Tools Of The Trade: 3Com's OfficeConnect Wireless Travel Router

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Broadband internet connections are now common in hotels and conference centres. But they aren't necessarily secure, and nor are they easy to share between computers. Some venues will set up a local network for meetings and events, but not all. And those that do often charge a handsome fee.

Broadband internet connections are now common in hotels and conference centres. But they aren't necessarily secure, and nor are they easy to share between computers. Some venues will set up a local network for meetings and events, but not all. And those that do often charge a handsome fee.

3Com's Travel Router is a quick and easy way round this problem. Powered by a cellphone-type adaptor, this is a small silver box that hooks up to any ethernet network connection, or to a cable or ADSL modem, to provide an instant wireless network.

This could be invaluable at meetings venues where there is a sole wired internet connection, and in a hotel room it is a neat and easy way to connect without wires, with the added advantage of better security through the device's built-in firewall.

The manufacturer has packed a good range of features into a box about the size of a deck of cards. These include hacker pattern detection, support for network address translation, to run multiple computers off a single internet address, and support for virtual private networks. The box can also work as a wireless interface for computers that only have a wired ethernet connection.

Testing the Travel Router on a broadband network proved it worked well, both when linking up to an existing Ethernet connection and directly to a cable modem. It also worked happily on a network that already had another wireless access point - a good sign as sometimes these devices can interfere with each other.

The Travel Router works on both the 54mbps speed standard, 802.11g and the older, slower 802.11b. Given its small size and lack of an external antenna, signal strength seemed good and connections to the internet were reliable.

Setting up the device, though, was a little harder than it should be. 3Com builds a configuration page into its wireless hardware, but many of the settings, particularly the security ones, will confuse anyone who is not a networking specialist. The rudimentary manual does little to explain what the settings are for.

Configuring the Travel Router requires a combination of a web browser and a settings switch on the side of the unit. This is fine if the Router is on a desk, but if the only option is the (supplied) short cable to connect to a network wall socket, it will be a frustrating process.

After a few attempts, though, the Router worked as intended and there were no glitches after that. For some reason, configuration seems to work best with the device unplugged from the network.

Ultimately, given its small size, flexibility and low cost, the Travel Router is a viable option for simple home and office wireless networks, as well as for computer users on the move. Event organisers should pack one in their bags, just in case.

THE VERDICT

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Pros: secure, flexible, compact, cheap.

Cons: set-up can be complex.

Price: £47 including VAT.

Contact: www.3com.com

Comments