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Networking

Routers

DrayTek Vigor 3200n review

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For a medium-sized business, and certain SOHO applications, a router such as the DrayTek Vigor 3200n is affordable and offers advanced features that IT administrators need. It's also reasonably easy to set up, even for networking novices.

Internet access is so critical to most companies' business models that it's sensible to have access to multiple redundant connections (WANs). In the event of the principal DSL WAN going down, a fallback link will the business online. Ideally a router such as the DrayTek Vigor 3200n is required, one that can automatically switch connections, without drowning any single one of them with traffic and without disconnecting a user.

Often, it can be tricky to find a device that can manage multiple WANs, that's secure but also open to remote access and ensures network traffic always flows smoothly. Consumer routers aren't suitable and enterprise-level hardware from the likes of Cisco can create a serious dent in an IT budget for all but the largest of organisations. Setting up and configuring such a high-end device also needs well trained staff, which further increases costs. This is where the DrayTek Vigor 3200n Multi-Wan Router steps in.

At the front of the DrayTek Vigor 3200n Multi-Wan Router are six gigabit ethernet ports, four of which are dedicated to separate incoming WAN connections. There's a single port for a LAN connection, for the rest of your network, and another LAN connection for a demilitarised zone (DMZ). This configuration is good for security, as you can keep web and FTP servers separate from your main network. In the event of an intrusion via an attack on your website, the hacker can't get access to the company LAN.

Different types of traffic can be forced to use a specific connection with the DrayTek Vigor 3200n Multi-Wan Router. With clever subnet allocation, you can ensure all the computers used by a certain department have access to your firm's leased line, while a department with less heavy bandwidth demands is restricted to the ADSL connection.

We mentioned SOHO users, since this particular feature may be useful for people living in the countryside, where internet speeds are often slower and less reliable. Using two or three ISPs means there's redundancy, but if ones goes down, switching to another will interrupt business as it requires fiddling with cables and leads. The DrayTek Vigor 3200n Multi-Wan Router manages such switching automatically.

There's a USB 2.0 port that can be used for printers, storage sharing or even a fifth WAN via a 3G modem. The 3G cellular data option is a useful last fallback if something truly catastrophic happens that breaks all the fixed-line connections (such as a severed cable in the street). There are different versions of the DrayTek Vigor 3200n Multi-Wan Router. The model we've reviewed, which closely resembles a consumer router, with three antennae attached, has built-in 2.4GHz wireless networking.

Wireless clients can be isolated from the LAN for security reasons, preventing them from accessing your network on a router level. Wireless performance in our tests was excellent, with the DrayTek Vigor 3200n Multi-Wan Router achieving 110Mbps at short range (1m) and 40Mbps at longer range (10m).

You can also buy this router without wireless. While wireless has become mandatory for any home router, in a professional environment it can make sense to keep the device managing the wireless separate from the device that deals with every other network function. If a flood of wireless packets floods the router, it's less likely to bring the network down. The 3200 also comes in a 19in rack-mount chassis.

Another attraction of the DrayTek Vigor 3200n Multi-Wan Router is its excellent VPN functions. The router offers up to 40Mbps to clients, which should be enough for most users' private network connections. There's also the option to set up one-time passwords on mobile phones, for two-factor authentication.

In addition to logging in to the VPN as usual, a unique password generated via a mobile app is required before access is granted, a useful feature considering most home environments are less secure than an office. This isn't new, but the use of a mobile app makes life easier than traditional key fobs. The 3200n can connect multiple LANs together too, which is useful if you have different offices around the world and want them sharing the same network.

Other extras include a user interface that's well suited to the management of a large network. In the Online Status page, each WAN connection is listed in a table, along with details of its external IP and gateway, with TX and RX traffic measured in both packets and bytes-per-second. You can easily see whether a connection has gone down and how much traffic is being routed via the remaining connections, and take steps to resolve the problem.

There's also a comprehensive firewall, that blocks the usual IP and DoS-based attacks, as well as an object-based system, for creating rules based on subnet (or department in your organisation).

Web content, such as gambling websites, can be blocked from the network thanks to a filter, with updates available from Draytek if you pay a subscription fee.



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