Comparing Cradlepoint Load Balancing vs. Peplink/Pepwave Load Balancing & Bonding

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Thursday, 29 December 2011

Comparing Cradlepoint Load Balancing vs. Peplink/Pepwave Load Balancing & Bonding

Pepwave Max 700 with multiple modems connected

When comparing the features of all the various 3G/4G routers, the terms "Load Balancing" and "Bonding" can cause some confusion. Many Cradlepoint and Peplink/Pepwave routers offer load balancing, and several of the Pepwave models also support connection bonding. Load Balancing refers to balancing traffic across multiple connections (for example, using one Verizon and one Sprint modem; all of the users' traffic would then be split up so that some goes out over Sprint and some over Verizon instead of everyone sharing the bandwidth from just one connection) and is a commonly available feature even on inexpensive routers, while Bonding (AKA Aggregation) refers to actually combining the speeds of multiple modems into one higher-speed stream and requires more expensive full-featured equipment.

Each of these features can be highly beneficial and determining if you need load balancing or bonding will depend on what you want to accomplish. The best way to figure out what you need is to ask yourself if your goal is simply to support a lot of users, or if you need one single high-speed internet stream to support a bandwidth-intensive application like real-time video streaming — load balancing between multiple connections would be sufficient for the former, while bonding/aggregating would be necessary for the latter.

How does load lalancing work? What's the difference between load balancing on a Cradlepoint router and load balancing on a Peplink router?

CRADLEPOINT: The MBR1200B, MBR1400, and newer models like the COR (IBR600/IBR650 & IBR1100/IBR1150 models only) and AER (1600/1650, 2100, 3100/3150) line of routers all support load balancing. The MBR1200B and the MBR1400 can balance between 2-3 USB, 1-2 ExpressCard, and two wired WANs. The COR and AER Cradlepoint models allow the user to load balance via USB, wired and embedded WAN connections. Overall, Cradlepoint's load balancing routers let you choose between four different load balancing methods:

  • Round-Robin: Evenly distribute each session to the available WAN connections.
  • Rate: Distribute traffic based on the current upload and download rates available from the connected Internet sources.
  • Spillover (this was the default algorithm in older firmware): Load is always given to devices with the most available bandwidth. The estimated bandwidth rate is based on a combination of the upload and download configuration values and the observed capabilities of the device (i.e. if you had a high-speed cable connection and a slower-speed 3G USB modem, all traffic would go out over the cable connection until the available bandwith from that was equal or less than the 3G modem).
  • Data Usage: The router will make a best effort to keep data usage between interfaces at a similar percentage of the assigned data cap in the Data Usage rule for each interface, rather than distributing sessions based solely on bandwidth.


PEPWAVE/PEPLINK: The Peplink Balance and Pepwave Max routers all support load balancing, and they take the concept far beyond what Cradlepoint routers are capable of. This is thanks to their sophisticated outbound policy management system that allows you to distinguish and control how each connection is utilized. Peplink/Pepwave routers feature up to seven different algorithms for a variety of different applications that can be crucial for system admins struggling with multiple network connections:

  • Weighted Balance: This algorithm is very similar to the Cradlepoint "spillover" method, but you have the option to manually adjust the load amount based on individual connections. Using this in conjunction with the outbound policy management allows you to create a sophisticated network and intelligently offset your network usage. The dials go from 0-10, with '0' not meaning the connection should not be used at all and '10' indicating that the connection should be used at 100% capacity. For example, you could have WAN1 (cable) and WAN2 (DSL) set at '10' and USB1 (Verizon 4G) set to '5' so it's only used when the other connections begin to max out their capabilities.

  • Persistence: This algorithm allows you to dictate which connections are active either by source or destination. If you choose "by source," the same WAN connection will be used for traffic matching the rule and originating from the same machine regardless of its destination. If "by destination" is chosen, the same WAN connection will be used for traffic matching the rule, originating from the same machine, and going to the same destination. For example, if you want WAN1 (Cable) to be used by a specific group of computers on your network while WAN2 (DSL) is used by another group, the persistence algorithm is the perfect choice.
  • Enforced: This algorithm is the easiest way to link specific connections to different network components. For example, let's say that WAN1 (Cable) is designed to run your whole office network and USB1 (Verizon 4G) is configured for priority failover on select components (like a credit card machine or VOIP phone). If the machine doesn't have a rule to use that Verizon modem they'll simply have no connectivity when the primary network goes down. You can see this algorithm in action here: Peplink/Pepwave Outbound Enforced Policy Management
  • Priority: Traffic will be routed through the healthy WAN connection that has the highest priority. With this algorithm, each active connection will perform a health check down the list from highest to lowest priority. If you have hardware that needs to have priority over other equipment, this will ensure you have the highest availability connection active.
  • Overflow: This algorithm is ideal for networks that are constantly under heavy strain, or for a business that may have an unreliable T1, Cable/DSL, etc connection. If part of your network becomes overloaded, giving you inconsistent performance, this algorithm we help you offset the load when needed. For example, if WAN1 (Cable) and WAN2 (DSL) are constantly overloaded with traffic you could configure USB1 (Verizon 4G) as the third connection to help offset employee usage; the Verizon 4G connection would then only be utilized when the less expensive connections become overloaded and begin to stall.
  • Least Used: The "least used" algorithm looks at each available connection and sees which connection has the most available bandwidth and uses it. This is an easy way to ensure that your traffic will always have maximum throughput by using the connection with the most throughput available.
  • Lowest Latency: This algorithm is ideal for applications that require low latency to preform optimally. If you have hardware like a VOIP or PBX phone system you can use this algorithm specifically so that your phones will always stay connected to the network with the best latency.


Load Balance Wrap-Up: If you have a small business, the load balancing features on the Cradlepoint routers can be a great low-cost solution. If you run a larger business and demand complete control over your network connections, the Peplink Balance and Max routers offer the ultimate end user control. You can combine different algorithms by IP Address, IP Network or Mac address giving you unprecedented amount of control over your network.

What about bonding? What equipment does that require and how does it work?


In addition to the load balancing functionality, the Pepwave Max routers (in conjunction with a Peplink Balance 210 or above) also offer bonding (which the Cradlepoint routers can't do). Bonding allows you to take multiple connections and turn them into one single stream, which allows you to have an increased download and upload speed. This can be incredibly useful for companies that demand a single pipe that offers faster speeds to download or upload real time video, route large amounts of traffic and handle video conferencing. After the connection has been bonded you can use their outbound traffic management feature to optimize outbound traffic and prioritize your VPN traffic. To bond multiple connections together, you'll need both a Pepwave Max router and a Peplink Balance 210 or higher to establish the bonded VPN connectoin back to the Pepwave Max. For detailed information on Pepwave bonding see this article: Click: Pepwave Max Bonding Information

If you would like more information or to schedule a demo: Click to fill out our Pepwave Max Contact Form

The Pepwave Max 700, Max HD2, Max HD4, as well as the Peplink Balance (models 210 and above) and MediaFast routers are the only routers on the market that can bond multiple connections together without any monthly recurring fees (please note that certain models such as the MediaFast 200/500, MediaFast HD2/HD4 or Balance 305, require a SpeedFusion license to use this service). This means the only costs are the hardware itself and the monthly service charges from your ISPs (which you're already paying for). In fact, if you're using any leased lines you'll be able to configure specific priorities ensuring you utilize the cheapest connections, and only use more expensive connections when necessary to further save you money.

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 07 June 2016 )
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