Reasons NOT to use a computer as a router

There are reasons not to use a computer as a router, first and foremost being security. Even with the best firewall, a hardware router is more secure since it’s much harder to break into to get into the rest of your network. The second, of course, is performace: the amount of packets a router can process simply drowns even the best server.

Personally, I have a $200 Netgear router going into an 8 port switch, 4 ports going to 8 port hubs each of which goes to 6 jacks, so a total of 24 jacks (10 plates, 8 have 2 jacks plus an RG6 and phone line, 2 plates have four jacks and are in “computer heavy” areas where we could get up to four machines in one location. All plates are setup so that no two jacks on the same plate go into the same hub to provide some level of redundancy and also some performance benefits when two machines are accessing the servers at the same time. On the locations with the four jacks, each has an Netgear WAP and they’re configured for roaming between the two. If I had a router with integrated WAP not only would the router necessarily be slower than what I have (consumer versus professional grade), but it wouldn’t do any good since they’re all stuck in a fire resistant closet and with it plugged in you can get signal maybe 20 feet away.

The remaining 4 switch ports go into two servers, old Dell XPS D series machines with dual NIC cards. They’re a 233 with 8 GB RAID 1 for the PDC and holds installation images and a 333 with 8+60 GB RAID 1 as a BDC and file server, plus it replicates all of the installation images on the PDC and has a DDS-2 drive hooked up to it that performs monthly full backups and weekly incremental of itself since it’s the machine with non-replacable data on it (the other can easily be re-imaged). Each has 512 MB of ECC RAM. For files that are multimedia and hence take up lots of room, each machine has a CD burner. The 60 GB data drive is about 80% full and needs to be expanded, but that’s another topic for another day …