SoftRouter Plus -- a TCP/IP router designed for the small office or enterprise.

By ServerWatch Staff (Send Email)
Posted Jun 5, 2002


Vicomsoft's SoftRouter Plus transforms a computer connected to the Internet (whether via a modem, DSL line, cable modem, or direct Internet connection) into a router serving one or more computers on a network. While turning a $1,000 computer into the equivalent of a $400 router may not appeal to some enterprises, in certain situations SoftRouter Plus can be a useful and even cost-effective way to get the most out of limited Internet connectivity.

To describe SoftRouter Plus merely as a router is to do a disservice to a fairly sophisticated piece of software. SoftRouter Plus does more than just route requests from networked computers: Its DHCP server and a caching server enable the product to act as an internal network server.

Vicomsoft's SoftRouter Plus transforms a computer connected to the Internet (whether via a modem, DSL line, cable modem, or direct Internet connection) into a router serving one or more computers on a network

Installation of the five-user demo on our server presented no problems. The process was fairly automated, and it wasn't too difficult to specify network parameters.

SoftRouter Plus actually incorporates 15 functions, that of: network address translation for Internet connection sharing, a TCP/IP router, a Web caching server for accelerated throughput, a DHCP server for administration, DNS caching for faster access, a local DNS server, a remote access server, and firewall security and multihosting to run multiple virtual Web sites.

Most of these components are fairly straightforward in what they offer. The firewall kicks in as soon as SoftRouter Plus is installed. The TCP server locator shows exactly what TCP servers are active on the LAN at any given time, so there is no need to manually probe individual IP addresses. There are two levels of access controls. Global host access rights restrict any traffic through the SoftRouter Plus installation and install controls for accessing Internet sites or restricting access to remote networks. Host access rights restrict access through certain connections to or from SoftRouter Plus, allowing restrictions to be placed on certain users or certain networks. Protocol blocking allows users to define which Internet services, such as FTP, e-mail, or Usenet newsgroups, are accessible to other users. Finally, the DHCP server allows client machines to obtain their TCP/IP network configuration information from SoftRouter Plus instead of through a manual installation. It can distribute up to 1,024 client addresses simultaneously.

SoftRouter Plus' Administrator Console enables the application to be administered from anywhere on a network — from the local computer or a remote connection. Administration functions, such as the power to monitor routing traffic, can be delegated to other network users without giving them the power to actually change any settings. (It would be handy if the power to change some user-defined settings could be delegated as well.) Even more useful is the application's capability to specify where the administration can take place: on the computer running SoftRouter Plus (which essentially disables remote administration), on the same local subnets as SoftRouter Plus, a specified range of IP addresses, or on all IP addresses. Access privileges to the administrator console are protected by a user name/password combination.

SoftRouter Plus' cache feature is potentially a useful tool, but only for those installations that have given some thought to exactly how they will be using the Web. If users in a given installation will be accessing the same amount of relatively set Web pages, a Web cache can be useful. The cache will store the page locally on its first hit and then send it much faster to the next network user that requests it. If the users in a network plan on accessing many pages with static content (such as stock quotes or sports scores) then a cache server will not do much good.

Remote users can dial into the SoftRouter server because of its remote access server. Of course, this is not necessary for enterprises with Windows NT servers, but it does prove useful for those running their network from a Windows 95/98 or Macintosh machine.

In addition to serving as a router for a single Internet connection, SoftRouter Plus can be used as a pure TCP/IP router, connecting one LAN with another, connecting two different types of LANs, or connecting LANs to WANs. Enterprises using Macintoshes can use SoftRouter Plus to connect older LocalTalk networks or MacIP networks to other networks. SoftRouter Plus supports Routing Information Protocol (RIP)and includes the power to manually define routing tables.

SoftRouter Plus is an excellent tool for getting the most out of a limited Internet connection. It's perfect for small offices that must share a single Internet connection for e-mail and some light Web browsing. And, as the needs of the office expand (as is inevitable with Internet access), SoftRouter Plus has the types of tools necessary for managing the growing network.

Pros: Easy to install, Offers remote administration, Can be used as a pure TCP/IP router, Features a DHCP server and a cache, Available on both Windows and Mac platforms

Cons: Remote administration permissions could be improved

Version Reviewed: v6.5
Reviewed by: kreichard@internet.com
Last Updated: 4/4/01
Date of Original Review: 5/26/00

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