A couple of days ago, an old friend of mine sent me a photo of a Peplink Balance router he had seen in the wild (well in a field actually).
It had been installed by Netcell Solutions, a local events company who were providing internet access and site wide WiFi for the Beautiful Days festival that happened over the weekend.
I managed to get Steve Bennett from Netcell on the phone today for a chat about the installation and to find out more about why he chose Peplink for this deployment he also send through some more photos – linked below.
Me: Hi Steve, thanks for taking a moment to have a chat with me today about the beautiful days install and for sharing the photos. Can You tell me what the main challenges are with providing internet access for events like this?
Steve: Sure, the biggest challenge with internet access in scenarios like this (basically a muddy field deep in rural Devon countryside) is always finding quality connectivity.
When I first surveyed the location I quickly discovered that connectivity options were limited. There was DSL on site from Escot house (the hosts of the festival and owners of the land), but speeds were poor – in the region of 500Kbps and certainly not enough for the number of staff on site. I had high hopes for cellular connectivity, but that was unavailable also. The only options left really were to use the DSL and then combine that with a satellite internet connection.
Me: And so thats where the Peplink Balance 310 came in?
Steve: Yes thats right, we used the 310 to load balance and manage the two internet links and act as the onsite internet gateway and firewall. This was connected to a switch in the production office and all other on site network connectivity was wired back to that point. We deployed a number of APs in a mesh to cover all the onsite staff areas and key production management offices that enabled the staff onsite to connect their devices to the internet.
Me: Have you got any stats on the number of clients that used the network – what about bandwidth consumption?
Steve: Over the 7 days it was installed, there were 808 unique LAN clients that used the network, with 188 simultaneous users at the busiest times. Between them they used over 92GB of data.
Me: 92Gb of data in a field is pretty impressive! Was that all over the satellite internet link? How did you use the two WANs? Was there any traffic management in play?
Steve: Yes, I decided that since the DSL had such limited bandwidth it made most sense to use the satellite link as the primary WAN for internet access, and I ended up setting the DSL WAN for failover only. There was a plan to use VoIP on site and so the DSL was also configured as the primary WAN for VoIP traffic, but in the end this wasn’t needed.
Me: Now that the events all over and you’ve had a moment to review – would you do anything differently next time? Is there any room for improvement? What are your thoughts on the Balance 310 in this scenario?
Steve: There are always ways to improve a deployment but in this case options are fairly limited due to the geography and the services that are available. Naturally everyone always wants more bandwidth so I would be tempted to deploy a second satellite internet connection on the other side of the site as an additional internet path. This would reduce the internal WiFI network latency experienced by some users that were furthest away from the production office (since they were connected through multiple WiFi AP hops in the mesh) and provide additional bandwidth generally too.
I’d also like to see what possibilities there are for using cellular internet connectivity next year as well – perhaps by installing a cellular router running independently off of a solar panel and battery on distant higher ground and then bringing that back into the 310. Guess we’ll need to wait and see what the options are nearer the time.
As for the Balance, I found it really easy to set up to get the failover to work as I wanted, and it was completely reliable throughout. I like it, and will undoubtedly be using it again for other events we provide internet services to.
Big thanks to Steve Bennett for taking the time to share info on his network deployment for Beautiful Days, below are the photos of the installed B310 on site.