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When setting up a small or home office, everyone asks: Do I need a personal firewall? Can I leave the computer on 24/7? Why is cable boot up slow? What should I be afraid of? Any hot tips? Law Technology Newsquizzed some legal technologists. Here’s their advice. Steven Marks Aspire.Net, New York City DSL is faster in theory because it is not shared. I have had both 384K DSL and Road Runner and I think Road Runner is faster. I don’t have a long boot-up time. Could it be because you are running RR Medic? I run through an SMC wireless router/firewall/toaster so I no longer run a personal firewall, but I would recommend it. I used Zonealarm ( www.zonelabs.com). It is free. It is a pain in the beginning because you have to train it to allow your regular programs out, but then it calms down. I would use it. The wireless Ethernet is highly recommended; there is just nothing like surfing the Web in bed (which shows you what my life is like). I can argue either side of leaving the computer running 24/7, and in 20 years I have seen no difference in the life of the computer either way (and we are talking thousands of computers) — although current computers do run hot and need adequate cooling. I keep my computer running 24/7: Who wants to wait for a computer to boot to do a quick e-mail or eBay check, not to mention that 2 a.m. brainstorm? John Hokkanen Consultant, Encinitas, Calif. The only hiccup with cable modems is if too many users are clogging the bandwidth. For DSL, it is all about distance from the central office switch that will determine how fast you can go. But, whether cable or DSL, set up a WiFi network so all the desktops and laptops in the house have high-speed access. Phil Shuey Consultant, Greenwood Village, Colo. Had terrible problems with DSL — not the technology, but the company. My AT&T Broadband cable modem has been excellent, about twice as fast (usually 1.3, instead of about 750 kbps) and very reliable. Use a firewall — even the free downloadable basic ones are fine for most needs. If you are not going to be on (e.g., overnight), but leave your system on (as I do, usually), then just use the firewall’s administration to cut you off — thus providing effective protection. Matt De Voll Elite Information Systems, Los Angeles DSL works very well. It is fast, does not suffer degradation when multiple users pile on, and it doesn’t interfere with voice. I had very fast SDSL (700+k download/384 upload), which required a dedicated line that did not provide voice, through Northpoint (now out of business) from 1999-2001. When Northpoint went out of business, I got nominally slower ADSL through Covad (does not require dedicated line; it shares a voice line). It has worked well, with a couple of problems that I have since remedied. Also, I have not noticed an appreciable difference in speed between the ADSL and the SDSL. I think that the ADSL nominal speed is 384 down/128 up, or thereabouts. I use a DSL modem in my office, which plugs into Linksys 4 port router. This distributes the Internet connection to three other computers via Ethernet cable and to a wireless base station on fourth port. The wireless base station provides wireless Internet to anyone with 80211b within about 150 feet of my home office. Covad ADSL for the home user uses dynamic IP address. For some time, every time Covad changed my IP address, my router would go down and I would have to reset the entire network. This was a pain because it always seemed to happen when I was traveling. I would call my home to find that instead of missing me, my wife and kids were mad at me because the Internet had gone down again. My wife has zero interest in gadgetry. She doesn’t understand why we don’t just bag the whole thing and get a $20/month dial-up connection. Meanwhile, my kids are very Internet-dependent. I solved the problem and am happy to report that everything now works great. I went to the Linksys Web site ( www.linksys.com) and downloaded new firmware for my router. Easy to install, easy to configure, and now the constantly changing IP address does not bother us anymore. We have Internet throughout the house, out by the pool, in the kitchen, wherever. The wireless works great. Loren Jones Consultant, Prior Lakes, Minn. Never had cable modem, but I’ve had DSL for almost three years and love it. Key benefits are consistent performance and, in my case, a dedicated IP address, which gives me some flexibility in implementing remote access. I routinely use XP’s Remote Desktop feature to connect with my home office from the road. The fixed IP has other benefits. Just last night I had to bring up an FTP server to transfer a large amount of data and it was a snap to do. Personally, I leave my system on all the time (for remote access purposes and to continuously pull and act on e-mail) and I use a firewall. I would highly recommend using one. In the few hours my FTP server was up last night it had two hacker attempts! Norton Systemworks is probably adequate, but I have opted for a hardware device which gives me some extra flexibility, as well as simplifying the sharing of the connection with all the computers in the house, both PCs and Macs. Ross Kodner MicroLaw Inc., Milwaukee It is surprising the number of otherwise sophisticated technologists who don’t take broadband security seriously. There is a common misperception that if your DSL or cable modem connection doesn’t have a static IP address, security isn’t a significant issue. Wrong! Security is a huge issue whether you have a dynamic or static IP address on your connection. Security is not the vendor’s responsibility — it’s yours. At home, this likely means using personal firewall products — software systems such as ZoneAlarm Pro from Zone Labs Inc. ( www.zonelabs.com), Norton Internet Security from Symantec Corp. ( www.symantec.com), or others. You may be tempted to say, “Gee, it’s just my kids’ homework files and my digital pictures at risk, so no big deal.” How about that copy of Quicken with all your personal financial and tax records? At the office, firewalls can be software or hardware-based. The best product depends on a number of system configuration factors (size and type of network and type of remote access system). Hardware firewalls can cost as little as $400 and run up to many thousands for larger network systems. The bottom line: Never trust the cable or DSL salesperson who insists, “Hey! Security’s no problem, we’ve got ya covered!” Sally Gonzalez Baker Robbins & Co., Arlington, Va. It only takes a hacker a moment to plant something on your computer while it is connected to the Internet. You may be online and you may never know it happened — until the ugliness starts later. So practice safe Internet computing. Always make sure there’s a firewall active when a PC is connected to the Internet over DSL or cable modem — even if you turn the workstation off when it’s not in use. Anything else is equivalent to, and less reliable than, choosing the rhythm method for birth control.

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