Stable internet is always a concern.
While the internet would go out once in a while in Canada, it was rare and for short periods of time.
Living in Ecuador means that internet isn’t as stable as we were used to. In the past few years, we’ve had the internet cut for days at a time.
While this isn’t the end of the world for the average user, it can be painful for our business – and our schedule.
In order to create a more stable connection, I recently had a second internet connection installed. One is cabled and the other is via an antenna outside of our building.
If the main one failed, I just unplugged it and then plugged in the other. This got a little tedious. And obviously didn’t maximize the available resources and bandwidth.
How I Created A Stable Internet Connection
While I had never heard of a way to join two connections into a single, stronger one, I searched for it. What I found is a technology called “load balancing”.
What is Load Balancing?
Load balancing is a computer networking method for distributing workloads across multiple computers or a computer cluster, network links, central processing units, disk drives, or other resources. Successful load balancing optimizes resource use, maximizes throughput, minimizes response time, and avoids overload. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Essentially, a load balancing router takes multiple incoming internet connections (WAN – wide area network) and combines them into a single, strong connection (LAN local area network). A broadband router with multiple WAN ports is needed.
I found lots of expensive (and heavy) options. Prices ranged from $170 to over $400 for a router with multiple WAN ports. Weight is a concern, because I had to ship it from the US to Ecuador. And I have a maximum value limit of $400 for individual shipments, according to Ecuadorian Customs.
My Load Balancing Router
The router I ended up buying is the TP-LINK TL-R470T+ (5-port Load Balance Broadband Router, 3 Configurable WAN/LAN ports, 1 LAN, 1 WAN). What this description means is that there are a total of 5 ports:
- 1 dedicated WAN port
- 1 dedicated LAN port
- 3 ports that can be configured to either WAN or LAN.
I used the dedicated WAN port and one of the configurable ports as a WAN port as well. So I have two incoming internet connections that then feed a single connection across the three remaining LAN ports. I directly wired two of our computers into the LAN ports. The remaining LAN port feeds my ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-N 600 Router.
The cost was just over $50, plus $15 to ship it to Ecuador. It had a 4.5/5 star rating with 36 customers reviews. Although TP-LINK isn’t a high-end brand, I thought it was worth a try. My biggest concern was configuring it.
Configuring the Load Balancing Router
One of the biggest complaints for this type of router is how difficult they are to configure. Many online reviewers said they just had to return their router because they couldn’t make it work.
When it first arrived, I set it aside because I thought I would need hours to get it setup. I was afraid to change configurations of the current modem/router – and be left with nothing working.
Well, one night I got a burst of blind confidence and in less than 10 minutes the router was functioning and blending (load balancing) my two connections. When it was finished, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Just follow the four steps in the printed guide and you’ll be good to go. Now my connection should almost never fail (because if one cuts, all the traffic automatically switches to the other one). And my bandwidth has increased significantly – even at night when the internet usage is extremely high.
It’s been two weeks with the router and I love it. I can’t believe I went the last four years living in Ecuador without it. If you live abroad – and internet is important to you – you should consider getting two connections installed and combining them with a load balancing router.
What has been your experience with internet abroad? Have you used a load balancing router?