REVIEW: Best VPN routers for small business

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Along with the unit, in the box you’ll find an installation guide, CD with documentation and VPN client software, Ethernet cable, power adapter, and non-slip rubber feet for table or shelf usage.

The unit’s all metal casing measures about 10 inches wide, 1 ½ inches high, and 7 inches deep. On the front of the unit are the status LEDs and Ethernet ports: two WAN ports and four switch ports. On the back end you’ll find the power input and a serial port for console access. There are no wall mounting holes on the bottom of the unit.

After logging into the web GUI, you see the status page. We didn’t find any setup wizards. On the top of the pages, you’ll find the main menu and then below that, the sub-menu. And just below that, many of the pages also have several tabs to choose from. Having all three menus shown on top of each other does clutter up the navigation somewhat. However, we did like the provided help and documentation. Each section of settings in the web GUI has a question mark button, which takes you to a pretty thorough description of those settings.

We found this Netgear unit to be an average VPN router without any bells or whistles, although Netgear provides a IPSec VPN client program for simplified client deployment. Keep in mind, the unit lacks client support of PPTP and L2TP, making IPSec the only way to join the unit to perform site-to-site connections.

We also felt this unit could use some improvements to the user-friendliness of the GUI, especially the menu design. Also, when adding VLANs you must manually input all of IP and DHCP settings for the new subnet, similar to the D-Link unit. However most routers automate or preconfigure some of these settings for you.

UTT Technologies HiPER 518

The HiPER 518 has a list price of $69.99, but is currently selling for $59.99. It is one of three different small business routers UTT Technologies offers, one of which is very similar in functionality and the other supporting more WAN connections, VPN tunnels, and additional authentication and billing functionality.

This UTT unit supports up to five concurrent IPSec VPN site-to-site and/or client-to-site tunnels, with a very low advertised throughput rating of 15Mbps. The only other VPN support is the PPTP server and client, supporting up to five concurrent users.

In the box, along with the unit, you’ll find an Ethernet cable, power adapter, and a product catalogue. You won’t find any install guide or manual, though you can download a manual from their website.

The metal case measures about 7 inches wide, 1 inches high, and 5 inches deep. On the front of the unit are the status lights for the power, system, and WAN/LAN ports. On the back you’ll find one port specially for a WAN connection and then four LAN ports, three of which can be used as additional WAN connections. You’ll also find the power input and a reset button on the back. On the bottom of the unit are non-stick pads, useful when placing on a desk or shelf, as well as two holes for optional wall mounting.

After logging into the web GUI, you’re prompted with the optional wizard, which only helps to configure the Internet connection. After that, you’re taken to the simple system info page showing a couple main stats.

Although the look and design of the web GUI is very basic and simplistic, it is still user-friendly. The main menu is on the left side of the page with expandable categories, displaying shortcuts to all the main pages. Then many of those pages have multiple tabs to view additional settings. Some pages have a Help button that pops up another browser tab to a simple description (many of which could be elaborated more) of the settings of that particular page.

After browsing through the GUI, we found most of the common VPN router features. However, one exception is the lack of VLAN support; you can’t define separate VLANs to segregate traffic. Also lacking are the QoS settings. It only allows control over the bandwidth rates, and not priorities. However, the unit does offer a PPPoE server supporting up to 30 users and web authentication for authenticating local users before they’re granted Internet access.

We found this UTT unit to be fairly unique. It includes some functionality that the other routers don’t, such as a PPPoE server and web authentication. However, at the same time it lacks support for some common features, such as SSL VPN and VLANs. Keep in mind though that other models from UTT do support VLANs along with additional functionality.

Comparing the routers

All the routers have IPSec and PPTP VPN servers and all but two (the Linksys and UTT units) have a SSL VPN server to allow clients access via a web browser. All the routers support both site-to-site and client-to-site tunnels for IPSec, while many of the routers only support client-to-site for some or all of the other VPN protocols.

Each router provides some type of WAN load balancing and failover via either a second WAN port and/or by supporting 3G or 4G wireless USB adapters. All but one (the UTT Technologies unit) provide VLAN tagging support. Two of the routers (the D-Link and DrayTek) also provide simple file and printer sharing via their USB ports.

Features Table

  Cisco RV325 D-Link DSR-250 DrayTek Vigor2925 Linksys LRT224 Netgear FVS336G UTT Technologies ER518
Switch Ports 14 8 5 4 4 4
VLAN Tagging X X X X X  
WAN Ports 2 1 2 2 2 4-Jan
WAN Load Balancing X X X X X X
WAN Failover X X X X X X
USB Ports 2 1 2      
USB WAN Failover X X X      
USB Print Server   X X      
USB File Server   X X      
Wired 802.1X X   X      
PPPoE Server           X
Web Authentication     X     X
VPN Support and Max Simultaneous Tunnels            
IPSec VPN X X X X X X
IPSec Tunnels 50 25 50 45 25 5
SSL VPN Server X X X   X  
SSL VPN Tunnels 10 5 25   10  
OpenVPN Server   X   X    
OpenVPN Client   X   X    
OpenVPN Tunnels   5   5    
PPTP VPN Server X X X X X X
PPTP VPN Client   X X     X
L2TP Server   X X   X  
L2TP Client   X X      
PPTP/L2TP Tunnels 10 25 50 5 25 5
Advertised Max Throughput in Mbps            
IPsec Throughput 100 50 60 110 78 15

Eric Geier is a freelance tech writer—keep up with his writings on Facebook or Twitter. He’s also the founder of NoWiresSecurity providing a cloud-based Wi-Fi security service, and On Spot Techs providing RF site surveying and other IT services.

This story, "REVIEW: Best VPN routers for small business" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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