Remember Linksys? The home office and SMB company that was the spearhead of Cisco’s move down market? Remember how they kind of disappeared once Cisco was finished with that play? Do you ever wonder what happened to them? Or where they are today? Or even if they still exist?
Alive and Kicking
As it turns out, Linksys is indeed alive and still kicking around. After Belkin completed the acquisition of the Linksys brand back in 2013, they quietly started focusing on the SMB market space with their products. Instead of trying to be a label for anything non-enterprise, Linksys instead found a sweet spot in the small business market space. They diversified their offerings to include a lot of accessories that SMBs need. Things like firewalls and access routers.
Why did Linksys start building out their SMB offerings? Because, as it turns out, SMB networking isn’t just as simple as going to Best Buy or Big Box Retailer and buying whatever is on sale any longer. SMBs now cover multiple sites across geographic areas and sometimes even timezones. Offices are no longer wired completely with Ethernet to every nook and cranny. Users don’t always come to the office to do all their work. They’re on the road or working from home or the most convenient coffee shop. These users need the same secure connectivity that they enjoy in the home office. And, of course, all of this needs to be delivered on a budget that won’t break the owner’s wallet.
Take the new Linksys 2600 AP. It’s a dual band, wave 2 802.11ac access point with MU-MIMO. It has the ability to function as an AP controller for other APs in the office. It also includes band steering to control airtime usage in the junk bands and QoS to ensure that critical applications like voice and video get the preference they need. Sounds like something you’d love to have in an enterprise, right? How about getting it for your SMB for $500 MSRP? That’s a steal. Dual band enterprise APs easily cost twice that, even before you factor in the cost of the software licenses needed to control it. And those license fees come due every year.
Safe and Secure
Or do you need some help at the Internet edge? You could use the LRT214 Gigabit VPN router. Linksys was kind enough to send me one of these to evaluate in my home office to see how it would perform. I had been running an Apple Airport Extreme at the edge in basic firewalling mode. I didn’t need anything fancy. When the LRT214 arrived, it was pretty easy to setup and configure with my internal network. One software update later and I was humming right along. The interface is still the familiar Linksys color scheme and layout, but it has a lot more power under the hood now. I could configure edge QoS so my Skype calls don’t get drown out by Netflix or Xbox traffic. I could pull down statistics to see the things that are using my network bandwidth. I could configure a dynamic DNS entry to be able to hit my device from anywhere in the world behind a changing dynamic IP scheme. And I could setup a VPN.
The VPN, for me, is a huge value. I work from coffee shops now and then for a change of pace. I often find myself in hostile networking environments. I want to make sure all my data is secured from snooping on open wireless networks. So, a VPN makes sense. But I want to know where my data is going. I don’t know that I trust a service to dump my data somewhere else, encrypted or not. I’d rather know where it’s terminating. Linksys provides an easy setup for SMB VPNs. It’s just a couple of clicks to set up. And rather than charge you a yearly fee for a proprietary client, Linksys has embraced OpenVPN as the platform. No cost secure network access from anywhere.
If you need a little more redundancy, Linksys also offers a dual-WAN version of this router. You can have circuit diversity to your home office or SMB to ensure that any outages from one provider won’t mean you are sunk to get online. And how much does all of this cost? If you’ve ever gone shopping for a VPN firewall with these capabilities, you know it’s not a pleasant conversation once the sticker price comes out. From Linksys? $199 for the LRT214. Adding the second WAN port in the LRT224 is just $60 more.
Linksys is quietly building a great SMB line of products to help people in small offices have the kinds of network gear that they need to do their jobs. Linksys is also proving that you don’t need to sacrifice years of profits to buy that equipment. Even if you still harbor some ill will from the Linksys of years past, it’s very much worth a look to see how their new solutions can fit your needs. I know the next time I get a chance to outfit an office with the latest wireless and edge technologies, Linksys is going to get a call from me.
Linksys sent me an LRT214 evaluation unit for this article to test the VPN features and other aspects of the product. They did not ask for nor did they receive any consideration in the creation of this article aside from the above mention evaluation unit. The conclusions and analysis contained in this article are mine and mine alone, including any errors.