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-- by James E. Powell
This LanBridge review emerged from an investigation of a number of different shared ISDN solutions. The products basically broke down into hardware--plugging a router into your network--and software camps. We have yet to find a cost-effective router that fits well with the dial-up ISDN service commonly used by small offices. And LanBridge is easily managed by the novice network user most likely to inhabit a small, remote branch office.
Although a new generation of low-cost mini-routers is beginning to appear on the scene, you'll pay between $800 to $1,200 for a router, as opposed to about $600 for the software-only LanBridge solution. Plus, some routers need an extra-cost dedicated IP address to work, rather than the more usual dynamic IP assignment of a dial-up connection.
ISPs charge extra for a dedicated IP address because it has to be available to the customer at all times. This means the ISP takes an IP address out of the pool and reserves a modem for that particular customer. In one case, the ISDN service at a remote office would jump from $45 per month to $300 per month. Unlike our encounters with the modem pools at popular ISPs, we haven't heard busy signals for ISDN service. So unless you want the reassurance of knowing you can have a 24-hour-a-day ISDN connection, our advice is to pick a router that supports dynamic IP addressing.
The other problem with choosing a router solution is that you might need a network administrator to install and maintain it. We've seen manuals that were so convoluted that we couldn't figure out how to set up the product without calling technical support. In one case, we had so much difficulty understanding the instructions that we simply gave up, knowing we'd never recommend a product with such troublesome documentation.
We're still evaluating router solutions that support dial-up ISDN connections. Look for reviews of the better products in upcoming issues.