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When it comes to choosing a small business router there’s no doubt that’s there’s plenty of choice. In reality though, when you’re paying less than £100 they all offer virtually the same features. Cisco’s latest Series 800 range of Integrated Services Routers (ISRs) are designed for those offices and mobile workers that want more – a lot more – from their broadband security router and are prepared to pay for it.
The 877W on review is part of a massive ISR family launched this year by Cisco that aims to offer a single solution for data, security and wireless services with the higher end 2800 and 3800 products adding voice and video services to the mix. The Series 800 family is the entry-point and a key feature is they run the same code as their bigger brothers so you get a remarkable level of features.
Traditionally, initial installation of all Cisco products requires some knowledge of its IOS (Internetworking Operating System). It’s well known that although the IOS is a powerful tool it’s far too complex for IT staff in small businesses to use. The RJ-45 port for a serial connection is still provided but the entire range of ISRs – including the 877W - are designed to be managed via Cisco’s new SDM (security device manager) web based interface.
Initial contact is via the router’s SDM Express web interface. This provides a wizard for securing administrative access, initial LAN and WAN configuration and basic access to settings such as the firewall, NAT and routing. Next, you install Cisco’s Java-based SDM utility on a PC and the routine will also load the full SDR firmware on the router’s flash memory as well. The SDM interface opens with a complete summary of the router’s status, the available features and a rundown of the condition of each one. To get Internet access up and running you need to set up a new interface and this is helped along nicely by a wizard. Another wizard helps with setting up basic firewall protection and three policies are available with the highest blocking off all unsolicited inbound access, checking web and email traffic and even blocking IM and P2P traffic.
An advanced firewall wizard helps create DMZs for specific interfaces. In both firewall scenarios ACLs (access control lists) are created during configuration but you can add you own custom rules for a wide range of predefined services. There’s much more as the router’s application inspection capabilities enable you to create rules to inspect email, IM and P2P apps, add URL filtering locally or specify an external filtering server and generate alerts when traffic types such as multimedia, FTP and SIP are detected. This also enables sophisticated QoS (quality of service) to be applied to real-time traffic such as VoIP or business critical data.
One area where Cisco is a tad vague is anti-virus measures as you need to use Cisco’s NAC (network admission control) to implement them. NAC is designed to query endpoints such as PCs and notebooks and assess their ‘posture’ on the network, which in this case extends to checking whether they are running anti-virus software.