How’s your internet?
Depending on the country your internet might be good.
Or it might be awful.
More likely than not, it will be both slow and unstable.
Why the Internet is Slow & Unstable
There are a number of factors working against you.
- Power cuts: In many countries, the power grid is not very stable. It doesn’t take much to knock it out for hours (sometimes days) at a time. When we first moved to Ecuador we would frequently have periods (4-14 hours) without power. Other times we would have power but no internet – because their main hub was without power.
- Sharing connections: While your internet connection might be passable during the day, it will often grind to a near halt at night. It seems that everyone goes online around 7pm until midnight. Because of one connection being shared between up to eight households, the internet often becomes almost unusable in the evening (and during holidays / Sundays).
- Poor administration: We’ve had our connections disconnected by our internet service provider many times. When I called to see what happened, they told me that we didn’t pay for that month. Of course, we did pay – they just didn’t have a proper system in place to track payments. This has happened with multiple providers – multiple times.
How To Have Fast & Stable Internet Abroad
To get around this, we have two permanent connections: one cabled and one via an antenna. They are different companies with distinct delivery methods. We also have a USB modem in case of emergency.
Regardless of the issues, we almost always have an internet connection. When one provider is out, we can use the other one. Because of our UPS (uninterruptible power supply) we can manage any brief power outages without losing the connection. The weakest link in our system is that we don’t have a generator. Once we pass the 40 minute mark, our UPS runs out of juice and we are reduced to paper…
For a while, we had to manually switch between connections when one went out. While it worked, it wasn’t ideal.
Then we discovered load balancing.
What is Load Balancing?
Load balancing is a method for sharing (balancing) workloads and bandwidth across multiple connections. I’ve heard that there are web services and programs that will do this. We just purchased a load balancing router that does it automatically.
The setup was simple and straightforward. (I explain it in detail here.) To make it work, we just feed our two connections into the router and then it combines them into one, stronger connection. I then connect the load balancing router to my main wireless router to distribute the signal throughout the house.
While there are lots of options, the load balancing router we use is the TP-LINK TL-R470T. It cost around $50 and was well rated. While the brand isn’t a premium one, I am very happy with this purchase. We’ve been using this for more than a year without any issues.
3 Benefits of Using a Load Balancing Router
If you set up two connections that are then load balanced into one, you’ll see a number of immediate benefits:
- More Stable: This is significant. If one connection goes out (and it will), you won’t lose your connection. You will continue to send/receive data through your remaining live connection.
- Higher Speed: You get the combined upload / download speeds of the two connections. Many areas still offer just entry level speeds. The only way to increase this is to combine two connections.
- More Bandwidth: I saw dramatic improvements in large file uploads with the combined connections. Especially videos to YouTube (200-500mb).
Read more about how to load balance two connections on BryanHaines.com
Now it’s your turn…
How is your connection where you live? What do you do to improve it? Are you using a load balancing router?