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Which Router for Me?

Let's look at some profiles of different types of Internet use and the features that a router needs to be able to handle them.

Web Browsing, Email, File Downloading, Instant Messaging:

These activities are pretty much the simplest thing that a user can do on the Internet. Since all these activities require that the user initiate a request to a server on the Internet to load a web page, check email, etc., the router's firewall will not cause problems. Assuming you can get the router connected successfully, you probably won't encounter problems with it thereafter.

Recommendations: Most any router will work. Make your decision on price, warranty, and quality of the manufacturer's support.

Remote office worker / Telecommuter:

These users will usually need to have a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) based connection back to their company network. Most routers support some sort of VPN client pass-through connection, but that may not be enough, depending on the needs of the VPN server that you're trying to connect to.

If you fall into this category, you'll probably also use some sort of Internet conferencing (WebEx, GoToMeeting, etc.) and/or telephony (Skype, Gizmo, Vonage, etc.) application. Fortunately, these applications have become a lot smarter about working around NAT firewalls and you generally shouldn't have problems using them.

Recommendations: The world has changed a lot in four years for telecommuters. Corporations are generally much more fussy about what they let connect to their networks. The good news is that if you work for a large company, your IT department will probably be able to set you up and help you debug any problems that you might have with the company VPN.

So first check with your company's IT department to see if they recommend a particular product. If your company doesn't have any specific router recommendations, then ask around to see what other people are using.

If you are self-employed or work for a smaller company, you'll probably be on your own to figure out a VPN solution. Fortunately, there are a number of products available with VPN endpoints built-in that can take some of the pain out of making a secure remote connection.

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