Cisco Offers Linux-Enabled Linksys Router

Cisco's sleek new router gives cost-conscious business owners another option in the crowded (and competitive) Wireless-N level router market.

Networking and communications giant Cisco Systems announced an update to the Linux-powered WRT54GL router, the Linksys by Cisco WRT160NL Wireless-N router. The router is currently available and retails for $119.

Among the features is Wireless-N's Multiple In, Multiple Out Mimo technology, which uses the signal reflections that confuse wireless technologies to boost range and reduce dead spots. A Storage Link feature lets users connect a hard drive or flash-based USB storage device directly to your network and add gigabytes of storage from anywhere in the network. A built-in DLNA 1.5 compatible media server also streams to PCs or UPnP AV digital media adapters.

Four 10/100 Ethernet ports let users connect printers, networked storage drives, and other Ethernet-enabled devices to your network, and the router supports up to 128-bit encryption. Specifications include a 400 MHz processor with 32MB of DDRAM inside, Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) push button security, and dual antennas-though Cisco admits the second antenna is purely aesthetic.

The WRT54G was notable for being the first consumer-level network device that had its firmware source code released to satisfy the obligations of the GNU operating system and the General Public License (GPL) software license, which allows programmers to modify the firmware to change or add functionality to the device.

For small business owners looking for a router upgrade, Cisco's Linksys family offers a plethora of options, including the EtherFast Cable/DSL VPN Router with 4-Port 10/100 Switch, which is capable of supporting up to 50 simultaneous users and iscompatible with other VPN devices and software as well as major operating systems and standards. Additionally, a built-in IPSec coprocessor from Hifn allows for data privacy for the access and exchange of sensitive data from a user's corporate network or between remote branch offices, without the additional cost of IPSec VPN client software for each computer.

As popular as the Linksys by Cisco product line is, however, it isn't the only option for business owners on a budget. Netgear's N150 wireless routers and gateways increase the maximum speed of wireless up to 150 Mbps, and Nortel offers a range of routers and switches aimed at small to medium-size businesses (SMBs). The company's Business Secure Router 252, for example, supports hundreds of calling, voice messaging and unified messaging and will prioritize VoIP calls over e-mails and faxes. The 252 also includes a firewall and supports as many as 10 IPsec ((Internet Protocol Security) tunnels simultaneously.