TP-Link SafeStream TL-ER6120 review
TP-Link has a reputation for low-cost networking products, and its latest VPN router is no exception. For just over £147, the SafeStream TL-ER6120 supports up 100 IPsec VPN tunnels; it has dual Gigabit WAN ports that can be used for load balancing or backup links; and security extends to service blocking, application controls and website filtering.
It’s well connected, too. The 1U rack chassis has three Gigabit LAN ports, and the third can provide DMZ services for multiple public servers.
There’s an RJ45 console port for direct management access via the CLI, and the router is prepped against lightning thanks to its built-in electrical surge protection.
For installation, there’s no need to use the CLI; the router’s web interface provides easy access to all features. Its firewall protects against common flood attacks and malformed packets, and it also has an option for MAC address filtering.
The firewall’s URL filtering is no different to that offered by most consumer routers – you can only apply manually created lists of keywords. You can use access rules to block or allow specific services, however, and each policy can be run to a daily schedule.
Policies and schedules can also be used to block or permit a range of IM and P2P apps. You can’t add your own apps, though, and the list provided by TP-Link only covers only 25 common apps such as MSN, Skype, BitTorrent and YouTube.
Bandwidth policies can be applied to port pairs to control traffic in a particular direction, and each policy can enforce guaranteed minimum upstream and downstream bandwidths. For WAN load balancing, you can have application-optimised routeing, where all packets with the same source and destination IP addresses are sent through the same WAN port.
Once you’ve set the bandwidth capacities for each WAN port, you can use balancing based on traffic loads. Creating backup WAN links takes two mouse clicks; just select the primary and backup ports.
TP-Link offers TheGreenBow IPsec VPN client software for download, but the package doesn’t include any licences. Single licences cost around £50, and a five-user pack will set you back about £213.
TP-Link claims a 3DES IPsec VPN throughput of 16.25MB/sec, but our tests achieved far lower real-world speeds. IPsec VPN setup is a lengthy process, too, but TP-Link does at least provide detailed tutorials on its website.
With an IPsec VPN tunnel setup between a remote Windows 7 PC and the router, we timed drag-and-drop copies to a mapped share on a Windows Server 2012 system on the LAN. Copying a 690MB video clip to the server took 1min 5secs – an average of only 10.6MB/sec. Even this pushed the TP-Link’s hardware to the limits: the router’s web interface froze during the copies, and, when it returned to life, it showed CPU utilisation had been at 100%.
PPTP VPN performance was even slower. Using the Windows 7 PPTP VPN client to connect to the router, we saw the same copy operation averaging 7.4MB/sec. Here, too, the console froze while our tests were running.
With support for 100 IPsec VPNs, WAN load balancing and a good range of security features, TP-Link’s SafeStream TL-ER6120 looks good value. However, with performance lower than expected, and the need to factor in the cost of the IPsec VPN client software, this router falls far short of its potential.
|Warranty RTB years||1|
|Server format||1U Rack|
|Gigabit LAN ports||5|