacred texts, priesthood, and mysterious artifacts), there are semi-commodity COTS alternatives. ImageStream is one example. (Look at the Envoy ones specifically.) Generally they are just Linux machines in funny-looking boxes with specialized software and slots for multiple hot-swap NICs. If you have some "Linux people" but no "Cisco people" on staff, it might be a better choice.

Alternatively, you could also get a server with multiple NICs and set it up as a router yourself; at sub-T1 speeds there's nothing really special about a router that distinguishes it from a regular PC. (Although you want to get one that's designed for 24/7 operation, not some old clunker desktop.) Two GigE ports to feed your switches and a 10/100 port going to your DSL and you'd be set. There are lots of 'router distributions' around; I'd recommend ZeroShell.

Using commodity gear has a lot of advantages, particularly if you're a growing business. It would be easy to add web acceleration/caching or VPN capabilities to it down the road, without shelling out extra money now or having to repurchase hardware later. And if you decide to move to something else, all you have is a spare x86 server, not some specialized box.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:01 AM on September 11, 2007

Go with the cheaper Cisco or if money is really tight put DD-WRT on your linksys and play with various configurations.
posted by damn dirty ape at 10:13 AM on September 11, 2007

For 60-70 people and a couple mbit of DSL bandwidth I would recommend a Cisco 871 series or an 1841 modular router.

You can see the models comparison of the ISR series here:

I would go with the 1841, it's certainly more expensive than your standard routers you buy at the local big box store, but it's MILES beyond in capabilities, supportability and longevity.
posted by iamabot at 10:14 AM on September 11, 2007

We got a cheaper Cisco on ebay, which was top. It's not that hard to figure out, and was much better than the failing Linksys it replaced.
posted by bonaldi at 10:25 AM on September 11, 2007

Response by poster: yes 60+ users on a business DSL is ouch! I've been preaching for a partical T1 to no avail. Thanks for all the great advice.
posted by Macboy at 10:52 AM on September 11, 2007

It depends on what kind of features you want. We've got about 40 users and went through this about 2 years ago. We also needed a firewall and vpn. After getting and messing with the lowest-end Cisco and SonicWall we could find, we ended up with a D-Link DFL-700, mainly because it was so much easier to configure. The Cisco especially was a PITA to configure, even with its (then new) web interface.
posted by edjusted at 10:56 AM on September 11, 2007

Response by poster: Hey odinstream -

I work for a Lativan company in the states. Small world! I'll check out your software.
posted by Macboy at 1:10 PM on September 11, 2007

Be careful of that partial T1 -- slow slow slow. A full T1, split among that many users, would be painful. Remember, the *full* T1 is only 1.54Mbit which is quite probably slower than your existing DSL (except for being symmetric, but then - how much are you uploading anyway?).

I would look at business cable - lightpath/optimum has a good range of options from 10mbit on up (if your building is wired for it).
posted by devbrain at 2:45 PM on September 11, 2007

Best answer: I'm going to suggest that with 60-70 users, you look at disk based security appliances, instead of simple routers, with basic firewalls, for several reasons. First, to do meaningful stateful packet inspection for 60-70 simultaneous connections, you may need a lot more CPU and memory resources than Small Office/Home Office routers like the LinkSys WRT54G contain. Second, particularly if you're having bandwidth issues on your DSL line, you need to be doing some traffic shaping and local caching on your end, to maximize use of your DSL link, thus reducing latency. For example, if you have 60-70 Windows clients using Microsoft NTP servers to keep their desktop clocks corrected, you can easily point them all to a local NTP service running on a security appliance, and keep all that traffic from ever hitting your DSL link. You can run a local DNS slave on your security appliance, thus vastly reducing the amount of DNS lookup traffic that goes across your DSL link, while giving your users much snappier DNS query response. You can run a Squid cache, which can quickly drop your overall bandwidth requirements significantly, by keeping local copies of common Web page elements available on fast local disk (you'd be surprised how much quicker your network will feel with a Squid storing CNN, ESPN, C|Net, etc. headers automatically, as it will pull them down once, whenever the cache copy needs to be updated, and feed them thousands of times to all your clients. Big bandwidth savings, and a much snappier network!) Third, you'll get important management capabilities, like domain whitelisting, that can be important in keeping your workplace from being used as a site for various nefarious activities which can be come major costs and headaches.
posted by paulsc at 12:55 AM on September 12, 2007

Also want to add WSUS to paulsc's list. That along with a web proxy will yield pretty significant bandwidth savings. I'm assuming you've limited/banned stuff like p2p, video/audio streaming, run comprehensive antivirus checks, update antivirus locally, etc.
posted by damn dirty ape at 2:57 PM on September 12, 2007

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