Macintosh Home Networking

Routers - software or hardware?

A DSL/cable modem router acts as an intermediary between your local network of computers and the rest of the Internet. Usually, router is also a firewall, protecting the computers on your home network from attack by hackers.

I use IPNetRouter (a software router on a MacIIci with two ethernet cards) and am happy with it. I am also testing a DSL/cable modem router. The jury is still out for me on this, but read what others have to say:

Arguement for software router, by Peter Schiel, author of IPNetRouter

Low end hardware routers are ideal for some users, but they also have their limitations. Consider the following:
  • Performance: Low end hardware routers may be underpowered due to their cost driven design. I've heard from one IPNR customer who returned one of these low end boxes because it was so much slower than IPNR. If you have a relatively slow dialup connection, any router should handle this, but if you are pushing a cable modem to the limit, some of these units can't always keep up. One customer reported his $1500 commercial router would choke under heavy loads that IPNR handled nicely.
  • Flexibility: IPNetRouter is not limited to one configuration. You can route or multihome any number of OT compatible data link providers limited only by your Macs hardware. These include Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, PPP, PPPoE, LocalTalk (MacIP), ATM, Token Ring, and AirPort Wireless. Software updates are quick and generally free (all to date). IPNR is fundamentally a utility for configuring TCP/IP under Macintosh Open Transport. It affords a number of solutions that low cost Internet sharing boxes do not (IP filtering, inbound port mapping, unnumbered interface, proxy ARP, multiple public IPs, VPN,...).
  • Mac Friendly: IPNetRouter is developed and tested for the Mac. The DHCP Server works with all Mac clients. You don't have to restart DHCP clients if the gateway suffers a power disruption. IPNR supports QuickTime streaming and ICMP translation. We support Mac users.
Jeff Luszcz's reasons for using a hardware router
  1. The hardware router I use uses much less power than a dedicated computer, my second most important consideration after security.
  2. Its much quieter (silent in fact), even a fan-less iMac is louder
  3. I don't have time to become a security expert. I play around with Linux, but don't trust my configurations enough to have my important data being protected by them.
  4. The blinken lights are sure cool to watch!
Marc A Sarrel's reasons for using a hardware router
  1. smaller and lighter
  2. more energy efficient
  3. quieter (no fan or disk noise)
  4. more reliable (fewer crashes)
  5. quicker to boot (seconds vs minutes for my Mac 7100)
  6. cheaper to replace if economically unrepairable


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