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TMC Labs
March 2000


WebRamp 410i

Ramp Networks, Inc.
Santa Clara, CA
P: (888) 493-2726
Web site: rampnet.com

Price: $599

Editors' Choice Award

Installation: 4.25
Documentation: 4
Features: 4.25
GUI: 4.25
Overall: A-

The WebRamp 410i ISDN router is primarily used in small offices for Internet connectivity. It provides the basic routing features that you might need and has a built-in four-port hub and two POTS ports available to connect to two analog devices. It also provides packet filtering, access controls, and password protection for security and to manage worker productivity. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) may be established as well, so that encrypted packets can pass the Internet or other networks securely. The WebRamp is configured and monitored using its Web-based graphical user interface.

WebRamp�s built-in DHCP server is used instead of manually assigning static IP addresses. Its customizable Web-based interface greatly simplifies the installation process. There is an option to connect to a command line interface for additional configuration control, but with a few exceptions there should be little need to do so since the Web interface is very effective.

Setting up the router is a simple matter of connecting the power supply from the router to an outlet, an ISDN cable from the router to an ISDN wall jack, and a 10Base-T Ethernet cable from your PC to one of the ports in the built-in hub. It should be noted that the first port of the four-port hub can be used as an uplink, which is a crossover port, or as a regular port if you do not need to connect your built-in hub with another hub.

Initially, the configuration process involves running Ramp Networks� EasyStart software off of their CD-ROM. Once this Windows-based GUI comes up, it gives you a choice of selecting an express or custom set up. Since most users would select the express setup (that is what is recommended), we did so as well. The software then checked for the network card and whether or not TCP/IP was correctly configured. We thought this was a nice touch.

It then gave you the option of downloading the Netscape browser onto your computer. It seems convenient that they would offer this, but we later discovered a reason for it. Since we already had Microsoft Internet Explorer on the computer we were using, we did not bother to download Netscape. When using WebRamp�s Web-based GUI, we noticed caching problems associated with Internet Explorer. This became a little bit of an annoyance because we needed to reload changes to the configuration we had made to specific pages in order for WebRamp to correctly procure our changes. When verifying whether or not our ISP configuration was correct, we received an error, partially because of this problem.

Web-Based GUI
The EasyStart software was smart enough to access the TCP/IP information we needed for our configuration. This included the IP address, subnet mask, and gateway information. When pressing the Configure WebRamp button, it automatically accessed WebRamp�s Web-based GUI. While an extra benefit would be to automatically bookmark that initial page for you, this still proved to be a clean transition between the two interfaces.

The Web-based GUI allows you access to a number of WebRamp features: an express configuration utility, advanced configuration settings, diagnostics, and the current status of the WebRamp. We examined all of these options and then began by simply clicking into the express configuration utility. We entered our ISDN primary and secondary phone numbers, and then the WebRamp detected our ISDN SPID numbers and switch type. This took two minutes to detect. While that amount of time is rather slow, the router did detect them accurately.

Problems Connecting
Next, we completed the ISP configuration, which included entering the ISP phone number, username, password, and DNS numbers. Here, we had some problems when verifying the connection. After searching through the diagnostic capabilities of the WebRamp, including the problem solving utility, ISDN loopback test, and ping test, examining some advanced configuration settings, and calling technical support at Ramp Networks, our local carrier, and our long distance carrier, we still could not figure out the problem. After another long, exhausting search, which included trying a brand new WebRamp router and testing our ISDN line with an ISDN phone, we finally discovered that because of some unresolved issues related to Worldcom�s recent acquisitions of MCI and Sprint, we had to enter a specific �10-10� operated-assisted number to connect to the ISP.

While this problem was not WebRamp-specific problem, the previously mentioned caching problems we experienced in its aftermath were. However, a short time later, we were finally connected to the Internet. We browsed the Web and checked the status of our ISDN connection. We had to cheer when we were sure that everything was working.

Most of the information about the WebRamp 410i router can be found via CD-ROM. Additional information can be found on Ramp Networks� Web site. The only printed documentation takes the form of what they call an �Installation Card.� While the information on this card is helpful, the format is awkward. It�s like reading both sides of a folded poster! It would be much easier if this documentation was laid out in the form of a small booklet.

The documentation from the CD-ROM is helpful, easy to access, and gives detailed information about the WebRamp 410i router. However, while Ramp Networks� Web site offers ample information about WebRamp�s VPN set up, the reference CD-ROM is lacking in this area and should discuss the topic in more depth.

