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MikroTik – connecting networks around the world
We all use networks every day. Cellular networks, local wired and wireless networks, and, of course, the Internet. But rarely do we think about how they work. Sure, as a user, you don’t need to know exactly, but still. All networks are based on the protocols, mainly developed decades ago and gradually improved over the years, and the hardware, which continues to upgrade at a much higher rate. Every piece of hardware also needs its internal software, called firmware. And that’s what MikroTik does.
What is MikroTik and what it does?
MikroTik creates various kinds of network equipment, mainly routers and hardware firewalls for all kinds of networks, and their software, in this case called RouterOS.
MikroTik was created and Riga in 1996, and today it is the third-largest company in Latvia, which costs almost $1.5 billion. 26 years of experience is respectable for any company, especially for one working in the industry of information technologies.
MikroTik products and why you may need them
As of 2022, the catalog of MikroTik products has more than 90 pages in it and contains literally hundreds of products. So, MikroTik is by any means not a small company. Currently, the company designs and manufactures the following types of hardware:
- Ethernet routers;
- Various kinds of wireless systems for home and office;
- LTE and even 5G products for mobile networks;
- “Data over Powerlines” devices (which use electric cables instead of dedicated network cables and are plugged in directly into sockets);
- IoT (Internet of Things) products;
- Products for 60 GHz wireless networks;
- RouterBOARD (ready circuit boards for routers, where Router OS may also be installed);
- SFP (Small Form-factor Pluggable) and QSFP (Quad SFP) products – small network interface modules with hot-plug functionality, where QSFPs are a bit larger and up to 4 times faster;
- Various kinds of antennas, interfaces, enclosures, accessories, etc.
Higher-end products are manufactured in Latvia and Lithuania, while mass products are mainly produced in China and Taiwan.
While the prices are adequate, but not extremely cheap, high-quality hardware and software, extended functionality, and many unique features of the MikroTik products make them popular among a certain category of users for many years. These functions and features include the support of IP Neighbors, ROMON, and Mac-Telnet protocols, MikroTik Torch (real-time traffic monitoring tool), IP Scan, and various services, like the built-in FTP server.
RouterOS and its main features
What’s genuinely unique about MikroTik is its RouterOS. The company started to create it in 1997 as a built-in software for its routers. RouterOS is the network-oriented operational system, based on Linux, currently kernel v2.6. In fact, it transforms your router into a mini-PC with extended network functionality, but today it is much more than just that. RouterOS may be installed on a PC, in a way transforming it into an advanced network router, dedicated server, and even virtual private server. Some hosting providers may preinstall RouterOS on your VPS if necessary. The minimal hardware requirements for VPS are extremely humble:
- any 64-bit CPU with virtualization support (which means at least 1 core of any modern CPU);
- at least 128 Mb of RAM;
- at least 128 Mb of storage.
As it is still based on Linux, you may download and try RouterOS for free without limitations, but after 24 hours of testing a fully functional copy will cost you from 45 to 250 US dollars, depending on the set of functions needed. For like 95% of networks $45 copy will do just fine. And, of course, all RouterBOARD hardware has preinstalled licensed copies of RouterOS.
RouterOS provides a simple and lightweight, yet flexible and powerful interface with lots of options, supports Telnet and secure network access, command-line configuration, and scripting.
The set of features is so extensive, that it may need a separate article to be described, but here are just some of the most important functions:
- Advanced firewall with packet filtering;
- Static and dynamic routing with support of multiple protocols;
- MultiProtocol Label Switching;
- Multiple wireless technologies;
- HotSpot Gateway;
- Web Proxy
- Quality of Service;
- Various administration tools, etc.
So, if you need reliable network hardware and software, using MikroTik products may be a good idea.
Authentication deserves special attention when it comes to security, since its task is to make sure that the user really is who he claims to