Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Which is better, a Multi-WAN Router or an open source router software?

Multi-Wan router works because it has specialized software inside the device. As open source software is getting more popular every day, people started making open source router software. Some of these OS Router Softwares has Multi-WAN features. For example, pfsense, Vyatta, and ClarkConnect. It’s open source and it’s free. But is this the right solution for you?

Here I try to illustrate the pros and cons of using open source router software to achieve multi-wan.

Advantages of commercial Multi-WAN Router over Open Source Router Software

While open source router software can be free (as in beer), there are lots of hidden costs. Open source software isn’t exactly free if you are using it in a business commercial setting. A licensing fee may be required. In addition to that, you will need a PC to run the software. While you can use the extra computer lying around your storage room, a new dedicated computer is needed for full performance and reliability, let alone the computer geek who can understand those Unix/Linux commands.

A Multi-Wan router, as Sam pointed out in his recent article, can cost as low as $300. The expensive ones, on the other hand, can cost you up to $10,000 or even more. The price range is very wide actually, so there should be a perfect router for anyone. But we always recommend a medium-priced multi-wan router. The cheap ones are plagued with problem, and the expensive ones are, well, just too expensive.

Ease of Setup
Multi-WAN Router can take less than an hour to setup. All you need to do is plug it into your network. However, it may take days or even weeks to get OS router software running properly. This is some serious labor hour in that. Subsequent modification and update are usually easier with multi-wan routers. If you want a hassle free setup, go for the Multi-WAN.

While all multi-wan routers is essentially a computer, but they are optimized for maximum reliability. OS router software installed on a regular computer, if not properly configured, will be more likely to crash and freeze. A dedicated device of multi-wan router will provide maximum reliability. Isn’t that what you wanted when you consider a multi-wan solution?

Vyatta, and ClarkConnect require a paid support. And this support fee is not cheap. You can buy a reliable multi-wan router with that price. Moreover, since most multi-wan router companies provide email support for the first year, the price of using support on open source software is actually higher than buying a multi-wan router that comes with support.

Commercial multi-wan router provides firmware update for free or for a price. For example, PePLink released a firmware a few months ago that cost money. But this paid upgrade contains new useful features such as smtp forwarding, DNS priority. Patches and betas are released regularly for new feature and bug fix.

OS Router Software are also actively developing new feature. However, the quality of such software is subject to the community contribution. There are successful open source software like Mozilla Firefox that contains little bugs, make possible by a large active community that supports it. The open source support community varies a lot and the quality of the software varies with it. On the other hand
, commercial firmwares have a QC team testing the firmware upon each release ensuring it meets highest quality requirement.

Advantage of Open Source Router Software over Multi-WAN Router

If you are using the open source router software in an existing computer at home, and using community support exclusively, you can be using this multi-wan computer for free. Be prepared to invest a lot of your own time in tweaking such software. But if you are using it in office, or planning to get prompt support, why not consider a real multi-wan router?

A great “feature” of open source software is that you can edit the code of the software and therefore making it accommodate your need. This customization is not easy but can great benefit your special need.

Active Community
An active community will support the open source software and therefore make important suggestion, comments, and monitor the software performance. This community will allow the software progress actively. But as i points out earlier, the variation of this community, for example, number of users and participation of user, can affect the software's quality.

Multiple Software
With a OS router software installed on your BSD distribution. You can also install other server services such as Apache, or Asterisk. Notice that this only work for causal use. Having multiple server service on the same computer can cause serious outrage, and when that happens, your multi-wan setup will fail.

I hope this article can provide an objective review of the multi-wan routers and open source router software. Feel free to comment and express your opinion.


  1. while i agree with you that a router appliance is more reliable, it seems that you don't have an idea how opensource software really works.

    vyatta also has a router appliance. linksys also uses opensource software. a lot of those hardware/appliance that you consider reliable use opensource software.

    and under GPL, those that charge for their services with regards to opensource software do not own those softwares so you have all the right to make it better without legal issues.

    thousands and thousands of opensource software are available at no extra cost. and it's up to you if you want to avail paid services for such. and mind you, paid services for commercial hardware or software without warranty are usually far more expensive. and many really suck.

    if you have a community behind what you're using, you share lots of experiences and possible solutions. a few hundred heads or experiences will likely prove better than a very few coders or mid level tech support (or call center!).

  2. I need a router that can conect to multiple isp's with lot's of diferend conections like 10 or more wan conections. plz reply at