Load-Balance Your SMB Internet Access for Greater Speed, Reliability

Paul Mah

Have you ever encountered a situation where you were rushing to send out a quote or tender, or urgently needed to confirm certain information online prior to dealing with a customer only to discover that your Internet service provider (ISP) has chosen that particular moment out of the entire month - or year for the matter - to go down.


Where enterprise companies might have the clout to sign up for a leased line with guaranteed availability, lower-tiered Internet-access plans are generally provided on a "best effort" basis. And even if your SMB has a 99.9 percent uptime service level agreement, this still leaves more than 8 hours of possible downtime a year. This figure gets progressively worse at 99.5 percent and 99 percent reliability, which works out at 43 hours to 87 hours of downtime respectively.


Surely this is scant comfort for the lost business and opportunities while your company struggles with the unplanned disconnection, especially considering that the compensation from your ISP for exceeding the maximum stated downtime is generally paid out simply as service credits.


How about a second scenario in which a small or mid-sized business has expanded rapidly over the year? The Internet connectivity at some branches is at the upper limits of its usability as staffers that were never envisioned hammer at the overstrained Internet connection daily. Upgrading the bandwidth in this instance is not an option as your SMB is already subscribed to the highest bandwidth supplied by the regional ISP.


I was doing research on a multi-WAN solution a couple of weeks back and came across the Peplink Balance range of multi-WAN routers, which promises to address the above two problems and more. I wrote in with questions pertaining to the products and Peplink invited me to a webinar scheduled for its partners. I sat through the hour-long presentation and left impressed.


Depending on the specific multi-WAN appliance used, the Peplink routers allow up to 13 different WAN ports to be aggregated into one Internet pipe that is combined to serve users (or servers) on the network. The idea behind the company's product line is to enable businesses to subscribe to multiple ISPs to gain as close to 100 percent uptime as possible. By using its seven load-balancing algorithms, another capability is to aggregate cheaper xDSL Internet lines to achieve greater speed and higher reliability.


Of course, I have yet to actually try the product, though the general online sentiment toward Peplink's products appears to be very positive. As someone always looking for ways for SMBs to reduce their costs while increasing the reliability of their systems, I wanted to bring the idea of implementing a multi-WAN solution to your attention.


I will write again with my final opinion once I have a chance to give Peplink a spin.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 27, 2010 8:32 AM JP Hebert JP Hebert  says:

Hi Paul,

Take a quick look at Elfiq's products - www.elfiq.com, Elfiq has a unique layer-2 approach to integration.  Simpler, cleaner and more secure (cannot be hacked from outside mechanisms), and is not bound to the 1-port 1-ISP ratio.  Also more options are available and the unit has much greater capacity to match policies due to its capacity for granularity.


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