Date: August 19th, 2002
I have to confess that until recently I had never heard of a company called Nexland or their Internet Security boxes (ISB). When I received an e-mail from Nexland inviting me to check out their products my curiosity was piqued. A look at the website revealed a number of interesting Internet Security appliances a.k.a. gateway/router/firewall devices. Further browsing reveals that Alienware, a distributor of high-quality custom gaming computers, picked Nexland appliances as their ISB of choice. Also of interest is the fact that Symantec’s hardware firewalls are actually nothing else than Nexland devices painted yellow. These facts paired with the feature list was reason enough to spend some quality time with Nexland’s products. Nexland was so kind as to provide me with a Pro800turbo box for closer inspection.
The package contained the device, a power adapter, a Cat5 cable, a serial cable, a quickstart guide, a user guide, and a CD. Installation of the device using the quickstart guide was a breeze. Configure your PC to use DHCP, plug your cable or DSL modem into the WAN port, plug your PC into one of the LAN ports – done. I was online within a few minutes.
What does all that mean in English?
The Pro800turbo offers a number of basic functions that most ISBs offer these days. It shares your broadband online connection with multiple machines on your private home or office network, serves IP addresses to your private network via DHCP, and protects the network with the built-in firewall.
What sets the Pro800turbo apart from other, often cheaper devices, are several advanced features. For starters, it boasts a very high throughput rate of supposedly over 9.5Mbps, meaning data is transferred through the box at very high speeds.
The next feature is the presence of two WAN ports. This means you can connect two broadband connections, e.g. two DSL lines or a cable and a DSL modem, etc. to the ISB. It takes advantage of both connections, combining bandwidth into a very fast data connection. In case of one line failing, the ISB switches immediately 100% to the other connection, continuing service without interruption. This is obviously a very valuable feature for networks where online uptime is critical. To top it off, the ISB even has a serial port on the back, allowing you to connect a third modem in form of an external analog dial-up or an ISDN modem as a backup in case both broadband connections fail.
This ISB also features multisession VPN pass-through, allowing multiple VPN connections from machines on the private network through the ISB to common VPN gateways such as Cisco or Checkpoint. This feature makes it valuable for home offices or small remote offices where employees use VPN clients for secure connections to the company network. Other routers offer only one or no VPN pass-through.
Another advanced feature is the ability to monitor router traffic and performance via SNMP with a SNMP client like MRTG. Useful for network admins who want to keep their pulse on network performance.
The DMZ function allows you to expose one machine on your private network to the public Internet. This can be useful for testing purposes, or to run a server. The Pro800turbo also offers the ability to run virtual servers. This means you can run for example a web or FTP server on your private network and make it accessible from the outside world by forwarding incoming traffic on a certain port to a certain machine on your LAN.