Tech Tuesday #11: Are We Business-Grade?

Another Tech Tuesday, where we answer reader questions!

TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Cathie from Rindge asks….

My new technology company says I need to replace my router…or firewall…not sure which. The sales guy said my D-Link is not made for business. Is he just trying to sell me a more expensive one?

Thanks, Cathie…most small businesses have a single device that acts as both a router (moves traffic between networks) and a firewall (inspects each  packet of traffic and allows/blocks based on a set of rules). Many small-business techies use the words interchangeably now, but you’ve almost certainly got a single device that does both.

Here’s a nifty older picture (despite the mid-90’s iMacs the theory still works)

But the bigger question is….

GMC Professional Grade Logo

Is it “professional grade?”

The simple answer? It depends. Many businesses can get by with less-expensive, consumer-grade networking gear. It’s 2013 and nearly any firewall/router you can buy will give a few years of trouble-free connection to the internet.

Take this one, for instance. It’s a TrendNet N150 Router. This is a typical $40 consumer-grade router.
TrendNet N150 Home Router

A basic Internet and Wireless connection! Who could ask for anything more?

Well… Looking at the specifications…this is a router that does not claim to have a Stateful Packet Inspection Firewall.

It might be nice to set up a second wireless network for guest access.

And, setting up more than a few connections at the same time the lil TrendNet will start to lag….

and what happens if something doesn’t work? Send an e-mail to Trendnet support and hope for the best?

Level up!

So we can consider an entry-level business firewall…like the Netgear FVS300.
Netgear FVS318

These cost around $200. For the extra money we get:

  • Better network speed
  • Real SPI firewall
  • Phone or chat support
  • VPN connections (limited)

What could be better?


“I want to block job hunting/porn/shopping websites, except on my computer… or at break time.”

“We use voice over IP phones, how do we make sure that gets priority?”

“We need a reliable connection between our two buildings…”

“Our regulations say we need to monitor for unauthorized access…”

“Can I get a report of what websites employees are going to?”

“Can this system collect evidence in case of an attack?”

This is a job for a Sonicwall! (Or Cisco ASA, or WatchGuard, or Meraki, or Fortinet)
Sonicwall TZ-series wireless Threat Management System

Here’s where we leave the “router/firewall” and enter the “Unified Threat Management” systems. These devices have:

  • Comprehensive router/firewall systems designed for setup by a professional technician
  • Additional services like Intrusion Detection, Web filtering, Remote administration, and incident logging
  • Secure wireless systems that offers segmented guest access
  • Reliable, highly-secure VPNs for remote and site-to-site connections
  • 3G/4G wireless backup connections

What are YOU using for a firewall? Drop a post in the comments!

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.

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  • gregc00  On January 9, 2013 at 12:03 am

    I’ll start….We’re running a Sonicwall tz215 with a Meraki wireless access point!

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