Archive for Linksys

Review: Linksys Shield

Posted in Products with tags on March 12, 2019 by itnerd

Having WiFi everywhere is a great thing. It allows you to surf for all sorts of information wherever you are in your home. Except if you have kids. Or anyone else who really should not be surfing for anything that they want as it is easy to get in trouble by surfing the Internet. However Linksys can help you with that. Assuming that you have a Linksys Tri-Band Velop mesh WiFi system which I have previously reviewed, they can hook you up Linksys Shield to keep those who use the Internet in your home from going to places that they shouldn’t.

So what is Linksys Shield? Linksys Shield is a premium subscription software service for users to block unwanted content and provide an additional layer of digital protection for your connected devices and family. It’s powered by anti-virus company Trend Micro which means that it will always be up to date.

Key features include:

  • Content filtering flags sites that contain adult, violent or unwanted content and allows you to choose which types of sites your kids can visit.
  • Advanced browsing protection by checking the sites you visit against a database of millions of known threats, can help prevent you and your family from unsuspectingly visiting malicious sites.
  • Age-based content filtering, ability to schedule screen time and pause the Internet on specific devices.

Now the thing to keep in mind that you have to be running the Velop Tri-Band mesh WiFi system. And Linksys Shield is enabled via a software update that you should already have. If you don’t have this functionality, do a software update and see if it pops up. If you own any other Linksys gear, you need not apply. At least not yet one but one would hope that this functionality comes to other Linksys products in the future.

So, how well does Linksys Shield work? Well, I got some help from some single male friends, and some other friends in the tech industry who helped me to compile a list of adult sites and “grey” sites like sites with questionable content like illegal downloads. I then set up a pair  of Linksys Tri-Band Velop nodes and made sure that they had up to date software installed on them. Setting up Linksys Shield is child’s play using the Linksys app. And one thing that I noticed immediately was that you could set up restrictions based on age. Specifically:

  • 0-8 years
  • 9-12 years
  • 13-17 years
  • 18+

The 18+ setting permits all content to come through, except malicious websites. Which in my testing included some of the adult websites on my test list. Everything else gets progressively more restrictive blocking items such as politics, social media, adult sites, etc as the age group gets younger. You can also personalize things by blocking indvidual types of content within those categories, or even specific websites that you deem inappropriate for your family. I then threw the list that I compiled at Linksys Shield and nothing made it through on any setting except the 18+ setting where some things that should have been blocked like sites with malicious content were blocked. Also I noted no false positives when I tried to go to sites that I was hoping that would be mistakenly flagged as being as forbidden by Linksys Shield. That’s more important as a content filtering system that generates false positives is going to get turned off eventually.

The bottom line is that Linksys Shield works and works well. A parental Control Subscription is $4.99 USD per month or one year for $49.99 USD. If your Velop Tri-Band units are up to date, you will have this functionality today. If you have a Linksys Velop Tri-Band mesh WiFi system and you have kids, consider this a must get.

 

Introducing “Linksys Shield”: New Security Features For Velop Tri-Band Users

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 6, 2019 by itnerd

Linksys, the connected home division within newly merged Belkin International and Foxconn Interconnect Technology (FIT) entity, today announces new software updates for Velop Tri-Band users aptly named Linksys Shield.Powered by Trend Micro, a global leader in cybersecurity solutions, Linksys Shield is a premium subscription software service for users to block unwanted content/category and provide an additional layer of digital protection for your connected devices and family.

Additional Security Features:

  • Content filtering flags sites that contain adult, violent or unwanted content and allows you to choose which types of sites your kids can visit
  • Advanced browsing protection by checking the sites you visit against a database of millions of known threats, can help prevent you and your family from unsuspectingly visiting malicious sites
  • Age-based content filtering, ability to schedule screen time and pause the Internet on specific devices

AVAILABILITY

Velop Tri-Band users in most countries worldwide; available today via firmware and app update

PRICING

  • Parental Control Subscription is $4.99 per month or one year for $49.99 and is available today via firmware and app update
  • Network Security Subscription is $1.99 per month or one year for $19.99 and will be available later this year

Review: Linksys MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router

Posted in Products with tags on January 15, 2019 by itnerd

One of the things that I have been telling my clients who have large homes is that the best way to get good WiFi coverage is to go the mesh WiFi route. The upshot is that via placing WiFi nodes in the right locations in your home, you can get the coverage that you need. The downside is that you do give up some functionality that you get with a traditional router. Such as multiple Ethernet ports for example. I’m now happy to say that those days are over thanks to Linksys and their MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router:

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The router has four antennas that are permanently attached to the router. Which makes me believe that you’ll have to send the router in for service if one breaks or becomes non-fuctional. In terms of build quality, it feels solid and there seems to be more than enough ventilation to keep it cool.

