Cisco WRVS4400N – first impressions and Mac OS VPN support

As I mentioned here, I’m spending some time evaluating this wireless security router for use in a small office environment.

So far, I’ve had no complaints about the basic operation and build quality of the device. It’s stable, and has a well-built (albeit all-plastic) feel to it. Its web admin BUI is also very nice – a definite cut above what you’d otherwise expect at the price point:

WRVS4400N Admin BUI

Amongst all the other goodies it’s loaded with (gigabit Ethernet networking, intrusion protection, selective site blocking), it also features built-in VPN, a potentially very useful feature for easy remote connectivity back to the office. This works in conjunction with Cisco’s QuickVPN software (freely downloadable from their website).

Setup of this was super-easy. One simply adds a VPN client account in the router BUI, and exports the router certificate for client use. That’s it as far as router setup goes – everything else is handled by the router firmware. Getting up and running with VPN really only takes about thirty seconds.

Installing and configuring QuickVPN on a laptop running Windows 7 Enterprise 64bit was equally straightforward. After saving the exported router client certificate into the QuickVPN installation directory (you will not be able to establish a connection otherwise), I was able to securely connect to and browse the remote network.

QuickVPN running on Windows 7

 

The WRVS4400N, QuickVPN, and Mac OS X

So far, so great – so what’s the catch? Well, here it is, and it’s completely stupid: QuickVPN is only available on Windows platforms. Seriously Cisco, what the hell? I can understand this attitude circa 2001, but in 2011 this just doesn’t make any sense. I don’t use Mac OS as my primary platform and the products, while beautifully designed, are a control freak’s wet dream…but last time I looked Mac OS was a very, very popular platform especially in the creative industries where I’m sure a lot of small businesses operate. So, for Cisco to release a small business router where a substantial group of customers are cut out of (easily) using one of the router’s key selling features is just daft.

The silver lining to this is that there is a way to connect to the WRVS4400N’s VPN facility, and although it is not as convenient as using QuickVPN, at least it works. For this, I’ll refer you to the following document on Cisco’s support forums, posted by a very helpful community member. It uses the freely available IPSecuritas application, and I can confirm that once an IPSec VPN tunnel has been configured in the router, the procedure documented below does indeed work (as tested on a Mac OS Snow Leopard system):

https://supportforums.cisco.com/docs/DOC-10266

Fortunately, this somewhat salvages what would otherwise be a poor choice for a Mac OS or mixed platform small business, but really Cisco, just release a version of QuickVPN for Mac OS!

 

Otherwise, on both Windows and Mac OS platforms VPN worked great, but with one slight oddity: attempting to use the router’s admin BUI over VPN would result in the connection hanging, requiring a manual disconnection and relaunch of the VPN client software. Browsing the router’s admin pages was fine, but if a setting required saving, the connection would stall indefinitely.

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One thought on “Cisco WRVS4400N – first impressions and Mac OS VPN support

  1. Pingback: WRVS4400N – more impressions, and Cisco tech support « Dave Koelmeyer

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