back to article Trevor contemplates Consumer Netgear gear. BUT does it pass the cat hair test?

Is consumer networking gear really crap? As technologists, we tend to have a chip on our shoulder about it because it can't do all the things the latest, greatest enterprise stuff can do, but does that really matter? The capabilities of consumer gear have been steadily increasing, and perhaps some of our ire is unwarranted. …

  1. (AMPC) Anonymous and mostly paranoid coward

    Thanks for the memories

    Yeah good old Netgear. I'm still running a jungle of old Netgear router/switches in my lab. Most of them came from offices with +100 users. They just refuse to die. On the other hand my WRTG54s didn't last nearly as long as yours which is when I first switched to Netgear, so I guess YMMV.

    I find the majority of my SOHO customers aren't ready to splash out for a 10Gbe layer 3 switch, yet. Any suggestions for a good lower end smart switch (8 x 1 Gbe) with VLAN features staying well within the sub 500 USD range? A comparative article about low end, budget SOHO LANs would be awesome. I know I would click on it.

    Cheers

    1. JCF2009

      Re: Thanks for the memories

      "Any suggestions for a good lower end smart switch (8 x 1 Gbe) with VLAN features staying well within the sub 500 USD range?"

      ----------------------------

      Have you looked at the Cisco SG300-10 (or the PoE version SG300-10P)? I believe either of these meets all of your criteria for features and cost. I've had good luck with them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Thanks for the memories

        Have you looked at the Cisco SG300-10 (or the PoE version SG300-10P)? I believe either of these meets all of your criteria for features and cost. I've had good luck with them.

        Seconded… we use SG300-24Ps at my workplace and I also have two SG200-8s at home. I've also used a Netgear PROSafe 5-port managed switch. (I can't recall the model.)

        The Netgear cost me AU$50, and while it works, its admin interface (written in Adobe Air) is a pile of crap. (It doesn't see the switch half the time and only works in Windows.) There's something listening on port 80 that the Adobe AIR UI talks to, but no web or telnet interfaces to speak of.

        The SG200s were about AU$100, and have a decent web interface for administration.

        All can do VLANs and LACP.

      2. Ol' Grumpy

        Re: Thanks for the memories

        The HP1810-8G is also an alternative if you can still find them. The web interface is a little clunky but it supports VLANs and can even be powered from another PoE switch. I run one in my lounge which connects back to an SG300-10P in the garage and it works quite well. Silent too as they are fanless.

        Still prefer the SG300 series though :)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Netgear DG834 ADSL firewall routers have been the staple for supporting friends and family on broadband over the last 10 years. The only real problem was with the v4 ones failing to power up cleanly until they were warm. That turned out to be due to the new smaller psu.

    Many a user's poor broadband connectivity problem has been solved by replacing their ISP supplied router with a Netgear DG834.

    One nice thing is the compatibility of the config files between versions - even going from non-wifi to wifi models. The VPN capability between DG384s has proved useful on occasion for remote access to a distant dependant's network. Having all my dependent users' config files makes it easy to set-up a clone DG834G for testing when doing PC repairs.

    The only thing missing at one time was SNMP - although it is probably an option in the raw config file.

    Other manufacturers routers have been tried but discarded. A USR one didn't even have a "reset to defaults" pinhole - and the person who borrowed it forgot their new password.

    A Netgear router that was supposed to tune itself dynamically for the best wifi signal was a disaster - spending all its time just flashing blue lights.

    The only question is whether the existing DG834s can be persuaded to support IPv6 when the time comes?

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      One nice thing is the compatibility of the config files between versions

      Yes it is nice when you encounter vendors products that support this, but this really should be the norm and not the exception.

    2. P. Lee Silver badge

      Re: DG834G

      I have one of these. (v2) Not so impressed.

      It tends to randomly reboot. Line drops are relatively frequent (not sure which end is at fault). I've heard rumours of VPNs but mine doesn't seem to serve them or run any of the third-party router OSes.

      I'll try a second-hand Cisco 800 I picked up for five quid.

    3. Franco Silver badge

      I have similar experiences with the DG834, up to a point. Over the last 18 months or so they have become less reliable IME. As it's across multiple ISPs I haven't been able to pin down the cause, but speed issues and disconnects are much more common than previously.

      The Draytek 120Y has become my modem of choice, as it's just a modem and will work with just about any Ethernet firewall behind it.

      Rarely had a bad experience with Netgear kit though, can't beat their prices if you just need a basic unmanaged rackmount switch for example.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ABC

    Nothing's perfect, naturally, but you don't need an EMC SAN running on Cisco switches to make a modest business work reliably anymore.

