Peplink Balance 310 review
Small businesses requiring WAN link redundancy have a good range of well-priced routers from which to choose, but most offer a simple set of failover and load-balancing features along with no more than two WAN ports. Peplink’s Balance 310 goes further, aggregating up to three WAN links.
It can load-balance inbound traffic to server farms on the LAN using a variety of weightings, and it provides QoS, allowing traffic such as VoIP to be prioritised. A unique feature is Peplink’s proprietary load-balanced VPNs, which allow remote appliances to be linked together over a secure tunnel. For the latter, the 310 supports one site-to-site tunnel with another Balance appliance.
Peplink’s drop-in mode can ease installation as it causes the appliance to function as a transparent bridge, which simply links the LAN ports to the first WAN port. This means it can be slipped into a live network without any other device or client configuration, but it won’t perform NAT in this mode.
As inbound port forwarding rules require NAT on the WAN links we went for the routing mode. The tidy web interface offers a quick start wizard for setting up the WAN ports, and you can also decide which links are active and which will act as a backup when the active links fail.
For WAN link load balancing the appliance adds weightings that are derived from the values you enter for the upstream and downstream bandwidth for each link. Usefully, configuration changes won’t become permanent until you hit the Apply Changes button.
The 310 provides a DHCP server and can also function as an SPI firewall, but make sure you create inbound rules, as it defaults to letting all traffic through. Policies are provided for controlling outbound traffic where you can force a LAN device to use a specific WAN port or only maintain persistence based on the destination IP address.
Custom policy rules are more versatile, as these are used for specific services. You choose from six different load-balancing algorithms, including least used, lowest latency and source, or destination connection persistence for HTTPS traffic. Select the weighted balance algorithm and you get slider bars for each WAN port where you can fine-tune load balancing between them.
For inbound rules you simply define LAN servers by their IP addresses, assign them to specific WAN ports and apply one of ten weightings to determine how incoming requests are distributed. Reporting could be better; you only get a page of tables showing throughput for each WAN link. Displaying this in graphical form would allow you to see how traffic was being distributed and possibly spot an underused link.
The single VPN connection is simple to set up. At each appliance you provide the serial number of its partner and decide which WAN ports should be used. One appliance must be given the hostname or WAN IP address of the other, and for multiple WAN links you can apply priorities to each one to evenly distribute VPN traffic.
Peplink’s multi-WAN router delivers an impressive range of features. It’s good value for SMBs, who will find it easy to deploy.