How To Load Balance 2 Connections: Better Internet Abroad

load-balance-internetStable internet is always a concern.

While the internet would go out once in a while in Canada, it was rare and for short periods of time.

Living in Ecuador means that internet isn’t as stable as we were used to. In the past few years, we’ve had the internet cut for days at a time.

While this isn’t the end of the world for the average user, it can be painful for our business – and our schedule.

In order to create a more stable connection, I recently had a second internet connection installed. One is cabled and the other is via an antenna outside of our building.

If the main one failed, I just unplugged it and then plugged in the other. This got a little tedious. And obviously didn’t maximize the available resources and bandwidth.

Interested in what speeds are available in Latin America? Here’s an update on internet in Ecuador.

How I Created A Stable Internet Connection

While I had never heard of a way to join two connections into a single, stronger one, I searched for it. What I found is a technology called “load balancing”.

What is Load Balancing?

Load balancing is a computer networking method for distributing workloads across multiple computers or a computer cluster, network links, central processing units, disk drives, or other resources. Successful load balancing optimizes resource use, maximizes throughput, minimizes response time, and avoids overload. (Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Essentially, a load balancing router takes multiple incoming internet connections (WAN – wide area network) and combines them into a single, strong connection (LAN local area network). A broadband router with multiple WAN ports is needed.

load-balance-2-connections

I found lots of expensive (and heavy) options. Prices ranged from $170 to over $400 for a router with multiple WAN ports. Weight is a concern, because I had to ship it from the US to Ecuador. And I have a maximum value limit of $400 for individual shipments, according to Ecuadorian Customs.

My Load Balancing Router

better-internet-abroadThe router I ended up buying is the TP-LINK TL-R470T+ (5-port Load Balance Broadband Router, 3 Configurable WAN/LAN ports, 1 LAN, 1 WAN). What this description means is that there are a total of 5 ports:

  • 1 dedicated WAN port
  • 1 dedicated LAN port
  • 3 ports that can be configured to either WAN or LAN.

I used the dedicated WAN port and one of the configurable ports as a WAN port as well. So I have two incoming internet connections that then feed a single connection across the three remaining LAN ports. I directly wired two of our computers into the LAN ports. The remaining LAN port feeds my ASUS Dual-Band Wireless-N 600 Router.

The cost was just over $50, plus $15 to ship it to Ecuador. It had a 4.5/5 star rating with 36 customers reviews. Although TP-LINK isn’t a high-end brand, I thought it was worth a try. My biggest concern was configuring it.

Configuring the Load Balancing Router

One of the biggest complaints for this type of router is how difficult they are to configure. Many online reviewers said they just had to return their router because they couldn’t make it work.

When it first arrived, I set it aside because I thought I would need hours to get it setup. I was afraid to change configurations of the current modem/router – and be left with nothing working.

Well, one night I got a burst of blind confidence and in less than 10 minutes the router was functioning and blending (load balancing) my two connections. When it was finished, I couldn’t believe how easy it was. Just follow the four steps in the printed guide and you’ll be good to go. Now my connection should almost never fail (because if one cuts, all the traffic automatically switches to the other one). And my bandwidth has increased significantly – even at night when the internet usage is extremely high.

Final Thoughts

It’s been two weeks with the router and I love it. I can’t believe I went the last four years living in Ecuador without it. If you live abroad – and internet is important to you – you should consider getting two connections installed and combining them with a load balancing router.

What has been your experience with internet abroad? Have you used a load balancing router?

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Post Categories: Living Abroad

{ 34 comments… add one }

  • John McGraw July 28, 2014, 7:38 pm

    What two services do you use to load balance? At what megas and cost? Thanx.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 29, 2014, 8:01 am

      You can combine any two connections. I can’t imagine a connection that this wouldn’t work on. It really depends on your budget and your speed requirements.

      Reply
  • Dan July 16, 2014, 2:59 am

    Hey man, you mentioned you followed the “four steps in the printed guide”…which steps would those be? Having a bit of trouble with this currently :/

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 16, 2014, 6:22 am

      I don’t think I still have it. There was a guide that came with the router. You can download the guide direct from TP-Link. Hopefully this helps.

      Reply
  • Kalynda June 30, 2014, 10:11 pm

    Forget that question of mine, I just noticed that the second router is wireless. Silly me….

