Originally Published: Thursday, 27 April 2000 Author: Scott Nipp
Published to: featured_articles/Featured Articles Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Linux Network Device?

Linux offers a wide range of network services, and here is a good example of putting these services to good use. Many small businesses and home users have multiple computers these days. These computers, along with the widespread availability of high bandwidth Internet services, make sharing an Internet connection increasingly important for many people. A very simple Linux device can provide you with a rather elegant solution to this issue.

Linux offers a wide range of network services, and here is a good example of putting these services to good use. Many small businesses and home users have multiple computers these days. These computers, along with the widespread availability of high bandwidth Internet services, make sharing an Internet connection increasingly important for many people. A very simple Linux device can provide you a rather elegant solution to this issue.

Cable modems and DSL service are becoming increasingly popular high-bandwidth Internet service options for home users. DSL service is also being offered in many areas as an Internet connectivity product for small businesses. The rates for these services are very affordable, but you tend to get only the most basic level of service unless you plan on paying substantially more than the entry-level rates. Many homes and even more small businesses need multiple e-mail accounts, and have more than one computer. This means that you will be paying more for those extra e-mail and IP addresses, depending on your provider. Avoiding some of these extra costs is where Linux can very affordably come to your rescue.

A low-end Linux system can be configured to extend the basic service that your provider offers in order to accommodate your needs. A simple 486-based system with no more than 16MB of RAM and no hard drive is capable of acting as a simple firewall and can basically convert your one IP address from your service provider into several, one for each computer you want to have Internet access. This firewall can help to protect your computers from someone on the Internet "hacking" into your computers and causing you countless headaches. This firewall configuration does require a significant degree of skill, but you can find some pre-configured "rules" to do a pretty good job of protecting your location. The IP "conversion" is actually called "IP Masquerading", and will allow you to have this system provide "private" IP addresses for the other systems on your network. The firewall setup helps to protect your environment, but the IP Masquerading can end up saving you quite a bit on your monthly service provider bill.

This type of solution can help a typical household that wants to have Internet access from a couple of computers, but doesn't want to pay the extra monthly service charge for the additional IP address required for this. Small businesses can obviously benefit from connecting multiple computers without having to pay the extra service charges. Another nice thing about this solution is the fact that it's both completely legal and moral, because you are providing these services to yourself with your own equipment and time investment. Furthermore, businesses can also provide their own e-mail system on another Linux computer and avoid the costs associated with obtaining these e-mail accounts through their ISP. Configuring an e-mail server for your home or small business is a bit more involved and time consuming however.

Linux does a very good job of offering practical solutions to common problems if you are willing to invest the time necessary. This time investment will vary for each individual, and is not technically within the reach of everyone. Some pre-configured solutions are also already available, such as FREESCO, which is a single floppy disk Linux installation that is designed for nothing more than providing the firewall and IP Masquerading services. This is just one more example of how flexible Linux can be in providing cost-effective solutions to common problems.

Scott Nipp is a Technical Solutions Consultant at Sprint Enterprise Network Services.

The views, information and opinions provided in this article are expressed and held solely by the author. Neither Sprint Enterprise Network Services nor Sprint Corporation or any of its affiliates assume any responsibility for any opinion or statement of fact presented in this article.