Review – Vicomsoft Soft Router Plus 6.0.1

Vicomsoft Soft Router Plus 6.0.1
Company: Vicomsoft
Estimated Price: $155.00 (5 user)

As more and more households take the plunge and discover the power of the Internet, home computers, once used just for simple word processing and game playing, have now become an indispensable asset to everyone in the family. And as family members begin to compete for time on the computer, the convenience of having more than one computer at a family’s disposal is becoming as apparent as that of having a second automobile.

Unfortunately, the traditional modem, still the only viable way to get on the Internet for most people, only allows one computer to get online at a time. Even new cable modems only allow one computer at a time, for one reason–the IP (Internet Protocol) address that they use is issued by their ISP (Internet Service Provider), and only one computer can be using a single IP address at one time. Have more than one computer using the same IP address and you have problems.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could “trick” your ISP into allowing more than one computer to share an Internet connection? It’s a method long used by schools and businesses that formerly could only be accomplished with costly hardware solutions. Now, with Soft Router Plus, you can bring the power of expensive firewalls and routers into your home, business, or even educational network, and in a fraction of the time.

Behind the Magic
Soft Router Plus uses a very simple method to allow more than one of your computers to share an Internet connection. You simply install Soft Router Plus on ONE computer in your network, which is the one that has the connection to the Internet, be it by modem, ISDN, cable modem, or any other type of connection. That computer acts as the router, or computer that routes all the other computers on the network through itself and on to the Internet. Only the router computer holds the real IP address. All the other computers use internal IP addresses, which can simply be made up by the network administrator, or issued by Soft Router Plus. Then, the ISP only thinks that one computer is using the connection. Pretty clever, huh? If this seems confusing, take a look at the simple diagram below showing multiple computers sharing one Internet connection.


Vicomsoft Picture 2Installation
My home network with Soft Router Plus installed is very similar to the one pictured above. However, before I installed Soft Router Plus, my 3 computers were already networked via 10 Base-T Ethernet. The TCP/IP preferences on each one were set up for each computer’s respective modem, and we simply traded off three phone cables between one phone jack on the wall.

It worked, but I wanted to have all three computers receive their Internet connection through the Ethernet network and not have to have a separate modem on each one. I wanted to have one modem shared by all my computers, so all my computers could be connected concurrently. Enter Soft Router Plus. I designated my Performa 6400 as the router and proceeded to install Soft Router Plus on it. Installation was clean and free of any problems.

Setup was even easier, thanks to the auto-setup application and extensive documentation that comes with Soft Router Plus. I verified that all my TCP/IP and modem setups were correct on the 6400, and then I used the Soft Router Plus auto-setup application to help me set up my network to share an Internet connection. It created the modem and Ethernet ports from my current settings, and let me intervene at any time. I assigned the Ethernet port the IP address The TCP/IP control panel configures using PPP, lists as its IP address, and keeps the same DNS addresses as the ISP has.

The remaining computers on the network, my PowerBook G3 and my 6100 are given the IP addresses and, respectively, and retain the same DNS addresses as the ISP. Then, Soft Router Plus connected to my ISP through the modem port, and I was able to share one Internet connection between my three computers. I elected to not use the DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol) server simply because I only had two client machines. Setups with larger amounts of clients may elect to take advantage of the DHCP assignment of IP addresses already built into Soft Router Plus.

Soft Router Plus can use this simple algorithm to connect as many computers as you want to one Internet connection. Instead of listing all the possible uses for Soft Router Plus, I’ll use some real-life examples that should better help you to understand how Soft Router Plus can benefit you.

Example #1: Small Home Network
Bob owns a Power Macintosh 6100 with an external modem. He has always been content with it, but couldn’t resist buying an iMac in the wake of Apple’s comeback. Since then, he’s been cruising the Internet at 56k speeds, and the rest of his family has used the 6100 for other purposes. Now, however, they are discovering how much fun the Internet can be, and it’s been a fight over who gets to use the Internet. So, Bob networks his two computers by Ethernet and buys Soft Router Plus. He designates his iMac as the router machine, and his 6100 as one of the client machines. He sets up two ports in the Soft Router Plus application, one for the modem, and one for Ethernet. Since his ISP obtains the IP address dynamically, he sets the modem port to obtain the address dynamically, and lets the very helpful Soft Router Plus setup wizard designate an IP address for the Ethernet port.

Then, he goes to his 6100’s TCP/IP control panel, sets it to Ethernet, and elects to manually configure the IP address. He finishes the simple TCP/IP configuration on the 6100, goes back to his iMac, tells Soft Router to connect via the modem port, and what do you know, he’s on the Internet. Soft Router requires very little processor time/resources, so it can easily run in the background while Bob uses Netscape to visit his favorite websites. In the meantime, his kids are on the 6100 chatting on AOL Instant Messenger at the same time. Best of all, Bob was up and running in less than 10 minutes because the Soft Router auto setup application did the majority of the work for him.