    There is an acronym that many network engineers have learned to live by over the years, and it is ABC: Anything But Cisco. The suggestion that you need Cisco gear to run a reliable network is an anti-truth. I am not a hardcore networking specialist, it is more of an auxiliary sideline to what I do most of the time, but I have worked at many places over the last two decades or so where the networking guys got fed up of Cisco gear, replaced it all with other makes of kit, and have lived happily ever after.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The prejudices... need revisiting."

    Agreed if the prejudices are your own, but what if they're someone else's, in particular, auditors or other box-tickers? I recall replacing a ludicrously expensive Sun+Checkpoint firewall (nearly £20k, if I recall with a generic multi-ethernet mini-ITX debian box as a firewall, and having to spend ages with an auditor to explain why it was better. Later, at a pan-Euro company, I used IBM pizza box desktops in the same role and for OpenVPN, but one French company we bought, they were horrified that we didn't supply them with a PIX or similar. They were convinced that the box would fail, so I ended up giving them two, one of which, years later, was still in its box above the system rack.

    The perception is that the safe, meaning insurance against fear of retribution and comeback, option will remain well-marketed "enterprise" brands. Cynics and realists would call this lunacy and uncreative, MBAs and PHBs would call it "business sense."

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Go

      Re: ql Re: "The prejudices... need revisiting."

      "....They were convinced that the box would fail, so I ended up giving them two...." Thumbs up for the DIY firewalls, but TBH you were lucky they accepted the idea of a redundant unit rather than the expensive-but-safe COTS option. In a company we worked at we had an IPchains-based firewall on an old PC that split off our training/prototyping lab from the corporate network, and it had worked faultlessly for three years before an external security consultant persuaded management it was a 'bad idea'. The consultant's reasoning was nothing to do with the capabilities of the DIY box, rather the argument that if certain key members of staff left or fell under a bus then there was no-one that could fix it should it fail in service. A COTS offering came with full support and documentation. It's my experience that the MBAs like that expensive-but-safe option simply for the reduction in perceived risk.

      1. dan1980

        Re: ql "The prejudices... need revisiting."

        @Matt

        This is a HUGE factor and it's one reason Cisco is still so prevalent despite no longer being the sole option.

        When people take cheaper options, they may absolutely work perfectly - or even better - than more expensive units. BUT, when the sysadmin leaves and everyone has forgotten about the white-box putting along reliably in the rack, what happens when, one day, it needs attention? It is elementary to get a qualified, Cisco technician reconfigure or replace a unit.

        This is one of the TCO/ROI bullshit bingo moments. Sometimes having a known quantity is better than getting the best value.

        Take Windows in a small business. Yes, they could likely use Linux and some free packages like Libre Office and will save a ton of money at the outset but 3 years down the track when the person who set it all up is out of the picture, how quick and easy is it to get help? Windows techs are a dime a dozen in the small business space and you can have someone out same day and likely be on your way.

        But, of course, mileage varies greatly and neither option is better or worse - you just have to assess the situation.

  5. durandal

    TPLink appears to be the new low-end Netgear. In my limited experience, the netgear products could be divided into 'cheap plastic' and 'tank like metal' enclosure. The latter tended to go on forever, doing sterling yet unsung service in the back of cupboards and sealed behind plasterboard.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      TP-link

      I have used a few TP-link boxes without problems, but not 100% sure how secure the software is. Might be a good/cheap basis for OpenWRT use.

  6. jamesb2147

    My luck

    Even more lately, my experience has been crappy with consumer gear, particularly routers and WAP's. Back in 2012 I was working to onboard remote employees, including setting up port forwarding on their personal routers to support SIP, and there was literally not a single one that worked the way it should, for whatever reason.

    These days, I'm deploying gear and putting out Ubiquiti for both routing and wireless. The wireless still has funny moments now and again (don't ask about v6 support), but the EdgeLite routers are based on Vyatta and have been ROCK solid since install. Not the same features as a UTM appliance, but not the same bugs, either.

  7. ecarlseen

    It's been awhile

    I haven't messed with consumer-grade networking gear in a business environment in a very long time - the most common horror story we would run into were switches that crashed randomly when asked to handle switching more than a few dozen MACs. The Cisco gear was (and is) far more expensive, but on the other hand it's almost flawlessly reliable. We've had many instances where literally every problem would suddenly go away just by replacing consumer-grade stuff with proper gear. Things keep improving, but stuff like that does leave a taste in your mouth. We still generally deploy Cisco for several reasons:

    1) Web interfaces on networking gear are generally slow as dirt and would still suck even if they weren't.

