The menus on the Balance 20 have been updated since I last looked at them in 2008. However, they still use a basic table style layout and appearance. There is a dashboard (shown below) providing a quick status of the router's interfaces, VPN connection and device info, a setup wizard for configuring WAN interfaces and three main menu options for configuring the router.
I've listed the three main menu options and their sub menus to give an idea of the configuration options available on the Balance 20.
Although basic, the menus on the Peplink are relatively easy to figure out. If you need help, Peplink includes a "?" icon next to most configuration options, which provides instructions or information about a specific option.
Peplink also provides a 199 page manual that covers all models of the Balance product line. In addition, Peplink's on-line knowledgebase, which directs you to the same location as their How-To section, has numerous configuration examples and explanations.
Here's the most impressive part of Peplink's product support. Peplink has a telephone number to call that is prominently listed on their website and answered by humans! I called the number and I only had to make the choice of pressing 1 for sales and 2 for technical support. I pressed 2 for technical support and a human answered! I wasn't ready to speak as I was prepared to have to make more choices before I could get to a human.
I tried it a second time to ensure the first time wasn't a fluke and got right through again! I was informed I didn't need to have a support contract to call this number and if I had a question, they would certainly try to provide an answer. Wow, that is refreshing and unique in today's world of automated responses!
Each WAN interface can be configured in NAT or IP Forwarding mode. The IP Forwarding option allows you to use one of the WAN interfaces as a routed interface to another network without NAT, a useful option to connect to another subnet in your network.
Failover options on each WAN interface are Always-on and Backup. Always-on is the recommended setting, which keeps the interface in an up state and allows for load balancing over that interface. At least one WAN Interface should be set to Always-on.
WAN Interfaces on the Balance 20 can also be set to Backup Priority Group 1 or Group 2. A WAN Interface set to Backup Priority Group 1 would be used if the Always-on interface failed and preferred over a USB WWAN Interface configured as Backup Priority Group 2.
I ran a simple test by setting both WAN Interfaces to Always-on and set up a continuous ping to google.com. I simulated WAN outages by disconnecting one of the two WAN interfaces. Failover and fail-back was instant and seamless, there were no dropped packets!
Load balancing on the Balance 20 starts by setting the bandwidth for each WAN Interface. The Peplink manual says to use the values provided by your ISP. Another way to measure your bandwidth on your WAN interface is to run several speed tests, using public speed test sites such as speedtest.net and speakeasy.net. Once the values are entered, the Balance 20 will automatically balance traffic over your Internet connections.
You can customize load balancing by defining how specific traffic types should be balanced over WAN interfaces. Choices are to prioritize traffic types over WAN interfaces using weighted distribution, persistently routing traffic between a specific origin and destination to a specific WAN interface, directing (forcing) specific traffic to a specific WAN interface, prioritizing traffic by WAN interface from WAN 1 to WAN 2 to WWAN and by overflowing traffic to the next WAN interface as an interface reaches capacity.
As a test, I set up a simple rule to direct all web traffic over a specific WAN interface to validate traffic flow, as shown below. I then changed the rule to route web traffic from WAN 1 to WAN 2 and back. The LEDs on the front of the Balance 20 router made it clear the WAN interface I chose in my rule was the one carrying the traffic, validating the effectiveness of my simple test rule.
If you're using a multi-WAN router, you're probably doing so to ensure Internet availability. To further ensure Internet availability, Peplink Balance routers also support WWAN (Wireless Wide Area Network) connectivity via a USB 2.0 port.
WWAN connections have the benefit of being highly independent of wired connections. A backhoe or act of nature can take out wired connections. WWAN connections are less reliant on physical infrastructure and provide additional redundancy.
Peplink lists support for 183 modems on its website. Modems from most global manufacturers and carriers are represented in this list. Other than Cradlepoint's MBR900, I don't think I've tested another router that has as many supported USB modems.
LAN options on the Balance 20 are pretty standard. The Balance 20 provides a DHCP server and provides DNS and WINS IP addresses via DHCP. The Balance 20 also supports DHCP reservation, static routing, and DNS Proxy.
However, 802.1q VLANs are not indicated as supported on the Balance 20 LAN interface, nor are they listed in the specs of any of the higher end Balance models, which I find surprising. For my money, I'd like to see 802.1q VLAN support in a business grade router. Peplink tells us, however, that VLAN support is currently in beta and coming in a future firmware update.