The Linksys BEFSX41 router with VPN endpoint offers ironclad security in the form of a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is great for business travelers because it gives them secure access to data they've stored, say, at home in Los Angeles while they're waiting on a connecting flight in Chicago. The Linksys BEFSX41 can establish up to two tunnels (a secure link between the router and a remote device) to computers or PDAs supporting IPsec, a set of protocols designed for secure exchange of data packets. Such computers include VPN servers, other VPN routers, and computers running VPN client software. The BEFSX41 is not for technophobes; setting it up requires technical know-how or an interest in networking. But if you're looking for industrial-strength security, the BEFSX41 is a good choice.
Networking devices have to work with other products to function at all. The Linksys BEFSX41 router with VPN endpoint comes with a printed Fast Start guide that takes both ends of the connection into consideration. The guide walks you through the complete setup process. It explains how to configure a computer running Windows 95 though XP to connect the router and how to set up the router to communicate with your computers. Although you can use the BEFSX41 to connect Macs, you won't find instructions for tweaking IP settings through OSX. Also, the BEFSX41 router does not support AppleTalk, which limits your ability to connect to other Macs. You can, however, still surf the Web from a Mac via the BEFSX41. Configuration for the router's more technical features, such as the firewall and the VPN, are covered in the Linksys BEFSX41's comprehensive and well-organized 75-page user guide. The guide includes detailed explanations of the BEFSX41's features and a wealth of screenshots illustrating the router's browser-based configuration tool.
The Linksys BEFSX41 router's most noteworthy feature is its VPN support. You access the BEFSX41's VPN settings via its browser-based configuration tool, and we liked the simplicity of the setup process. Unfortunately, the BEFSX41 doesn't come with VPN client software, and those who have never used a VPN may find it difficult to set up a computer to tunnel into the router. One easy way to connect is to use the Linksys USB VPN and firewall adapter, which adds $60 to the total cost of your VPN solution.
The BEFSX41 comes with two firewalls: network address translation (NAT), which hides your LAN behind the router's IP address, and stateful packet inspection (SPI), which inspects data packets coming into your network from the Internet. You can also configure the firewall to allow or deny ActiveX, Java, cookies, or connections with proxy servers, which can help you lock down your network.
In CNET Labs' tests, the Linksys BEFSX41 router clocked in with a throughput of 95Mbps--about four times faster than a standard 802.11g wireless connection. VPN connections require more overhead and will be slower than standard Ethernet connections, but you can still expect to see broadband speeds, even if you're tunneling into the BEFSX41.
The Linksys BEFSX41 router with VPN endpoint comes with a one-year warranty. Linksys offers three-year coverage for its WRT54GS, which makes the shorter offering for the BEFSX41 disappointing. On the upside, you get toll-free 24/7 support for the lifetime of the product, and in our informal tests, the support staff was friendly and knowledgeable. Linksys also has one of the best online support offerings in the business, with product-specific setup guidelines, FAQs, troubleshooting solutions, firmware, live chat with support staff, and a copious knowledge base that contains how-to information for the BEFSX41's setup and configuration and problem fixes for a number of common networking issues.