    2) Complex, but sane-once-you-know it CLI. As opposed to, say, the insanity of HP Procurve. We solve a *lot* of problems without having to go on-site because of the thorough diagnostic capabilities in the CLI. Saving two trips on-site pays for the extra cost of the switch or router, and the odds of them not saving at least two trips are zero.

    3) Thorough remote monitoring via SNMP and Nagios / Icinga.

    4) Excellent security options and CLI authentication via TACACS+ / RADIUS / SSH keys.

    5) The 95+% chance that if we put a Cisco switch in, it will still be happily running a decade later if the customer decides not to replace it. Again, if you save the time and labor of one replacement, you've generally covered the extra cost of the switch; that doesn't even go into what the customer's downtime costs are.

    6) No matter what crazy thing you need to do to accommodate your customer's needs, there is usually a configuration option for it.

    This shouldn't be construed as a blanket endorsement of Cisco - I could write pages about stupid stuff they do that that drives me insane. We still occasionally buy lower-end routers and switches (including Netgear, which remains my favorite "home" brand) and throw them into the lab to see how they stack up. So far, though, our analysis remains that for most business applications that are large enough to require professional help, going low-end only saves you money in the long run if your time isn't worth anything.

    1. Ol' Grumpy

      Re: It's been awhile

      Generally agree with your points although I would argue that Cisco's reliability of late has been questionable. The Calayst 3850's for example seem to be full of bugs where wireless integration goes and the less said about the power supplies popping on some models of 3750, the better! :)

  8. itzman
    FAIL

    as a geek...

    ..one gets 'dysfunctioval' hardware gifted on one.

    The proportion of intermittently flaky netgear routers is out of all proportion to market share.

    They may use the same chips...but I suspect they dont use the same input transformer - they seem to die or get crippled too many times after lightning storms..

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not my experience

    First there's the dual band APs, the self signed certificates expired and suddenly you couldn't access the web interface. Not to worry they have netgear's lifetime warranty except the lifetime of a netgear product is about 2 years at which point netgear stick a magic v2 on the model number and yours is no longer supported. These are the same APs that require you to set the first SSID to be on the management vlan because the management vlan can't be set separately.

    Next there's the "smart" switch; want to change the default vlan? sorry can't do that. Want to tag the default vlan? sorry can't do that. Want to manage the switch with anything other than IE6? you get the idea.

    Currently wrestling with two 12TB ReadyNAS boxes; one likes to stop processing AD requests randomly or will process requests from one domain but not from others, fix for that from Netgear? reboot. The other one won't authenticate anything on the CIFS side, Netgear's solution? wipe the box and the 8TB of data and start again.

    That said I've got a few 4-8 port unmanged switches which are fine. I'd have to read a lot of glowing reviews before I was persuaded to put any money into one of Netgear's "Enterprise" products again.

  10. ecofeco Silver badge

    Netgear?

    I love Netgear!!! I've made more money fixing those sorry piece of shit excuses for electronics than any other!

    Prejudiced about Netgear? Damn right I am.

    Do NOT get me started about their *+&%$^_(*^&**@&(#^%# admin interface! My dog could...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My experience with Netgear goes something like:

    DSL Router model DGxyz - Brilliant

    DSL Router model DGxyz v2 - Overheats

    Wireless Router with almost ventless case -- Overheats, locks up

    Replacement model 12 months later with more vents -- Ok but shocking firmware bugs

    ... followed by total failure just out of warranty

    Cable modem Telstra provided -- Overheats, locks up, wireless shuts down randomly

    In general, whether a Netgear device is complete garbage or wonderful seems to depend entirely on its exact model number. One might be perfect, then get replaced by one with a raft of crap issues.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget about the Netgear-manufactured Virgin Super Hub, with two main issues: 1) random reboots, 2) wifi randomly turns off.

      If you're lucky you'll have neither of these problems or (slightly less lucky) both. At least if you've got both then it'll automatically reboot before the wifi has been down for too long!

  12. Vince

    Netgear.... used to be good. No longer good.

    ReadyNAS series unreliable piles of garbage. Can't tell you how many of those we've had in with various failures - our normal routine is to throw them away.

    The switches are just about OK if you want unmanaged switches but they don't all deliver true gigabit for example.

    The routers give poorer performance as a general rule in my experience for a given line - so you don't get the maximum potential from the dsl circuit.

