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Redundant Internet on a budget

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  Over the past few years, small business and home owners have become so dependent on internet that a need for redundancy has arisen.

   What happens when your small business or home / home office loses its internet connection?  The results can be devastating if you rely on the internet connection for phone service, security systems or even customer support.   It’s expensive to have two different service providers at your location and in some cases it’s not even an option. This is why many people have began using cellular devices for that redundancy.  It’s not perfect but it fits the need quite nicely.
 Here are some steps used to make decisions on needs VS wants.

Select you cellular service

 Make sure the cellular company and device you select will work in your area. No provider is better than another in every area.  Do your research and make sure you do not get stuck in a contract without connectivity in your area.  You can rent a device for a few weeks and make sure it’s well supported in your area.

  The best service can be obtained from dedicated device such as a USB or PCMCIA / Express device.  You can do it with data enabled cell phones but drivers and batteries can become an issue.  Also in off hours if the office or home does not need it you can use it for travel and after hours use.

  Once you select a device pick a plan.  If this is a rare occasion you might want to go with a ‘pay as you  use’ or a pre pay device.  If you want to use it regularly or you know your current provider has issues get the largest plan your cell company offers.  Most companies do not bother with small overages when you exceed your limit, just make sure you watch your bill.

Integrate it into your network

 This is where you have the most options.  Purchasing a provider independent device would be in your best interest.  This would be best in case you need to change service providers your hardware would still work.

  Larger companies like Cisco, Linksys, D-link, Cradlepoint, and others have offered cellular routers for quite some time.  It is best if you read up and picking one that fits your needs.  The simplest devices simply take the cellular public IP and pass it through to your secondary wan port.  This prevents the need to configure and maintain a second router.  One of these devices is the CBA250 Cellular Broadband Adapter, it is simple and plug & play. The only issue is no support for PCMCIA, just USB and PCMCIA Express.

  Some companies offer a cellular enabled router that will allow direct connection of a wan and a cellular device.  This is a valid option but this option can cause single point of failure.

Adapt your router or purchase a router

 If you are a big router shop or you have the knowledge and you adapt your network, that’s great.  If not, you want to locate a simple small business router that allows for dual wan redundancy.

  By searching for “Dual WAN router” you will come up with a ton of results.   Linksys (now Cisco) makes a router series that works great in these conditions (RV042, 082, 016).  They are both reliable and easy to configure with a simple interface.  Also they qualify for the Cisco business level support if you need help.

  Be careful selecting a router, they are not all the same.  For example the RV042 does not support VLAN’s but the 082 and 016 both do.  Look at all the features before you purchase.  Remember to make a list of features you need and check them off as you do your research.  Here is a starting point for you

1) Do you want a single device or would you rather have multiple devices?
2) Do you want wireless capable devices?
3) What Ethernet speeds do you need?
4) How many redundant wan ports do you want?
5) Are you comfortable with command line devices or do you want a GUI based device
6) is it cellular independent or company specific?

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them below.
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Author:luc_roy
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Expert Comment

by:bfpnaeechange
We currently have several branch locations that use a Cisco 1700 router to connect through a cable or DSL modem and then VPN into our corporate headquarters to access company email and other resources. Everything works great as long as we don't lose our internet connection. We're looking into having a redundant internet connection available to us in case one of our branch locations loses connectivity. We have a Cradlepoint MBR1200 with 3G access on loan for a couple of weeks. What we would like to do is configure the Cradlepoint so that we can overnight it to any of our branch locations and have internet access until the main service is restored. Do you have any ideas how to configure the Cradlepoint to accomplish our purpose?
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by:luc_roy
The simplest way is to
1) Move your Comcast connection to the wan port on the cradlepoint
2)  Plug in the 3G device into the cradlepoint
3) Log into the device and make the cellular port enabled for failover redundancy

You should already have this on your router but in case you do not
  Set the router interface to obtain IP via DHCP
  Setup NAT on the interface
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Expert Comment

by:Fred Marshall
Since I don't have one, I looked for the VLAN capabilities for the RV082.   I didn't find anything...  Is there a reference you might point to?

Thanks!
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Author Comment

by:luc_roy
look at page 35.  You can create up to 8 vlans and assign them to the specific ports

http://www.intelek.cz/db/repository.nsf/v/2922FD0E586B9690C1257401005085F3/$file/Manual_Linksys_router_RV082.pdf

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