There should also be help files associated with the Web-based GUI. As it stands now, unless you go back to access the documentation of the CD-ROM or print the information you need beforehand, there is no way to receive help about the WebRamp configuration beyond what is discussed on the Installation Card.

The WebRamp 410i router offers ISDN BRI with bandwidth on demand, IP/IPX routing and spoofing, bridging, and an EasyStart Windows-based GUI and configuration Web-based GUI. It�s security features include VPNs using Microsoft�s Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), packet filtering, PAP/CHAP, discarding of alien packets, password protection, Network Address Translation (NAT), and configurable time-of-day Internet access control. Other major features include:

  • Built-in DHCP server.
  • Built-in, four-port, 10Base-T hub with the possibility of an uplink as port 1.
  • Two analog phone/fax ports.
  • Automatic ISDN switch and SPID detection.

First, we browsed the Web to see how quickly complex Web pages with large graphics files loaded. We initially choose to use only one channel to browse the Web, and it proved to be significantly faster than using a 56K modem for both connect time and downloading. When we changed to always using two channels or dynamically using a second channel when required, the speed increased dramatically (although it did not seem twice as fast). We also connected two phones to the analog ports and called both the primary and secondary ISDN numbers.

Receiving Calls/Dialing Out
When we employed only one channel for Web access, we could receive a call whether or not the pages were being downloaded, no matter which number was dialed (if the primary number was dialed, the call would roll over to the secondary number). When we employed two channels for Web access, we could only receive a call if nothing had been downloaded off the Web for a specific period of time. (It would automatically drop the ISDN connection after a specific time period.) We could dial out from one of the analog ports at any time. When the Web is not being used, you can receive two calls, the first using the primary ISDN number and the second using the secondary number. Of course, WebRamp settings can be changed for your phone or fax machine from the configuration Web-based GUI.

Remotely Accessing Servers
The ability to access local servers from a remote location is an important feature for a SOHO router. We tested this by clicking into the Applications menu from the Local Configurations screen. Then, we entered information pertaining to accessing a WebServer on the LAN or a terminal server client. By opening up a particular port (80 for example) to access the Net from behind a NAT environment (limiting the number of public IP addresses used) and entering the IP address assigned to the ISP account as your URL in your browser, you can access the local server on the LAN.

Additionally under the Applications menu, you can set the Internet applications, such as Microsoft NetMeeting, to be supported by WebRamp by opening and specifying a range of ports that can be accessed at any given time. Another option is to allow one computer on your local network to be assigned to act as a trusted site where any application can be run without any filtering involved.

VPN Connection
The WebRamp 410i router allows for the capability of making a VPN connection over a public network, such as the Internet, via PPTP. This procedure is the same as with other routers using Microsoft�s protocol. Windows 98 or Windows NT 4.0 workstation can be used for the remote office configuration while the central office configuration requires Windows NT Server 4.0 with the latest RAS service pack installed. The information for performing a VPN using PPTP is well detailed on a number of Web sites, including Microsoft�s. When testing this VPN configuration, we found that it is relatively easy to execute.

Even though WebRamp 410i is generally a solid product with a very intriguing price tag, there are some improvements we can recommend. The most obvious besides those we have mentioned earlier (to fix the caching problem for Internet Explorer and to add help files for the Web-based GUI) would be to add a voice over IP component into the feature set. This would be a very appealing option for users since it could save them a good amount of money.

While the diagnostics features, including problem-solving techniques and an ISDN loopback test, have their value, there should be a more detailed description of what the problem may be. Currently, it only gives a failure message and an error number to indicate what might be wrong. Unfortunately, the user does not have any way of knowing what the number refers to and must call technical support for help even if it might have been a simple problem to fix.

The Web-based GUI�s status page as well as EasyView (to monitor the status on your desktop) is admirable. The one note we have here is that we were not sure whether the �Up Since� reference was to the WebRamp itself or to the ISDN connection. It is important to differentiate between them because users may not want the ISDN always to be up.

One last suggestion is to perform a VPN straight from Ramp Networks� interface in a well-thought out, easy to use manner, such as what they did with the ISDN configuration. As it stands now, you can only enable or disable VPN support and monitor the connections but not configure each VPN from that interface.

The WebRamp 410i ISDN router has a lot to offer. In general, the installation and configuration process is straightforward and easily manageable because of its graphical interfaces. It also offers most of the features required for a good SOHO router, including an array of security features from password protection to VPN support. Best of all is the cost of the router; it is inexpensive for all that it offers and is therefore a product very worthy of your consideration.

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