When hordes of users on a network are surfing the Internet, the result is redundant traffic and wasted bandwidthparticularly when users are accessing the same group of Web sites. Vicomsoft’s SoftRouter Plus 6.0.1 solves this problem by storing a copy of repeatedly accessed sites on a local server’s hard disk for faster performance. At the same time, SoftRouter Plus features world-class TCP/IP routing and network-administration services equivalent to those in expensive hardware routers.
Besides offering all the functions of a typical hardware-based routerincluding the ability to internetwork Ethernet, Token Ring, dial-up, and wide-area networksSoftRouter Plus has a graphical interface and a setup wizard that will have even nontechnical users up and running quickly. And the package includes a slew of helpful network-administration aids: Routing Information Protocol support for automatically configuring route tables, RADIUS (Remote Authentication Dial-In User Service), network address translation, Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), a dynamic DNS server that synchronizes names with DHCP-assigned addresses, host access rights, and TCP/IP multihoming. And with the appropriate Mac hardware, you can even set up multiple serial PPP dial-in ports for remote users.
But the big improvement in version 6.0.1 is a bundled caching Web server, which makes copies of Web pages that users access most frequently and then retrieves them from the cache to satisfy repeat requests. Caching is transparentyou don’t need to reconfigure users’ browsers to access a proxy serverand you can archive selected Web sites for access even when your Internet connection is down.
In tests over an ISDN Internet connection with five remote users, SoftRouter Plus demonstrated T1-like performance when accessing cached sites. For even better performance, you can run the caching server software on a separate machine, or even redirect HTTP requests to another vendor’s caching server.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
SoftRouter Plus 6.0.1’s Web cache does wonders for Internet performance when multiple users chase the same online content, and the program’s many other administration aids make it perfect for cross-platform networks. If you can’t afford a $2,000 hardware router but have a spare Mac, SoftRouter Plus can be a budget saver, too; its low per-user pricing makes it affordable for virtually any workgroup.
Web caching; network address translation and DHCP; DNS/DHCP integration; multiple PPP dial-in ports; RADIUS support; virtual Web serving.
Five users, $190; ten users, $280; unlimited users, $430.