    Reply
  • Kalynda June 30, 2014, 10:05 pm

    Hi Bryan, Great hack! What i don’t understand is why do you need the second router?

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Ray May 25, 2014, 11:05 am

    You already answered my question…………..Thanks.

    Bryan Haines July 4, 2013, 8:14 am
    Yes, this means two internet connections. It is really a question of how important a stable connection is. In our case, it is how we work – and the few extra dollars we spend is nothing compared to the saved time and stress.

    Reply
  • Ray May 25, 2014, 10:58 am

    Does this require 2 separate internet providers/sources or a single provider?
    Not quite understanding of the setup of incoming signals.
    Thanks.

    Reply
  • Burt May 24, 2014, 9:29 am

    Excellent timing for me to find this. I am returning to Calif for a week next month, so just ordered this to be waiting for us to bring it back.

    I have been using two ISPs (ETAPA and Puntonet — can’t get TVCable in el Centro), each with its own wireless. When one goes down, I just switch to the other wireless network. Bit of a nuisance though, and doesn’t get the speed benefit of tying both together. Your solution sounds much better than what I have been doing!

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 24, 2014, 1:48 pm

      Nice. Glad that this helped. Let me know how it goes for you.

      Reply
  • Caleb May 20, 2014, 3:51 pm

    Thanks for the info. We have TVCable in Quito and its pretty awful, cuts out almost daily. We have CNT as a back up but its just for the VOIP phones. I like the idea of combining the two. We are supposed to get fiber optic in the coming months, we shall see.

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 20, 2014, 9:55 pm

      It works well for us. Let me know how it goes for you.

      Reply
  • Chris May 20, 2014, 5:50 am

    We need to maintain a static IP address for our business, is there a way to maintain a static IP address when the load balancing kicks in and we switch from one ISP to another?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines May 20, 2014, 6:18 am

      I don’t know. This is beyond my knowledge. You might find a good forum with the company to ask that question.

      I’ve noticed that our IP address changes multiple times in the day – usually rotating between 2 or 3 specific numbers.

      Reply
  • Glenn March 5, 2014, 3:27 am

    can you email me the steps on how to mixed up the two internet speeds?
    thanks

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines March 5, 2014, 7:37 am

      It is actually in the post above. Just setup the load balance router and it will combine both.

      Reply
      • Glenn March 5, 2014, 9:25 pm

        Do I have to check or uncheck any of the fields in the load balance option?
        Coz mine can’t mix the two internets.
        thanks

        Reply
  • Trudy Marshall January 7, 2014, 7:44 pm

    Hi Bryan. We finally got our internet connection here in Olon after four months. But the biggest pkg that CNT offers in our area is 3MDown/0.5M up. For the job that I want to do, it requires 3M down, and 1M up. CNT can give us a dedicated 1:1 M line for $130 + tax per month. I was wondering if we could install the load balancer and use the combined strength, resulting in 4Mdown/ 1.5M up. Is this what this product does? Although our residential pkg 0f 3M/0.5M can be shared between 8 customers, we are the only people in our neighborhood who have the internet, and the speed test shows that we actually are getting over 3M down and 0.4M up. I just hate to order this item or another internet connection if it is not going to give me the result I need. What is your opinion?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines January 21, 2014, 8:42 am

      I haven’t done comprehensive speed tests but what you are describing is what a load balancer will do. You can see speed improvements – and the connection will be always-on. And if one connection cuts out – the other one will keep you online.

      Reply
      • Jack Honeycutt February 4, 2014, 10:06 am

        I also bought a TP-LINK load balancing router. Then I talked to HMA about it: http://hidemyass.com/

        After about 6/8 weeks, they decided they liked it. It is suppose to appear on the “approved” list of routers they now support.

        I have yet to deploy it. I move to Ecuador this year sometime.

        I have the same understanding as Bryan has. You can down load the manual free on line as a pdf file if you want to learn more.

        Reply
  • Hansel January 2, 2014, 9:26 pm

    Hi Bryan,

    I’m interested with this kind of setup in our office and would like to know more details regarding this. Can I know your Skype ID or would it be ok if you can add me? My Skype ID is hansel.baro. Any help would be very much appreciated. Thanks.

    Cheers,
    Hansel

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines January 3, 2014, 9:41 pm

      Hi Hansel – you are welcome to ask questions via the comment section. I’ll do my best to help.

