Access to your network can come in many ways. As we explored in the last section, dial-up needs are served by access servers, for instance. However, branch offices, small offices, telecommuters, and road warriors may need higher performance and more robust access to the network. As such, access for these connections can be facilitated using access routers. Access routers are a subset of Cisco's router offerings.
Cisco's access router line provides the functionality for remote workers who need more powerful access to the network. To facilitate these connections, access routers include beefed-up security and performance features. Access routers offer secure Internet and network access through a variety of high-speed WAN access technologies. Benefits of the access routers include
High-speed broadband and leased-line access
Multiservice data/voice integration applications
Integrated security capabilities, with IPSec VPN, a stateful inspection firewall, and intrusion detection
Higher-end models are modular, providing design and deployment flexibility
Cisco's line of access routers covers the gamut of organizational needs, offering models from SOHO use to medium-sized businesses to huge enterprise deployments.
In addition to traditional router duties, access routers provide enhanced security, manageability, and Quality of Service (QoS) necessary for such applications as videoconferencing, e-learning, VPNs, and online collaboration.
An important feature of the access routers is their QoS capabilities. Since the routers will be asked to channel VoIP, multimedia content, and other applications that would suffer from packet latency, QoS is a necessary mechanism. These capabilities result in smoother, jitter-free conversations and transmissions than without QoS in place.
Cisco offers a number of access routers with varying levels of features. The lower-end access routers are fixed in their configuration-that is, they simply plug into a WAN connection, like a DSL line. However, when you start moving up the ladder of Cisco's access router products, there are more opportunities for modularity. They can be configured to operate on an OC-3 connection or T1 connection, for example, depending on which cards and modules you use to tweak it out.
Cisco offers eight models of access routers in two series:
The Cisco 1700 Series Access Router is targeted at small to medium businesses. This series, with six models, offers a number of IPSec VPN, stateful firewall, and intrusion detection capabilities.
The Cisco 3700 Series Access Router offers two models: the Cisco 3725 and the 3745 Multiservice Access Router. They are an integral part of Cisco AVVID (Architecture for Voice, Video, and Integrated Data). Since they use IOS, they are highly configurable and offer QoS and security features to branch offices.