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HOW STUFF WORKS / HOME OFFICE

How To Double Your Home Network Speed

By SmartHouse Staff | Friday | 21/07/2006

So you have a need for Internet speed? Maybe you've been spoiled. You are not alone. Most people want more speed and more connection options. If you are able to add a second Internet feed, you can double your aggregate upload and download speeds, and even have backup too.

All this is possible through the magic of the dual WAN (Wide Area Network) router. If you already have a high-speed, always-on Internet connection and a home network, you should also have a router (think of it as a single WAN router) and be familiar with it. A dual WAN router does the same things as the single one: it serves as the interface and firewall between your LAN (Local Area Network) and the public Internet. A dual WAN router has a second Ethernet jack for connecting to the second Internet connection. It also has the internal smarts to balance your web surfing and other Internet loads between the two connections, and channel all of your traffic to one network if the other one fails.

PROJECT SNAPSHOT

Difficulty Rating: 3/4 Call For Backup!

Estimated time to complete: Three to four hours after all of the internet connections are installed and the router is on site.

Total estimated cost of project: $300 - does not include the monthly cost of the internet services or modem rental.

THE PROBLEM:

Are you spoiled? That may be the case, since your cable modem or ADSL line doesn't seem as fast as it used to be. Even worse, you lose your connection on a regular basis.

PARTS NEEDED:

Two high-speed Internet connections, a dual WAN router similar to the HotBrick LB-2 and the necessary Cat 5 Ethernet patch cables.

PROJECT STEPS
1) Choose your providers.
2) Order/install Internet service.
3) Pick your router.
4) Verify connections.
5) Hook everything up.
6) Trouble-shoot, if needed.

STEP 1: CONNECTIONS

If you want to double your bandwidth (speed), then you need another connection from your Internet provider.

If you need reliability, then prudence requires that (if at all possible) the second connection be of a different type than the first. That is, if you have a cable modem, add a DSL line or vice versa. You could also use another connection type, like ISDN, wireless, or even a satellite Internet provider, such as Hotkey.

Keep in mind that in this case, your second, different connection may not be as fast as your primary connection, so you might not truly double your speed. But your Internet connection will be faster and more reliable.

STEP 2: GET CONNECTED

Before investing in a new dual WAN router, be absolutely certain that you can really get the second Internet connection of your choice. Just because you have a cable modem doesn't necessarily mean that you can also get ADSL, and vice versa.

If you are committed to this project, it might be a good idea to place the order and get the line installed first, so you know you can really get it.

STEP 3: PICK YOUR ROUTER

A Google search on "dual WAN router" brings up lots of hits. After looking at several and rejecting the really expensive ones as obviously being intended for a business environment, we chose the HotBrick LB-2 (available online at www.hotbrick.com for US$219 or approximately AU$275) for this project. The LB-2 offers lots of extra features, beyond the basic dual WAN function, that are attractive to the more advanced users.


Click to enlarge

STEP 4: HOOKING IT UP


Click to enlarge
The voice of experience says "don't dive all the way in and plug everything together and hope it works". If it doesn't, you won't know where to start trouble-shooting.

Start by verifying that each of your WAN connections works. If you had a high-speed connection, then this step is done. Similarly, your new WAN connection was probably verified with one of your computers by the installer. Don't expect them to hook up your router as well.

Next, connect a computer directly to one of the LAN ports on your dual WAN router and, following the manufacturer's directions, connect to its configuration pages. This might require rebooting your computer to get a new IP address from the router. The HotBrick uses a web browser and serves its own web pages for configuration.

Now that you are connected to the router, follow the directions and connect one of your WAN


Click to enlarge
modems to one of the WAN ports on the router. Most cable and DSL connections use an automatic addressing protocol called DHCP, so at the most, you will probably have to restart the modem and router to get the modem to send an address to the router.

If your connection uses static IP addressing, you are probably advanced enough to figure out what address, mask and DNS entries to input into the router to get connected. Otherwise, you may need to get that information from your provider. Once the first line is working, connect the second line and follow those steps again.

For most home uses, the router should start working now, sharing and load-balancing the connections with its basic setup. You can use the configuration pages to adjust the load balancing and backup features, as well as more advanced settings, if you need them.

Find the status page(s) for your router and get in the habit of checking them occasionally. They should show you the WAN connection status, and how well the load balancing or sharing is working.

TROUBLE-SHOOTING

Our HotBrick had trouble staying connected to the cable modem. It may have been a conflict in the newer style auto-switching ports that both the router and modem have. These sense the type of port on the other end of the cable and are supposed to eliminate the need for crossover cables and/or uplink ports.

It helps to have networking stuff like spare cables and an Ethernet hub or switches to help trouble-shooting. In our case, we found that while HotBrick tech support worked on our problem, we used an old router in between the cable modem and the HotBrick as a buffer. That kept the connection up well.

Now that our dual WAN router and cable modem are both running, we don't lose our Internet when heavy rains or interference knock out our wireless connection. And with winter coming on, we can say that the rain makes for prime surfing weather.


 

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