Example #2: Mixed Advanced Home Network
Daniel, an advanced user, has a cable modem connected to his 7600 via Ethernet. He also has an old 6100 lying in his basement, and has never bothered to network the two together. His wife now needs a Windows computer to work on, so he goes and buys a cheap Windows box with a NIC (Network Interface Card). He resurrects his old 6100, buys a 5-port Ethernet hub, and connects his three machines to ports 1, 2, and 3 of the hub. He then plugs his cable modem into the uplink port on the hub. He sets up his 6100 as the exclusive router machine, and assigns his remaining two computers IP addresses to correspond with his router machine. Daniel has a static IP address (one that never changes) with his ISP, so he configures the cable modem port to use this static address.

Since Soft Router Plus acts as a firewall in addition to allowing computers to share an Internet connection, Daniel can use any range of IP addresses he wants. As an added bonus, since both Macintosh and Windows can use TCP/IP protocols, having a Windows computer on the network doesn’t matter. Now, Daniel shares his superfast cable modem connection between him and his wife, while his old 6100 is put to good use once again. It doesn’t matter that his router machine is plugged into the same hub as the other two computers, because only his router machine is looking for the cable modem that’s plugged into the uplink port. His other machines look for the router machine, and forget that the cable modem is even there.

Example #3: Small Business Network
Patricia, who runs her own business, purchases a 256k ISDN line for her office of 10 computers connected via Ethernet. She has one static IP address from her ISP, but does not want to purchase 9 more for her other 9 computers, so she decides to purchase Soft Router Plus. Using a similar configuration to the one that Daniel used, she configures her network to share her fast ISDN line without purchasing multiple IP addresses. The same configuration would apply to locations with full T1 or fraction T1 connections.

Example #4: Large Business or School Networks
Zadlcom, a mail order catalog has two different networks in its headquarters, and they want both networks to share their expensive T1 line. Zadlcom can easily interconnect their two different networks using the simple algorithm pictured in the diagram below:


Vicomsoft Picture 3This type of interconnection could also occur between regular (10 Base-T) and fast (100 Base-T) Ethernet networks, or even between Ethernet and LocalTalk networks. Now, all the computers on both the networks use the same Internet connection courtesy of Soft Router Plus.

Soft Router Plus has advanced options far and beyond the scenarios I described above. Soft Router Plus comes with a built-in DHCP server, which makes client configuration for a large network very easy. It comes with a Web Caching Server, which caches web content automatically, improving performance and reducing the amount of precious bandwidth taken. Furthermore, it allows you to not only interconnect separate LANs (Local Area Networks) in the same building, but also WANs (Wide Area Networks) that could be anywhere in the world. An example of this is pictured below.


Vicomsoft Picture 4Soft Router Plus even has a Remote Access Server built in so you can easily dial into it for Internet access. If you have a constant connection to the Internet, like cable modem or T1 line users do, but you have a modem at home, this comes in very handy! Basically, you get your Internet access for free at the expense of your employer (with permission, of course!).

Soft Router Plus is available for both Mac OS and Windows 95/98/NT from Vicomsoft’s website at in a variety of packages to suit your Internet needs. Prices range from $190.00 for 5 users to $430.00 for unlimited users. Additionally, software can be purchased at a reduced price for online download only, as opposed to the traditional boxed packaging.

Soft Router Plus for Macintosh requires a PowerPC or 68040 processor with Mac OS 7.x or higher, 5MB of RAM, and 2MB of free hard disk space. If you want to take advantage of the WebCache server, Vicomsoft recommends you have at least 100MB of available hard disk space.

The Summary
Soft Router Plus is an excellent product that is versatile enough to be applied to a number of different scenarios. Whether your network is home, educational, or corporate, if you have an Internet connection, Soft Router Plus will work for you. The thought and hard work that has gone into this product is obvious. And the added bonus of an optional firewall can make true internal TCP/IP networks a reality, without costing you an arm and a leg to purchase a range of IP addresses.

Soft Router Plus works with all kinds of networks, and performs well under pressure, especially with the low bandwidth of a modem connection. Moreover, when applied to a fast cable modem connection, the true power of Soft Router Plus shows through. And its superb documentation is always to help if you happen to run into trouble. If you’re looking for a low cost alternative to an expensive hardware router or firewall, Soft Router Plus is for you. Highly Recommended.

MacMice Rating: 4

Adam Karneboge

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