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On the side is a button for WPS or WiFi Protected Setup.

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On the back are four gigabit Ethernet LAN ports as well as a gigabit WAN/Internet port. There’s also a USB 3.0 port for printers or storage devices.

From a technical standpoint, this is what you get:

  • Tri-Band speed up to 2.2 Gbps. That comes in the form of one 2.4 GHz channel and two 5GHz channels that show up as a single SSID. The router will then shuffle your devices to the best channel so that the device gets the best speed.
  • 802.11ac
  • 2 x 2 simultaneous data streams for stronger and faster performance
  • Intelligent Mesh Technology
  • MU-MIMO
  • Beamforming Technology
  • Guest Network
  • Parental Controls

Setting up this router is insanely easy because of the Linksys app which is available for iOS and Android as it walks you through everything that you need to do to set it up as a router that is acting alone, or in concert with Linksys Velop units. More on the latter use case later. In my case I had this router set up and ready to go in three minutes as I had a Linksys account already setup. If you don’t, I would guess that it would take you five minutes to set this up which is still pretty quick. Once you set things up, you can run and manage most of the routers functions from the Linksys app. Which means for example you can get alerted if the Internet is down and you are not at home. Or you can tweak the parental control settings to ensure your kids don’t go anywhere on the Internet that they should not be going to. Now you’re likely wondering about the “most” part. Well, when I set this up I tried to find the option to turn off UPnP or Universal Plug and Play in the app. I do that because it is a huge security risk for your home network. But I could not find that option in the Linksys app and I had to log into the router using a browser to disable UPnP. Not the biggest deal in the world, but something that you should keep in mind if you are a more advanced user like me.

In terms of speed, here’s what I got when I did the router’s built in speed test on my gigabit Internet connection. The speed test is powered by SpeedTest.net which is handy as I was able to use the standalone SpeedTest.net app for iOS to verify the results the router gave me when I was standing about two feet away from it:

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While it is not the fastest router that I have ever tested, it is more than fast enough for a family who wants to game, watch Netflix or YouTube and surf. In terms of range, it had no issues covering my sub 900 square foot condo with fast WiFi. But if I needed to cover a bigger area, the MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router can be used with the Linksys Velop mesh WiFi system expand your WiFi coverage easily and painlessly. I tested adding a couple of nodes and it was insanely simple using the Linksys app. And the result was seamless fast WiFi.

What this means is that you can start out with the MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router and leverage the functionality of a router in terms of the Ethernet and USB ports. If this works in your environment, then you’re done. But if you need better coverage, then add a Velop or two, or three to give you the coverage that you need. Honestly, that’s brilliant as it means that everyone can get great WiFi without breaking the bank.

Gripes? From the “I am a power user and the rest of you may not care about this” department comes these two items:

  • More Ethernet ports. As in six would be nice as there are devices that I run that are Ethernet only and four ports doesn’t cut it for me.
  • Bondable ports. As in having the ability to take two ports and bond them into a single port that has 2 Gigabits of throughput as that would be nice as that would allow me to run a NAS like this one at full speed.

But those are edge cases for a nerd like me and not for the average person. The fact is it is quick, easy to set up, and easy to expand via the Linksys Velop mesh WiFi system. And the price is just the icing on the cake seeing as it goes for $179.99 USD. Should you wish to add a Velop mesh node, I’d suggest this one which is priced at $199 USD. But Linksys does have other Velop options for you at a lower price points. But the bottom line is this. Linksys has something here that I think will attract a lot of attention for people who want excellent WiFi coverage that is fast with a minimal amount of effort and money to get there. If that’s you, then the Linksys MR8300 AC2200 Mesh WiFi Router needs to be on the top of your list.

Linksys Wins J.D. Power Award For Customer Satisfaction

Posted in Commentary with tags on November 20, 2018 by itnerd

Linksys has won the J.D. Power Award for ranking highest in overall customer satisfaction among wireless router manufacturers. The 2018 Wireless Router Satisfaction Report was released last week, and not only did Linksys achieve the highest overall score, but also scored highest in 6 out of the 10 measured factors:

  • Wi-Fi Range
  • Reliability of Service
  • Security Capabilities
  • Ease of Use
  • Customer Service
  • Restore Connection Easily

Linksys finished with a score of 848 (on a 1,000-point scale) leading the industry with the highest overall customer satisfaction score.