    And yes... then there are the virgin media super hub units which are of course netgear. Nuff said.

  13. Jay 2
    FAIL

    No more Netgear...

    I used (and recommended) Netgear kit for years. I went through DG824, DG834Gv2, DG834Gv4 and non-router I had a ReadyNAS, the powerline plugs and at some point even some wireless repeaters.

    After some strange ADSL droputs (and ISP not seeing much) I though it was time to look into replacing the ageing DG834Gv4 with something a bit newer. So for a few weeks I borrowed a DGND3300v2 whilst I looked around.

    In quick succession I went had and returned two DGND4000 and a D6200. They all suffered from the same problem, which was after a few hours of inactivity the WiFi would stop working (or rather they wouldn't respond to DHCP requests over WiFi), but if you just happened to power on a wired device it would all start working again.

    In both cases I logged calls with Netgear, who seemed to suggest I run an open ended Wireshark capture "untill the disconnection occurs". Eventually I got hold of an engineer who said it was a known bug, and that I should install a certain firmware version. Until I pointed out he was referring to some US-only firmware which wouldn't work on my UK router. He then said I should RMA the D6200. Given that it would cost me money, and the new one would come with the same (broken) firmware I declined. So back it went to Amazon.

    I then got a Linksys X3500 which also had some DSL connection problems, but eventually a combination of new firmware and tweaking MTU seemed to sort it out. So the kit is now OK, but the front end is horrible to use. So next router probably won't be a Netgear or a Linksys...

  14. sjiveson

    Ubiquiti Kit

    I can second the Ubiquiti recommendation. I've been through cheap to Draytek £150 routers and none have been reliable. I now have a EdgeRouter Lite, a dedicated and separate ZyXEL Prestige 660R-D1 ADSL modem and a Ubiquiti AP on the way (to replace a TPlink all in one jobbie).

    I'd rather not have separate devices for each function but it seems to be the only way.

    On the subject of Cisco, the software has been a real problem for many years. For Cisco software testing seems to be a case of shipping and waiting for customer complaints (and expensive outages). Its no surprise FB, Google et al build their own.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cisco yes, Netgear no

    Excellent experiences with the Cisco SG200 range as a low cost alternative to their IOS-running big brothers. You can download the configs and edit them, then re-upload too, if you find the web interface too slow for bulk setup operations :)

    Netgear - our core switches needed replacing and some bright spark decided to save a five-figure sum by shelling out for Netgear instead of proper Cisco kit. Big mistake. Huge. We've comfortably lost that five-figure sum in lost productivity inside a year because the crappy things keep needing to be rebooted in the middle of the day. So now we're buying the proper Cisco kit instead... Used Netgear as edge switches in a previous life, and even they suffered a ridiculously high degree of failures.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice for me, not so nice for customers

    Horses for courses. 200-person office? I'll buy Cisco or HP please. I want something with no drama and certainly no callbacks - the bane of every self-employed IT SMB contractor.

    10 person office, Netgear would certainly be in the frame.

    My office, I'm prepared to fiddle. Right now I have a 19.99 TP Link that looks like it would be too cheap for WalMart next to my beloved and yet much abused Cisco 2924.

  17. JimWin

    Netgear - not so good

    I "upgraded" from a 2Mbps to a 8Mbps Netgear and it could not handle the long rural BT line in my part of the world. Went back to a 2Mbs Thomson and all was ok so confirming a poor S/N ratio was probably the main issue with the Netgear. After searching around I eventually replaced both with a Billion Bipack7800N. I've never looked back. It works like a charm with an excellent line performance together with easy access to a comprehensive setup menu giving user access to a number of advanced features. But I guess not too many users know this brand.

  18. pierce
    Boffin

    my home setup is now a pfSense (freeBSD based) router on a APU1D4 board (10 watts total draw, no fans), whihc is ridiculously overpowered for my 30Mbit cable (and will soon be configured with failover to a static IP ADSL I keep around), FreeNAS (also FreeBSD based) NAS on a HP Microserver N40L (4x3TB disks in raidZ for 7.4TiB usable space), and a UniFi AP-LR ceiling mounted wifi.

    I am SO much happier with this setup than my previous old-PC-running-Linux router/fileserver, and various consumer routers-in-WAP-mode doing wifi. Its also greatly lowered my always-on power footprint.

  19. Mike Wood

    UTM

    Netgear has pulled out of the UTM Market late last year, leaving a number of us still supported until Dec 31st 2016, but still needing to find replacement units.

    They still never fixed all the issues on the UTM9S

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