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Introduction

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ADSL is without doubt the only choice for home users or small businesses wanting fast, reliable and cheap Internet access. However, this ‘always on’ type of connection brings with it a host of troubles not least in terms of security, so a decent firewall is a must-have purchase as well. You’ll want to share this connection among multiple users so your PCs need to be networked. And what about wireless? With this in the equation you can share an Internet connection among all your family or staff without having to worry about cable related clutter. Furthermore, businesses wanting to provide secure remote access to company network resources over the Internet are increasingly looking at VPNs (virtual private networks) as the safest way to deliver this.

You could try bolting on individual components to provide these facilities but this will be expensive, time consuming and difficult to manage; so why not get one device that does it all? In this group test we take a look at ten ADSL routers that provide everything you’re likely to need in one box. Don’t bother with an ADSL modem – these all have one integrated. A four-port Ethernet switch is also standard so you can easily connect other PCs to your Internet-enabled network and you’re not limited to four systems either as you can cascade more hubs or switches from the router to increase the port count.

Firewall software products may be the cheapest solution for keeping unwanted visitors at bay but we’ve found their constant nagging about potential security breaches a real turn-off. If you want to get tough with hackers a hardware-based stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewall is the only way to go and most of these routers have one. Designed to inspect all incoming data from the Internet they only let in what you requested and they won’t pester you with questions all the time either.

Wireless networking is an ideal cable-free way of linking users together and these routers all include an internal access point. However, the older 11Mbit/sec 802.11b standard may not be fast enough so every one of these units supports the latest 54Mbit/sec 802.11g specification as well and will work happily with both types of clients.

War-chalking and drive-by hacking is a big concern so 64 and 128bit WEP encryption are both on offer. However, these standards have been proven to be flaky so you’ll find many of the routers on review support the very latest and much more secure WPA (Wi-Fi Protected Access) standard as well.

But there’s so much more to these routers, as you can block local access to lists of web sites, only allow specific PCs access to the wireless component and all will look after local IP address assignments. Ease of installation is a big selling point so you should be able to install them with the minimum of fuss. There’s more good news as these routers don’t cost a bundle either with some coming in at less than £100 so read on to find the ideal one-box solution to all your networking and Internet needs.

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