      Reply
      • Hansel January 10, 2014, 5:30 am

        Alright. I would like to inquire regarding Your Router (TP-LINK TL-R470T+) that supports running 2 ISP at the same time. Basically I need a router to do a Load Balance for our 2 ISP (100mbps and 10mpbs), 0 downtime and increase the bandwidth per user.

        My Objectives are the following:

        * Increase the bandwidth per user using the combined 2 ISP (100mbps and 10mbps)
        * Faster and Stable connection in our office.
        * 0 downtime in our office, meaning if 1 ISP shut down the other ISP will support the users to stay connected in the Internet.
        * Security features from hackers and viruses using the Built in firewall of this product.

        Kindly advise if this is possible with the router you’re talking about. You can also have your preferred setup if you can think of a better setup. Any help is very much appreciated.

        Cheers,
        Hansel

        Reply
        • Bryan Haines January 21, 2014, 6:56 am

          I don’t have stats to show the increase in speed and bandwidth but yes, this load balancer will do what you are looking for. By combining the 2 connections into one, you will reduce (almost to zero) the possibility of being without a connection. If one fails the other will continue to work.

          By sharing incoming and outgoing bandwidth, the 2 connections can’t help but increase your speed – especially for uploads. This is often the limiting factor with ISPs.

          I don’t have experience with the security features. I know very little about this.

          Reply
          • Hansel January 23, 2014, 2:23 am

            I See. Last question. Do you think this router can Handle 100 users at the same time? My plan is to use this router using the 2 ISP. then connect it to our swithches for Lan connections and the connect it too for our access points (Unifi) Thanks man.

            Cheers,
            Hansel

            Reply
            • Bryan Haines January 23, 2014, 5:45 am

              I don’t have experience with that many users at one time. I suppose it would have more to do with what the users were doing online (streaming video or writing emails) than with the number of actual users.

              You should be able to contact the TP-Link directly to confirm this detail.

              Thanks!

              Reply
  • Luc September 29, 2013, 7:21 pm

    You share valuable information about Cuenca; however, I am coming to Quito. Do you know of a similar service provided by any ex-pat in Quito?

    thanks for your consideration,
    Luc

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines October 14, 2013, 3:57 pm

      No, I haven’t seen one. If you find one, please let me know.

      Bryan

      Reply
  • Jack Honeycutt July 30, 2013, 7:22 pm

    Hi… My blu-ray player is smart. It will stream many things to me like Netflicks, and Amazon. My new TV is also smart and will let me surf as well as stream. Both products need to be connected to the internet for BIOS updates.

    I was going to use a Proxy server when I move to Ecuador. I was going to use “Hide my Ass”. Is it possible to configure this unit so it will head to Hide MY Ass and display a USA IP address when I go out to the web in the US and watch netflicks and other streaming services?

    Thanks

    Reply
  • Jeff July 4, 2013, 4:41 pm

    Does the new router have a firewall and DHCP server built-in as well?

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 4, 2013, 5:02 pm

      Yes. You can read about this specific router here.
      According to the product description, here are some of the details:

      • Built-in firewall supports IP address filtering, Domain Name filtering, and MAC address filtering
      • Standards and Protocols: IEEE 802.3, 802.3u, 802.3x TCP/IP, DHCP, ICMP, NAT, PPPoE, SNTP, HTTP, DNS
      Reply
      • Jeff July 4, 2013, 5:06 pm

        Thanks

        Reply
  • David July 3, 2013, 12:01 pm

    good article … however, this will only work if you have 2 independent internet sources, correct? Which means 2 internet accounts or double your monthly cost … correct? If that is indeed so many of us xpats can not afford the upgrade … if not so, kindly explain … thanks!
    David

    Reply
    • Bryan Haines July 4, 2013, 8:14 am

      Yes, this means two internet connections. It is really a question of how important a stable connection is. In our case, it is how we work – and the few extra dollars we spend is nothing compared to the saved time and stress.

      Reply

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Who is Blogger Abroad?

I'm Bryan Haines, a Canadian living in Cuenca, Ecuador with my wife and daughter. I write about how to generate passive income with your online business while traveling or living abroad.

If this is your first visit, start here. If you are planning a trip or move abroad (but aren't filthy rich) you're in the right place. On Blogger Abroad, I provide the resources and motivation needed to start and grow a successful online business. - Bryan Haines

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