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LAN & WAN Reviews

Balance
At a glance
ProductPepLink Balance (30)   [Website]
SummaryRelatively expensive three WAN router supporting link aggregation, balance and auto-failover.
Pros• Three WAN ports for Internet redundancy and diversity
• Sophisticated load balancing and fail-over options
• Drop-in mode for easy implementation into existing network
Cons• No gigabit Ethernet
•No VPN endpoints
•Relatively expensive

Typical Price: $495

Introduction

Updated 9/25/13: Corrected RAM and flash size

Routers with multiple WAN connections are increasingly common, which is a good thing. Internet connectivity is essential, and ISP connections fail. In the last year, I've reviewed products from NETGEAR, Linksys, D-Link, and SonicWALL, all with dual WAN ports. In this review, I'm going to take a look at the PePLink Balance 30, which goes one step further than dual-WAN routers by supporting THREE independent WAN/Internet connections!

Initially, I thought triple WAN connections might be overkill, as customers in most markets use one of two Internet providers, typically a cable or telephone company service. Customers needing redundancy would then subscribe to connections from both the cable and telephone companies. Note that in areas with multiple telephone companies, the outside wires used by the different Telcos are typically on the same wiring infrastructure, so products from multiple Telcos may provide limited diversity. 

Satellite is a viable Internet choice if installing a dish on the building is possible: the latency from the satellite connection isn't a problem, and weather related interruptions are tolerable. Using WWAN, or cellular data services for Internet services, in a network fail-over configuration is also an option, which we looked at with the SonicWALL TZ190. However, cellular Internet bandwidth can be limited and usage is often capped, rendering WWAN viable only in a backup capacity. Finally, many cities now have free or subscription-based Wi-Fi Internet services providing another option. 

PePLink had all this in mind when they created the Balance 30 with its three WAN interfaces. The Balance 30 has been introduced to allow a network to load balance or fail-over to up to three Internet connections of varying types. On the surface, the Balance 30 seems relatively basic, with simple configuration options for its three Internet connections, but PePLink has some powerful tools for leveraging multiple connections.

In addition to directly connecting cable or DSL services, the Balance 30 can be easily inserted between an existing Internet router and LAN with the "Drop-in Mode" configuration option. This mode allows continued use of an existing router supporting perhaps a satellite or WWAN connection, as well as traditional wired connections.

Another creative solution to multiple WAN connections from PePLink is what they call the "Surf Combo." Using the PePLink PepWave200 to receive a Wi-Fi signal and physically connecting it to a WAN interface on the PePLink Balance 30 creates a network that can be connected to two wired Internet providers, as well as a Wi-Fi Internet provider. I like this solution, as it creates value out of using a free Wi-Fi solution that normally might not be suitable for a business network. Free Wi-Fi may be slow and have connection issues, but it can certainly be a useful solution for fail-over or low priority traffic.

Before I go into configuration and performance analysis, I have to give PePLink credit for putting a demo of their product on the web. Click on this link and you will be able to view all the configuration options of a PePLink Balance 380. 

This review is about the Balance 30, not the 380 as in the demo, but the menus and configuration options are identical with the exception that the 380 has additional options for High Availability. After working on a live Balance 30 and reviewing this demo, I can confirm the configuration options in this web demo are identical to configuring the real device. As you read this review, feel free to check out the menu options for yourself.

Hardware Details

The Balance 30 is a simple device physically, outfitted in a black plastic housing measuring 9.57" W x 6.25" D x 1.26" H. The power supply is external, so the device is very lightweight. Indicator lights on the front (Figure 1) provide status indicators for the physical ports residing on the back (Figure 2).

Front view

Figure 1: Front view diagram of the Balance 30

Rear view

Figure 2: Rear view diagram of the Balance 30

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