Managing Two Network Providers: Using a PePlink Balance 30 by jgn on Friday, August 15, 2008 in Technology

At work we've been a Verizon customer for phone and network. We use a Cisco 800 Series router which gives us wireless and VPN. It has a horrible Java applet interface which is so bad I can't recommend that router. In any case, we were saturating our bandwidth through this router, and everyone was being driven crazy by the effect on our network when someone would hog up the traffic when deploying software (mostly big transfers from Subversion using ssh -- our Subversion server is on this office LAN managed by the Cisco router).

Now we're all software developers. We're a tiny company and don't have anyone to manage our IT; we do it ourselves, and we have rather a lot of equipment and a simple but non-trivial network. Through the goodwill of friends and former colleagues we've gotten some advice, but, really, it's not what we're good at.

Recently we decided we wanted to augment our Verizon drop with a 2nd drop from Comcast. Comcast has some good deals providing a decent amount of bandwidth. So we bought the drop.

Now how to integrate this into our existing network? With the minimum amount of screwing around? Basically we wanted to leave the Cisco and its VPN alone. We also wanted the office traffic to go via the Comcast drop whenever possible.

This sounds easy, but it's not. There are a lot of expensive devices that can help you manage "quality of service," but, really, we wanted something cheap and easy.

After rather a lot of research we settled on the PePlink Balance 30. [Buy from Amazon Ir?t=jgn09 20&l=ur2&o=1]

peplink

It's about the size of a conventional home router. It provides for 3 WAN links. So, typically, you would plug Verizon into one WAN port, Comcast into the second, and perhaps -- if you have access to it -- some free wireless network into the third. In other words, you want to provide to your office multiple ways to get to the outside world in case something goes down.

In our cast, we plugged the Cisco router into one WAN port, the cable from the Comcast modem into the other.

The next step was some custom routing rules. Basically we said that all traffic for the network and VPN managed by the Cisco should go there; and everything else to Comcast.

So far it seems to work great.

The device provides good stats showing WAN utilization, and we're getting what we want. Some traceroutes look funny (like they're going via the VPN), but I hope to have that fixed up pretty soon now.

There's a review out there from SmallNetBuilder.

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