Home and small office networks are getting more complex, and eventually the basic routers supplied by ISPs as part of broadband bundles simply run out of steam. This is when models like the Netgear ProSafe FVS318G VPN Firewall start to look attractive, offering industrial-strength security plus more and faster LAN ports at a reasonable price.
It’s an eight-port Gigabit Ethernet router with some advanced security features, aimed mainly at small businesses. But given its reasonable price, ease of use and broadband-friendly features, it would also make a solid upgrade for a home or home office network. Its support for up to five concurrent IPSec VPN tunnels (it can be used for either remote VPN clients or for site-to-site VPN connections) makes it particularly suited to telecommuting or branch office setups.
Its case design differs radically from that of its predecessor, the 100Mbps FVS318. All the ports and status LEDs are now at the front with just the DC power socket and a Kensington lock slot at the back, and the case is a solidly-built grey metal affair with air vents at the sides and wall-mounting holes underneath.
The browser-based user interface is logically organised in a horizontal tabbed layout and there’s good in-depth help for each setting. There are also links to the excellent online manual and knowledge base.
All the standard LAN features you would expect are there, such as Dynamic DNS support, DMZ . But the FVS318G goes further and lets you organise LAN devices into eight groups, a useful feature for setting up security policies. It also supports LAN multi-homing, a technique that lets PCs using different subnets access the internet via the FVS318G.
The SPI firewall capabilities are comprehensive and fully-configurable, with a URL whitelist and keyword content filtering. Proxies, cookies, Java and ActiveX components can be all be blocked for each LAN group. Any rule can be assigned a LAN group and schedule. Bandwidth management is another useful feature that lets you assign individual or group bandwidth limits to any connection.
For home users, the traffic metering tool is great if you’re on a capped or metered broadband package; it can be set to cut off access when a pre-defined total is reached. The auto-detect function for the WAN configuration will also appeal to less technical users.
Configuring VPN gateways and clients is made easy by an integrated VPN wizard, and there’s a bundled single-licence copy of Netgear’s VPN client software. Netgear claims a LAN-to-WAN total throughput capability of 25Mbps, making it fine for all but the fastest standard broadband connections.
We encountered no problems apart from some glitches with the UPnP functionality from one of our servers, but it was a good excuse to try out the port forwarding setup. This proved simple to use and also allows you to configure quality of service (QoS) settings for each inbound and outbound service.
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