Open the door to Internet connection sharing

Access to the Web from every PC in your organization is becoming a necessity, even if your business is small and lacks the hardware routing and high-speed Internet connectivity (e.g., T1 lines) common to large enterprises. Technologies such as ISDN and ADSL are becoming widely accessible and are letting small organizations achieve the necessary connectivity. However, after you're connected, you need to maximize performance, maintain security, and provide Internet access for multiple users.

Vicomsoft's Internet Gateway 6.6.0 is a TCP/IP software routing solution that lets multiple users share a common point of entry when connecting to the Internet and other remote IP resources. You can configure the product to route either network traffic or remote connections. The product uses Network Address Translation (NAT) to let multiple computers share one IP address when connecting to the Internet or other remote IP resource.

Although my testing was relatively simple (i.e., four Windows NT clients connected to a dial-up ISP), Internet Gateway's Enterprise Suite can support an unlimited number of concurrent NAT sessions. (Only the PC's hardware configuration limits the number of sessions.) Internet Gateway also offers firewall capabilities and Connection Teaming, which lets the gateway simultaneously use multiple Internet connections—of different types, if necessary—when demand increases.

Before you run Internet Gateway's setup utility, you need to preconfigure an Internet connection on the PC that will act as the gateway. For my test, I needed to secure a working modem configuration and a DUN session with proper logon and DNS settings. The product's Quickstart guide outlines this preconfiguration requirement.

Version 6.6.0 introduces an auto-setup feature that is supposed to detect preconfigured connection settings, then assign a static IP address for the system. Unfortunately, when auto-setup verified my DUN settings, the feature missed my ISP's DNS server addresses, which are crucial for proper operation. After Vicomsoft's technical support helped me manually enter the IP addresses, the gateway operated normally.

The product's performance features are impressive. The Internet Gateway Administrator—the GUI application you use to configure preferences and ports and to list connected users—includes a graphical meter called Status View, by which you can measure throughput for connected clients. I used this feature, which Figure 1 shows, to monitor the gateway's load (i.e., packets and bytes per second). Another attractive performance feature is the Web page caching function, which lets the server save recently accessed Web pages for clients. To test this feature, I disabled the browser's caching function on all clients and relied instead on the server Web page cache when I revisited certain Web sites. The improvement in page-loading time was noticeable; this feature is particularly useful over slow connections. Internet Gateway also features a utility that lets you configure the product to run as an NT service so that you can launch the gateway application without needing an active user account.

The problem I experienced with the product's auto-setup feature didn't detract from an overall positive experience. Using the Administrator program to configure gateway options was simple, and the performance, tracing, and logging tools came in handy. Although I reviewed the Enterprise Suite, you can choose the lower-priced Small Office or Professional suite for up to 5 users and up to 10 users, respectively. Internet Gateway is a useful low-cost product for Internet connection sharing.

Internet Gateway 6.6.0
Contact: Vicomsoft * 650-691-9520 or 800-818-4266
Web: http://www.vicomsoft.com/
Price: $499 for the Enterprise Suite
Decision Summary:
Pros: Competitive pricing; impressive performance features; user-friendly Administrator program
Cons: Auto-setup feature missed DNS server addresses