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WinRoute Pro -- A proxy server with built-in router, firewall, and mail services
Note: WinRoute Pro was owned and maintained by Tiny Software at the time of this review. Kerio Technologies has owned the product since Feb. 1, 2002.WinRoute Pro aims to be a near-total networking administration solution -- with coverage for routing issues, security (firewall), a proxy/cache server, and mail support.
Tiny Software may have chosen its name to be ironic, but whatever its logic, the name is ill-fitting as a company. WinRoute Pro is anything but tiny in scope. But what's in a name?
WinRoute Pro aims to be a near-total networking administration solution -- with coverage for routing issues, security (firewall), a proxy/cache server, and mail support. What's more, Tiny Software hits the target center, pulling together these disparate functions into a sophisticated but navigable interface.
Let's be clear: This is not software for the networking amateur. The vast majority of configuration parameters and options that WinRoute Pro offers require an experienced understanding of how networks operate. Looking at the big picture, WinRoute Pro positions itself at the boundary between an internal network (LAN, intranet -- you take your pick of whatever name is in fashion) and the external network (e.g. the Internet). This boundary is occupied by a computer that possesses a connection to both the Internet and the internal network, whether by multiple interface cards or simply clever configurations. The Internet connection may be over standard telephone lines, or an Ethernet-based connection, such as cable, DSL, or T1.
WinRoute Pro is modular -- the "engine" is the core of the product and performs the actual routing, filtering, and so on. This engine runs on the host machine, the machine that sees both the Internet and local network. Administration and configuration of WinRoute Pro can potentially take place from any machine that can see the host, since the interface is separated from the engine -- an increasingly popular and wise design choice. Given this architecture, WinRoute Pro can provide a host of possible uses. Perhaps the easiest to discern is Internet sharing. Using its Network Address Translation (NAT) routing capabilities, WinRoute Pro can easily allow any or all local machines to access the Internet via a single public IP address owned by the host machine.
Simple Internet sharing is only the beginning of what WinRoute Pro has to offer. The product's real strengths come in the level of sophistication with which users can mediate the access of machines inside the network with machines on the Internet. Routing capabilities let users direct incoming requests for particular protocols or ports to specific internal machines. For example, all incoming requests for TCP port 21 (the FTP protocol) can be routed to a specific machine designated as the file server. In the vein of a firewall, users can similarly screen incoming requests and reject or drop them if they fail to meet certain criteria. The "certain criteria" concept itself opens a whole world of possibilities, enabling users to analyze incoming data based on its destination port and protocol, or originating address.
Beyond managing data coming into the network, with equal sophistication users can practice triage on data going out from the internal network -- potentially useful for prohibiting certain machines from certain types of Internet activity. For example, a particular internal machine (maybe one used by visiting customers) could be limited to Web browsing alone by allowing packets destined only for TCP port 80 from leaving that machine.
Managing different profiles for individual internal machines is made easier by WinRoute Pro's capability to support named groups of parameters, almost like an e-mail client's address book. Users can group together IP filters and timing schedules, for use in specific configuration instances.
All in all, WinRoute Pro has big shoes to fill -- managing network activity at very low levels can be a jungle of numbers. Through its intuitive GUI, Tiny Software seems to have done as best as is possible in organizing detailed controls in conceptually appropriate ways. Furthermore, the provided documentation is thorough and wisely includes many example scenarios and the configuration that follow -- an excellent teaching tool, both for use of the WinRoute Pro software and understanding network management.
WinRoute Pro is not a small application. It carries a 1.21 MB disk footprint and many options not even touched on in this small space. And WinRoute doesn't come with a small price tag, especially for networks larger than 5 machines. But this is a commercial-grade product for Windows-based networks, and as such it lives up to its ambitions.
Pros: Jack-of-all trades for network management with a high level of success, interface nicely pulls together many disparate issues into a conceptual flow, flexible level of detail control depending on how hands-on the users wants to be
Cons: Intrinsically complex subject area not for the novice network administrator, may be too sophisticated for the typical SOHO environment, potentially high price tag
Version Reviewed: 4.1
Reviewed by: Aaron Weiss
Last Updated: 2/4/02
Date of Original Review: 9/14/00