Customers Winning Networking Wars

SMC and Netgear provide sky-high functionality and rock-bottom prices.

SMC and Netgear are duking it out over the market that covers everything from SOHO to extended enterprises (roughly one to 250 users). The networking business in general is a tough, cutthroat business, and its been further hammered by the tech sector decline. SMC and Netgear are in a nice spot, though. Theyre targeting the small to midsize businesses that are somewhat shielded from the roller coaster spending patterns of larger companies.

Netgear, once Bay Networks SOHO startup and later the sole bright spot in Nortels network (Netgear is now a separate company), has done an awesome job at bringing business-class security features to the small-office, home-office level. Ive been using a little Netgear router for a couple of years now and love it. Of course, the engineers at vulnerability scanning vendors such as Cenzic say that its more or less a joke to break through 2-year-old network address translation "firewalls." But as long as that Netgear box knocks out the port-scanning, high-school hackers and I set up the security on my systems correctly, its good enough—for now.

Netgears newest SOHO box, the FVS 318, brings real firewall capabilities to the home, including stateful packet inspection, multiple VPN tunnels and denial-of-service protection—all for $149. I ran Cenzics Hailstorm vulnerability scanner against it, and the 318 didnt even burp (at least out loud). Its not Check Points Check Point FireWall-1 (thankfully), but its better-than-adequate protection for its target market.

SMC is making the same moves: Wireless, security and switches make up the core of SMCs lineup. SMC was among the first to market with 802.11a devices, and the company has done a good job providing security solutions for the wireless world.

SMCs real stand is in providing security products for medium-class businesses, and its doing that through partnerships. For example, its partnering with Extreme Networks to deliver end-to-end solutions that cost less than those of Cisco. Netgear would love to jump into the partnership market, but, of course, its probably hinged, at least a little, to Nortel (a financial backer).

In any case, consumers are the winners because SMC and Netgear are providing sky-high functionality and rock-bottom prices. ´

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