In the first part of this series, we discussed how you can use a tethered internet connection to provide a backup when your primary internet connection goes down. In the second part of this series, we discussed the concept of developing a backup internet alliance. In this blog post, we will finish out this series by discussing how you can make the most of your home router configuration and give back some recommendations I have gotten from the community on how to maintain an effective backup internet connection.
Introducing your new BFF – Meet your router!
You know that little box you have tucked somewhere in a closet that provides you with your connection to the internet? You know, the one you only visit when your Wi-Fi stops working or your internet goes down? Yes, that one! That device should quickly become your best friend during our current work-from-home requirement.
Creating a backup route to the internet
In a previous blog post, I discussed a method to tether and use your cell phone to temporarily replace your house’s internet connectivity. The approach discussed in this blog is how I ended up putting this together for my home.
On my new BFF, I enabled USB as an option for connection on the router configuration (as shown below I have an ASUS router so your router configuration may be different than mine).
Next, I configured for a dual WAN with the USB being the backup connection. Note that the primary is set to WAN, the secondary is set to USB. The Dual WAN mode is set to Fail Over (it could also use Load Balance but that doesn’t make sense for this router configuration) and it’s set to allow fallback to the primary connection what comes back online.
Once these changes were in place, I now had both a Primary WAN (my ISP) and a Secondary WAN (my cell phone connected via USB). To test the connectivity of the backup (secondary WAN) I unplugged the primary WAN link from the device, and it appeared as shown with it connected on the Secondary WAN. While it was in this configuration, I ran tests including validating that my existing Wi-Fi connections were working and those devices in my home could still function (though at a slower rate than on my primary WAN connection).
When testing was done, I re-connected the primary WAN and it bounced back to the primary ISP leaving the secondary WAN as a cold-standby.
I left the secondary WAN as a backup and I left a USB cable connected to the device so that when there is an internet outage all I need to do is turn on USB tethering on my phone and connect it to the existing cable. When it detects that the primary WAN link is offline it will automatically failover to the secondary WAN link.
The configuration when running tethered looks like the configuration below. It takes less than 2 minutes to activate this configuration as it only requires connecting the cell phone to the existing USB cable and turning on USB tethering for the phone.
Maximizing the bandwidth you have
When you have a limited amount of bandwidth available to get to and from the internet, the usage of that bandwidth becomes more important. Quality of Service (QoS) allows you to prioritize your traffic so that higher priority items (like Voice over IP – VoIP) can be prioritized over less important traffic.
In my environment, I leveraged Adaptive QoS and I prioritized VoIP and Instant messaging, then Video and Audio Streaming, and then other items as a lower priority as shown below.
Once QoS is in place, you can see what amount of upload and download bandwidth are in use and you can see which specific devices on the network are using that traffic.
You can also see what traffic is occurring based on these different categories.
Additionally, you can turn on traffic analysis to see the breakdown of what clients and applications are using bandwidth in your environment.
The graphics above are specific to the router type that I have but I would expect that similar routers would have similar capabilities (as long as you keep the software up to date on your router!)
Keep your router up to date!
Keeping your router up to date can increase your router’s capabilities and can also address security issues. If you haven’t updated your router’s firmware recently it is probably a good time to make this happen. I recommend picking a timeframe when internet connectivity is not as critical (maybe outside of work hours) to upgrade your router’s firmware.
Get credit for your outage!
Most ISP’s have language in their contract that they have to provide a credit for internet outages that occur. If you have an outage, reach out to your ISP to see if you can get a credit applied for the timeframe that your internet connection was down.
Recommendations from the community
I received some recommendations from a former co-worker of mine who is a big fan of OpenWrt and the GL iNet products. He uses one of these for his house and another for when he is travelling. His device also supports directly plugging in a phone to tether as shown in the example in this blog post.
Thanks to Geoff W and Adam R for their insights which were directly related to this blog post!