Dozens of tools are available to make your home-networking experiences as pleasant as possible. From Microsoft Windows XP's built-in shared networking features to tools that help you secure your home network (e.g., firewalls), setting up a home-networking environment has never been easier. But if you want to do something different, such as using VPN software to connect to and from your office or aggregate connection mechanisms such as multiple ISDN or broadband connections, your networking tasks become a little more complex.
Sygate Technologies has developed Sygate Office Network (SON), a software solution to help you with your more difficult networking tasks. SON software offers the home or small-business user the network-management tools that you would typically find in a corporate environment—at a very reasonable $109 price tag. If you don't need SON's advanced features, Sygate offers its Home Network software for only $39 (although that's a far less compelling buy than SON, with its enhanced features and serious tools for managing your home or small-business network).
SON offers detailed instructions for configuring every flavor of Windows since Windows 95 and typical TCP/IP devices (such as a Mac or Linux box) to work with its product. SON even supports the DirecPC satellite connection I use, as well as common broadband and dial-up solutions. I especially liked the scalable connections that let me aggregate disparate connection types (e.g., dial-up and satellite) into a single fatter pipe.
But beyond technically interesting features, such as dynamic bandwidth optimization and explicit bandwidth management, SON offers features that are useful in both home and office situations, such as the ability to configure access to specific Web sites on a per-computer basis and to generate reports about where and when users have been surfing the Internet. The software reports on only the top 10 users, but in a small home or office network, that should be plenty of information.
If you use a broadband connection, SON lets you access your small office/home office (SOHO) network through a VPN connection that includes support for PPTP and IP Security (IPSec). Most home-focused networking applications don't provide this support, but it's a useful way to securely access your networking resources remotely.
SON was also able to bridge the various connections I use on my home office network (10Mbps Ethernet, 100Mbps Ethernet, and 11Mbps Wireless Ethernet), serving up DHCP addresses as necessary when I move between connections.
The additional features and a truly business-strength product makes SON a compelling choice for SOHO users who need more from their Internet connections than just shared bandwidth to the outside world.