OK, if you are frustrated by the speed and more importantly reliability of that $20/month router you got from Xfinity, then there are really two ways to upgrade:
- Move to a serious consumer router. I have found that many routers will crash when they have lots of traffic. This happens in a small office with 8 people or a modern home with lots of teenagers and work-at-home parents (that’s us!). I’ve been using Apple Airport Extremes when this happens and they do seem more reliable. They do not lock up as many other routers do.
- Move to an enterprise lite router. Cisco sells routers that costs $10K which are clearly overkill, but there is a small set of vendors selling mid range routers.
What do you get for your trouble:
- Well for one thing performance. The Ubiquiti Edgerouter Lite for instance does 1M packets per second so you can run a wire speeds if you have say gigabit fiber (drool, drool).
- More importantly, you can configure them with multiple WAN ports, so you can have say 50Mbps Comcast *and* say a 200Mbps fiber provider at work. You can have schemes like weighted round-robin, so the backup Comcast link improves performance most of the time.
- VPN support directly in the router. Since these enterprise grade systems are running bigger embedded processors, you can run SSH or other VPN tunnels to make it easy to connect from home directly into your company. Or if you are away from home and want to access your home servers.
There are a few choices here and the reviews are far between, but a search for “multiple WAN router” gets you to small businessbuilder.com and they do some performance and other reviews. Most of these cost $100-$200, so not a terrible investment for more speed:
- Ubiquity Edgerouter ER-8. This actually uses a fork (called EdgeMAX) of an open source Linux-based routing OS called Vyetta. So you get maximum power, but you have to love Linux command lines and really understand what you are doing. Still, they claim 2M PPS (packets per second) so it will really scale well if you need to get there. The ports on this router are all independent, so you program the routing tables to put traffic between them which is pretty cool. You still need a real hardware switch of course and modem, but a good long term choice. $280 at Newegg or Amazon. The Pro version by the way has two ports that are SFP (so they support fiber inputs directly), probably overkill for most small businesses and homes. Rather than living behind GUIs, you end up writing configuration files, like this one which round robins between multiple WAN ports.
- Ubiquity Edgerouter Lite (and Smallnetbuilder). This is a three port skinny version of the system above. It is “only” rated at 1M PPS, but costs $95. A good choice for a home where your needs are less. Same steep learning curve of course, but you can connect two providers (say Comcast plus say a cheap wireless Century Link plan.
- Roll your own. You can buy a flushable router and run Tomato or DD-WRT. Or if you want more performance run Vyetta on a bigger box. You just need an old PC and two ethernet ports or there are small ARM boxes that are designed for routing with gigabit ethernet ports built in. If you want to be really cool, run Vyetta inside docker :-). I didn’t end up doing this because, well, even for me, supporting my own routing didn’t seem easy.
Then if you want something more plug and play then you can go to the “usual” suspects for their embedded devices. Smallnetbuilder.com basically found they all offer about the same speed and dual WAN ports plus VPN support. The main trepedation is how reliable these will be, but they are quite a bit cheaper.
- Cisco RV320. $185 from Amazon. It supports multiple WAN as well. It is probably the best choice given Amazon reliability ratings and out of the box
- Linksys LR224 wireless router. $50 Routers that have Wifi are much higher volume, So, if you want just a good router, using it and disabling wifi isn’t a bad choice. Smallnetbuilder has a guide for dual wan routing for this device Although it only has equal load balancing so the two wans should have identical speeds
- Zytel 110. This is an off brand router. But it does support weighted round robin.