Sunday, 11 January 2015 21:48

Review - D-Link DWR-925 4G LTE VPN router

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To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi, the D-Link DWR-925 is an elegant router of a more connected age.

D-Link's new DWR-925 router plugs into your existing WAN connection - supporting NBN broadband as well as ADSL or cable - and also connects to LTE and 4G mobile networks. This is a nice combination, offering redundancy and failover perfect for a business or power-user environment.

Now, connecting to your regular broadband is pretty much to be expected from a router. Mobile broadband however is emerging as a competitive force. At the beginning of the 21st century GSM and CDMA modems came to market and while the novelty of conducting important business on the side of the road was a good one, the price tag for data - measured in megabytes alone - was enormous.

Time has moved on; mobile broadband is ubiquitous. EDGE, 3G and 4G technologies have been rolled out, smartphones are commonplace and home users as well as businesses operate modems or use phones as personal hotspots.

I've long been using mobile broadband for getting offices onto the Internet and to the corporate network in a very fast timeframe. I have worked for mining service providers where we were permitted to have space in a dedicated small office on-site, but could not use their network nor could we run cabled infrastructure of our own. I have worked for companies which had aggressive acquisition and merger growth strategies and I was tasked with getting newly-obtained offices onto the corporate network immediately - despite telco's advising an eight week turnaround time for business broadband.

In these situations the best results were achieved by 3G/4G routers. Not individual modems, one per person, or per device, but a router. Just like the better-known ADSL router, a mobile broadband router connected to the Internet - in this case, via the mobile phone network - and made this connection available to the office via wire and WiFi.

Mobile broadband really served magnificently in these situations. It isn't restricted simply to business; home users also have valid reasons to want mobile broadband. You may live too far from the nearest phone exchange for conventional fixed broadband, or you may be unwilling to contract to fixed broadband because you plan to relocate, or indeed you may be a nomad, wandering the country in a mobile home.

Even if you do not wander or have a remote office, having failover capability from cabled to mobile in the one device is a boon. Your users might notice a speed difference but everything continues working as it should.

I have tried many, many different routers. The key to successful mobile broadband for me was to control costs via a sensible high-capacity data plan that minimised any risk of excess usage fees, to get the router to connect directly to the corporate network and not merely the Internet, to ensure full visibility of devices beyond the router - such as printers - allowing administration from the head office, and to be a robust device which would run and run and did not require routine reboots.

No router will help you with the first - being your plan and usage. Not all routers will meet the other three criteria. Happily, the D-Link DWR-925 4G LTE VPN router does.

The router is robust and stable and happily maintains its connection across LTE, UMTS, HSDPA and HSUPA bands, as well as 802.11 b/g/n WiFi. It comes in a robust metal housing and includes an RS-232 serial port allowing industrial possibilities, as well as failover to a 56K dial-up modem. This then offers even greater redundancy in the event of emergency.

Home users may not be so concerned with connecting to a private network, but for corporates the router's built-in IPSec, L2TP and PPTP VPN features mean your users can be just as much a part of the company network as anybody sitting in a regular office. They can use your controlled proxy server, Intranet, terminal servers, private web apps, printers and scanners, and so on. By establishing the VPN connection inside the router config it is always up and connected, and your acceptable usage policies are enforced.

Similarly, home users may also not be so concerned with remote administration. This extends beyond simply connecting to the router's configuration; I mean the router must allow full connectivity to devices beyond the router, sitting on the local subnet. The D-Link DWR-925 supports full IPSec NAT-traversal and dual-active NAT/SPI firewalls making this trivial, and delivering confidence.

The D-Link DWR-925 truly is an enterprise-grade router with a rich feature set. It is also a perfect option for those home users who require a high quality router with serious uptime.

Interestingly, the SIM card slot is hidden by a panel which contains two torx screws. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, it would be preferable if it used more conventional screws, but on the other hand the box includes a torx screwdriver which is terrific, meaning the hapless sysadmin has one on hand so they can deal with all their other devices which use torx screws.

The D-Link DWR-925 has an RRP of $549.95.

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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.

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