The full details can be seen here.

Linksys Cloud Manager Launches

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 20, 2018 by itnerd

Linksys today announced Linksys Cloud Manager, a cloud-hosted WiFi Management Platform purpose-built for small business environments that reduces costs and increases operational efficiencies. The solution offers centralized visibility, management and control of a wireless network without the cost and complexity of traditional hardware controllers, overlay software, or annual hosting costs.

Linksys Cloud Manager enables IT administrators and other authorized users to remotely monitor, manage and troubleshoot single or distributed wireless networks in real time via a single dashboard and sign-on. This plug-n-play platform helps provide secure remote access to Linksys Business Wireless-AC Access Points, which are built with enterprise-grade, high-performance hardware, and is competitively priced with no licensing or maintenance fees for five years*. The included cloud license fits any budget and provides a complete solution for IT solutions providers and their SMB customers. 

Simplifying SMB Network Management

The Linksys cloud architecture provides a feature set designed to streamline administration and improve productivity, giving users more control over network uptime and the ability to ensure QoS in real time.

  • Comprehensive Centralized Management via a Global Map – Manage multiple, unlimited client WiFi networks around the corner or around the world from one centralized dashboard with a single login. Visibility of all accounts, sites, access points, and devices.
  • Remote Monitoring and Network Insights – Provides alerts and real-time statistics so network administrators can anticipate potential network issues without the need for on-site monitoring and troubleshooting.  View through a web browser, historical and real-time traffic on the network, at-a-glance analytics about top clients and devices, including uptime, signal strength, connection duration, etc.  Built-in troubleshooting tools to identify problems using features such as a Ping Test, Blink LED, RF Environment Scan, and Rogue Access Point Detection.
  • Tremendous Scalability Scales seamlessly from single sites to unlimited networks worldwide; suitability for distributed networks (e.g., retail/branch offices).
  • Rapid Deployment with Zero-touch Provisioning – Configure APs even before unboxing them enabling a quick and simple installation process. After deployment, Linksys APs automatically connect to the cloud over SSL and can be configured remotely, whether they are offline or online. Users can provision the network in minutes with a few clicks.
  • Over-the-air Upgrades – Firmware is automatically updated.
  • Email and Text Push Notifications – Message alerts and warnings on network and device connectivity and network health re: power loss, downtime, or configuration changes.
  • Extremely Easy to Use Management Portal – An intuitive, browser-based dashboard and responsive user interface enables IT administrators to provision networks on the go from a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone, with no additional app to download.
  • Flexibility – With no vendor lock in, customers can use a local interface to manage Linksys APs if cloud is no longer required.
  • Multi-role Platform – Multi-management level accounts give users the ability to set roles (owner, admin, viewer) and provide key users access to specific networks.
  • Exceptional Warranty Terms and Technical Support – Linksys goes beyond the forum and email only support and offers 24X7 live customer support.

Unlocking Profitability for IT Solutions Providers

Limited resources, constrained spending budgets, and the proliferation of devices and IoT are further complicating wireless networks, and as a result, driving SMBs to move toward network managed services where an IT partner is responsible for the network on an ongoing basis.  The migration to cloud-based applications and everything-as-a-service presents a big growth opportunity in the SMB space for IT channel providers.

Linksys Cloud Manager is an ideal solution for resellers and IT solutions providers looking to develop a managed service model and generate recurring revenue. For those who already are, it’s a compelling alternative to pricier cloud solutions and will help round out their product portfolio to address customers with smaller IT budgets.

Availability
Linksys Cloud Manager is pre-installed on select Linksys Business Wireless-AC Access Points, on the LAPAC1200C.

  • LAPAC1200C: MSRP $199.99  Linksys Cloud Manager included at no extra cost. (Available in late October in Canada)

 

Linksys Announces New Gigabit POE+ Switches

Posted in Commentary with tags on September 13, 2018 by itnerd

Linksys has unveiled new custom-designed business-class smart switches to meet the growing power demands of networked devices in the modern workplace. The company’s latest offerings include an 8-Port Business Smart Gigabit PoE+ Switch – 130W (LGS308MP) and a 26-Port Business Smart Gigabit PoE+ Switch – 384W (LGS326MP) which features 24 PoE+ gigabit Ethernet ports +2 gigabit SFP/RJ45 combo ports. These new Linksys Smart Gigabit PoE+ Switches are designed to offer business-class management, security, speed and quality of service (QoS).

Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology allows network switches to transmit both power and data through a twisted pair Cat5e Ethernet cable. PoE affords IT personnel greater flexibility when designing network architecture, simplifying device deployment by reducing the need for AC power outlets and wiring. This enables technicians to install wireless access points and other IP-based equipment, in otherwise hard to reach areas.

PoE+ equipment operates according to a newer Institute of Electrical and Electronics (IEEE) standard, 802.3at. PoE+ switches deliver more power to each port, up to 30 Watts, compared to legacy PoE networking equipment, which accommodates a power draw of 15.4 Watts per port. Smart switches designed to the PoE+ standard, are built to support a higher power draw required by next-generation devices that companies add to computer networks: pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) and other IP surveillance products, IP connected conference solutions, digital displays, AV equipment, wireless access point and VOIP phones.

Some examples of the power required by these devices are:

  • 13W:  IP Cameras, VoIP Phones, Wireless Access Points, Networked Audio
  • 30W: IP Telephones, WiMAX Access Points, PTZ Cameras, Remote Computer Terminals
  • 60W: Door Access Systems, Video Phones, Thin Clients
  • 100W: Digital Signage Displays, Point of Sale Systems, LCD TVs, Computer Monitors
  • 200W: Larger TVs, Larger Displays, Larger Monitors, Laptops

Gigabit PoE+ Smart Switches: Key Features

  • Integrated Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+)
  • Easy configuration and management
  • Proven performance and reliability
  • Meets EEE (Energy Efficient Ethernet) 802.3az standard
  • Advanced Network security
  • IP telephony support
  • IPv6 support

Key Benefits

Quality of Service (QoS): Several QoS features ensure that traffic is prioritized to deliver the best possible user experience for real-time voice and video applications, and bandwidth-intensive graphics and video file transfers. Specifically, IGMP snooping directs IP multicast traffic only to specific ports associated with the multicast group, thus enabling the rest of the network to operate at peak efficiency.

Power over Ethernet Plus (PoE+): Linksys smart switches support the latest 802.3at (PoE+) standards and provides twice the power budget for each Gigabit Ethernet port while remaining backward- compatible with the 802.3af (PoE) standard. This makes PoE+ equipment ideal for powering networked devices like point-tilt-zoom surveillance cameras, display kiosks, digital signage, and 802.11ac wireless access points.

Network Security: Unauthorized access to the network and mission-critical data is a constant concern for businesses. Linksys smart switches help secure networks with features like port authentication and MAC-based port security, requiring clients to authenticate themselves before any data is passed. Advanced DHCP snooping and IP-MAC binding functions ensure network integrity and help prevent network attacks.

Network Expansion: Linksys smart switches include features for quickly expanding and growing your network. Multiple high-bandwidth trunks between switches enhance availability and redundancy. Spanning Tree Protocol (STP) and Storm Control features help control planned or inadvertent cable loops and facilitates cost-efficient scalability.

Pricing and Availability

The new Linksys high powered Smart Gigabit POE+ switches are immediately available in the Americas through their authorized distributors.

  • 8-Port Business Smart Gigabit PoE+ Switch – 130W (LGS308MP) $249.99 MSRP
  • 26-Port Business Smart Gigabit PoE+ Switch – 384W (LGS326MP) $529.99 MSRP

 

A Follow Up To The Linksys WRT32X Firmware Issue

Posted in Commentary with tags on February 14, 2018 by itnerd

One of the things that I promised to do when Linksys released the firmware to fix the issues that popped up late last year. Now I did test a beta version firmware. But now there’s a released version. It is version 1.0.180118.3 and it is available here. Release notes are available here. If you read the release notes, there is one note that you may want to pay attention to:

Known issue: the Google/OpenDNS/Custom DNS server functionality may not work
consistently. This will be resolved in a subsequent release.

In other words, if you’re like me and you don’t use your ISP’s DNS server settings. And instead you choose to use your own settings, you may have an issue. That’s a bit of a downer. But fortunately for Linksys, that’s where the bad news ends. I can’t find anything wrong with that. Plus the speed increases that I noted in the beta are still there. Thus if Linksys fixes the custom DNS issue, which if they’re reading this I’d really like that fixed, then this firmware would be perfect.

In short, when that firmware appears, I will consider this issue fully closed. But as it stands now, if you have a WRT32X router from Linksys, you should update your firmware now.