Subscribe to one of the many broadband Internet services now available and, chances are, you’ll receive a free router as part of the deal. In which case a router you have to pay for has to offer quite a lot more to make it worth buying. But then that’s exactly what DrayTek’s Vigor 2860n (£175 ex. VAT) does, enabling business buyers to both boost throughput and secure their Internet connectivity in ways simply not possible using the free kit supplied by most ISPs.
More Of Everything
The latest in a long and well respected line of broadband routers, the Vigor 2860n is simply awash with connectivity, starting with the ability to connect it to either an ADSL/ADSL2 line or VDSL Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC) service, such as BT Infinity, and do so without the need for an external modem. More than that you can connect to two broadband services at the same time – using the built-in modem for one and a Gigabit WAN port to connect to an external modem or router for the other.
We tested using both ADSL and a BT Infinity service and, although not the easiest of routers to configure, it took only a few minutes to get connected. WAN performance from the internal modem was as good as with the ISP-supplied kit and we particularly liked the new dashboard display with its mock-up of the router front panel complete with status lights and drill-down management links. This lets you see what’s going on without having to get up and look at the router itself and manage all the important options remotely.
The importance of being able to support multiple WAN connections can’t be stressed enough allowing a business to carry on working in the event of a service disruption. It can also be used to boost WAN performance or you can do both. And it doesn’t end at land lines as you can also connect via 3G/4G, by plugging a wireless dongle into the router, and including that in load balancing and failover plans.
In fact there are two USB ports which as well as wireless dongle, can be used to share a printer and storage through the DrayTek route Although format and capacity options are limited when you plug in a memory stick or external USB disk and, while still a useful option, it’s no match for a proper NAS appliance.
Networking To Go
There’s plenty to be had on the LAN side too, especially compared to most free routers which will have either three or four Ethernet connectors including a couple of Gigabit ports if you’re lucky. On the Vigor 2860n you get six ports and they’re all Gigabit, which could well be all a small business needs while, for those with more devices to connect, the new Vigor can act as a high-speed backbone off which to hang other satellite switches.
Extensive support for VLAN segregation of traffic across those six ports is another key feature along with QoS prioritisation. Moreover, while you can save a few pounds by opting for the 2860 without Wi-Fi, most buyers are likely to go for the 2860n featured in this review, the “n” indicating support for 802.11n wireless connectivity.
Wi-Fi on the 2860n is limited to the increasingly crowded 2.4GHz spectrum but there’s a Plus model due out in the next few weeks that will offer dual-band Wi-Fi. More than that the Plus will support simultaneous access from both 5Ghz and 2.4Gz devices, boosting overall wireless bandwidth and addressing common interference issues in one fell swoop.
On the downside, lack of support for 802.11ac (also known as Gigabit Wi-Fi) is a little disappointing. However, with few clients available for this still to be ratified technology it’s not as big an issue as it might seem. Moreover, as if to make up for this omission, there’s a dedicated Wi-Fi co-processor to handle encryption plus built-in support for isolated guest networks. You also get to separate wireless and LAN networks plus configure WDS wireless bridging and a host of other business class wireless features.
It’s not just the hardware that impresses, however, the Vigor software is extensive too delivering a whole bundle of features above and beyond what you’ll find in most of the freebies. These start with the usual NAT gateway and firewall with additional options in the Vigor to filter content by URL, protocol and application. These can then be further extended to provide category-based content filtering by adding a DrayTek GlobalView licence to filter traffic at the gateway at a cost of just £37/year.
Secure remote LAN access is another common business requirement so it came as no surprise to find more Virtual Private Networking (VPN) capabilities than we could shake a stick at. Support for both site-to-site and client tunnelling is available with the hardware able to handle up to 32 simultaneous VPN tunnels using industry standard encryption technologies, plus five SSL protected connections.
User management tools are similarly built-in together with local or federated authentication to apply both firewall and remote access controls on a per-user or group basis. Plus there’s the ability to schedule traffic filters and controls to, for example, restrict what users are allowed to see and do during business hours while loosening the reins outside those times.
And More Besides
There’s a lot you can do with the Vigor 2860n with options that not only deliver enhanced performance and security, but which scale to meet the needs of large networks. We weren’t altogether convinced about the value of the optional thermometer, although in remote locations it might be useful to be able to monitor the temperature in and around the router.
The bundled SmartMonitor tool, on the other hand, is a lot more useful, providing the means to collect and analyse network traffic to, for example, help resolve performance and routing issues, monitor application use and keep a weather eye on what users are up to.
There are other routers aimed at the small- to medium-sized business market, all able to deliver useful functionality beyond that of free ISP-supplied products. Few, however, can match the extensive feature set of DrayTek’s Vigor family, particularly the new Vigor 2860n, which has just about every angle covered and more, and at a very affordable price. [4/5]