Need secure connections for your business? This Linksys router offers an affordable way to do this.
The LRT224 from Linksys looks to be a top choice for small businesses that demand the best VPN features. Costing less than $310, this compact steel box can handle up to 50 site-to-site or client IPsec virtual private networks, and augments these with support for other VPN protocols, including PPTP, OpenVPN and Linksys’ own EasyLink VPN.
It has four Gigabit local area network ports and two more WAN links, allowing you to connect to two service providers for either load balancing for improved performance or failover to maintain internet access if one of the connections goes down.
Security features include a standard stateful packet inspection (SPI) firewall and denial of service (DoS) protection, along with support for custom access rules and simple website filtering.
The wizard-aided installation had the router up and running in less than five minutes. For wide area network redundancy, you can choose from failover, load balancing or the new sticky load-balancing feature that sends identical TCP sessions through the same WAN interface.
Firewall access rules allow for blocking or permitting actions to sources, destinations and services. For the latter, you can add your own custom services. Web-content filtering isn't great, however: all you can do is apply blacklists of domains or URL keywords.
Bandwidth management features are more versatile: after entering upstream and downstream speeds for each WAN port, we could apply a minimum guaranteed bandwidth to specific services or IP addresses. Quality of service (QoS) is also available, allowing you to choose a WAN port, protocol and direction, and assign high or low priorities.
The EasyLink VPN feature is designed to make light work of creating site-to-site IPsec VPNs, and setting one up involves just a few simple steps. However, it's only supported by Linksys LRT routers, meaning you'll need to use standard gateway IPsec VPNs for other models.
Linksys doesn't include any IPsec VPN client software, but it should be applauded for the extensive online help it provides for third-party products. There are clear tutorials with step-by-step instructions for the Shrew Soft Windows and IPSecuritas OS X software clients.
The LRT224 supports a maximum of five OpenVPN tunnels, and as it runs the server component itself, we only needed to download the free Windows client. Another bonus is that the software client uses predefined configuration files, so you won't need to train users in the ways of VPNs either.
Server setup is well documented, meaning it took us only a couple of minutes to create an encrypted OpenVPN tunnel. Client configuration was easy, too, allowing us to add a username and password along with certificate details.
The smart part comes next, however, with the client connection details being exported as a file or email. Once the file is copied into the OpenVPN Program Data configuration folder, users just fire up the client, select the connect option and log in.
Well, it would be easy, but Linksys forgot to mention one very important detail. The OpenVPN client must be run with elevated privileges or it fails to update the client's routing table and won't connect properly.
Performance is another issue since OpenVPN uses SSL, which is more demanding of the router hardware than IPsec. File copies between a remote Windows 10 desktop and a mapped drive on a LAN-based server only returned an average throughput of 1.5MB/sec.
Moreover, PPTP VPNs are even easier to create but performance is equally unimpressive. Copying the same test files to the LAN over a Windows 10 PPTP VPN link mustered only 1.3MB/sec.
Overall performance is disappointing, but Linksys gets a pat on the back for its excellent VPN documentation and online help. Furthermore, the LRT224 is good value because no other router at this low price point can match its range of VPN services.