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    Review of the Cisco 806 Router

    Cisco is the undisputed heavyweight company in terms of routers.. but lately the Linksys, Netgear, SMC, Netopia, GVC, D-Link's of the world are eating into their market share in the SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) market segment.

    Cisco has some pretty good offerings in this SOHO market, although when you buy a Cisco router, you are paying for 3 things:
    1) excellent quality,
    2) well engineered product
    3) the name...

    Cisco's SOHO offerings have always been at the high end of the price scale for this market segment and since in this market if you need a router, the money's coming out of your pocket.. So you can see how/why cheaper, poorer quality routers like the Linksys offerings are doing so well just because they do an adequate job, easy to configure and are bloody cheap.... BUT today, we're going to see if the old saying, "You get what you pay for", holds true when you compare the Cisco 806 to the rest of the routers in this very crowded SOHO market...

    The competitors in this market segment all boast of the features that come with their routers. Although Cisco might not advertise how useful, versitile and loaded with features, this Cisco is no slouch in the features department. To start of with a 50MHz MPC 855T RISC which is a class leading... Other routers in this market segment use 386, 486 or Motorola 68040 processors, clearly a step behind the Cisco 806. 16 Meg of RAM came with my router... more then many other routers.. In terms of software features the list goes on and on and on, so I'll point out the highlights: PPPoE (for DSL connections), Hostname for connecting to hi-speed cable networks, IP access lists, stateful inspection, ability to output to syslog, CEF (fast switching), policy routing, SNMP access and of course the usual, DHCP server, NAT/PAT, PAP/CHAP and Port Mappings. Pretty good list I would say. What are the features its missing though... Well I find them pretty minor, although many of the other routers in this catagory come standard with the 10/100Mbps ethernet and some form of hub/switch built into the router. The Cisco 806 unfortunately like so many of its 800 series couterparts, comes with a 10 base-T ethernet and no built in hub. Personally, this is no big deal that Cisco doesn't throw in a 4 port 10 base-T half duplex hub. If you are a small to medium sized business, you should put putting your own 10/100Mbps switch behind the router anyway, and not relying on a 10 base-T half duplex hub. Cisco's are also one of the few routers that are configurable via a Command Line Interface(CLI). Yes you're heard about Cisco's Router Web Setup tool (CRWS) tool, which is a Web-based configuration tool used for configuration and setup of the router... and you have also heard me in previous Cisco reviews comment that it would be best to do the config via the command line interface. The Cisco Router Web Setup tool isn't all that bad, it has been improved... but its still not simple enough for the everybody in the SOHO market. Unless you know what you are doing and are familiar with Cisco IOS, this isn't a trivial router to configure. On the up side, Cisco has by far the most comprehensive technical support site of any manufacturer. If you are looking for an answer to a problem its on the site, bugs, well Cisco calls them 'bugs' and tells you all about the bug, what it is, how to fix it, unlike other manufacturers who call them 'features'. Also on the Cisco website are sample configs for everything from connecting ATM, ISDN, DSL and Cable modems to making your coffee machine do backflips in the morning.

    We tested this Cisco 806 on a Hi-Speed Cable Internet conection. Configuring this router wasn't the easiest, but I had a default config from the Cisco website which made things easier (except for the typo I made which took me 30 minutes to find). Yes it was a faily easy config but still, if you are a Cisco rookie, I wouldn't suggest doing this if you are tired. If you are familiar with Cisco routers, then opening ports for NAT/PAT, and access lists are the same as any other router running IOS, which makes this router very easy to manage if you are running a Cisco network. DHCP, NAT, again, very easy to configure.

    In terms of performance, on a Cable Modem Connection, this Cisco 806 is by far the most efficient router I've tested, partially because of CEF (Cisco Express Forwarding) and partially because of Cisco's IOS. There is no lag which you regularly see in windows based firewalls or the Linksys broadband router we tested in August 2000 especially when you not just are downloading large amounts of data, but also have multiple port mappings, 40 or 50 lines of access lists, and doing stateful inspection.... The 806 barely blinks, I never saw the router go above 5% CPU when I was hammering it.. or when it was getting hammered to =) The only indication I had the traffic was increasing were the MRTG graphs and blinking lights on the front of the router. No matter what I threw at this router, it could handle it with ease. No hung sessions, no reboots. No other router I have tested could handle the 3 pages of access lists I used during the test. Can other SOHO routers handle this many access lists?? I mentioned MRTG before, and yes you are right, you can MRTG Netopia and other SOHO routers, but I highly doubt you can measure so many features as you can in Cisco routers. Not just bandwidth of the interfaces, but what about packet drops? ICMP errors? CPU load, CPU temp, Memory usage.. its all there in Cisco routers (temp not available in this 806 though) and Cisco actually has information on their website about SNMP and their routers.

    So you are thinking, "this guy is in love with this router", and you know, you are pretty much correct. This is a great router, superbly designed, great features, class winning logging, debugging, supportability, quality, and a company that stands behind their product. At three times the price of a similar SMC or Linksys broadband cable router is it worth it... Well ask yourself how much lost time due to reboots/hung sessions/inability to VPN etc.. have you had recently, and chances are when you add up the wages/time lost when you were using an inferior router and you'll soon see that this Cisco 806 isn't all that expensive.

    Mark Breakdown:

    Category: Comments:

    Performance: Blistering performance, no lag, not even when you hammer the router, create huge access lists, have multiple ports open and run stateful inspection on every packet. NO degredation in performance whatsoever.

    Supportability: Cisco's website is amazing, if there is a bug, they will tell you the truth that it is a bug, and tell you how to fix it. Sample configs, white papers, tech bits, very detailed information on each release of IOS make Cisco's site the industry leading technical site around. 15/15
    Ease of Use/Configuration: Well this Cisco 806 was one of the easier Cisco routers to configure since I found a good sample cable modem config on the Cisco website... but still unless you are fammiliar with Cisco IOS, it can be a daunting task to configure a Cisco router.

    Compatibility: Cisco's work with anything, and this is no exception, TCP/IP is generally what you are running, but if you have IPX or Novell, no problem, it can handle it. DSL or Cable modem, no problem Cisco has configs for that as well.

    Features: Hmmm features.... lets see: quality, RISC processor, quality, access lists, NAT/PAT, DHCP, quality, PPPoE, IpSec (optional), CEF, quality, Syslog, SNMP. Although other manufacturers throw in 10/100Mbps ethernet ports and 10 base-T built in hubs....

    Personal: This router was a joy to manage, there is nothing I could do to break this router, it barely blinked at me no matter how much I hammered it which makes me think... if this is a SOHO router, what could a router for a medium sized business handle?

    Overall: From a performance and technical point of view, this Cisco 806 is by far the class leading router, with all its features, superb performance and legendary Cisco quality, this router sets a very high standard for others to shoot for. Yes it is more expensive, but you defeninately get what you pay for. 98/100