Friday, 10 May 2013

Adventures with the Cisco SRP527 ADSL2+ Router

This is a review of the Cisco SRP527 ADSL2+ router as much as it is an overview of my experience
with it. For a long time I was a huge fan of the Netgear DG834 series routers - for around $100 you got a router capable of wireless, 5 VPN tunnels, reasonable (but not fantastic) firewall and very reliable. It's only been since Netgear cancelled this excellent series, pushing users to the higher end models for VPN and using other, non-VPN capable routers for home users, that I started casting further afield for a new, reasonably priced VPN capable ADSL2+ router. WiFi wasn't that important - TPlink do a reasonable wireless access point for around $60 that we've deployed very successfully and I don't mind the separation of devices. One of my colleagues heard me bitching about the Netgear changes and suggested I check out the Cisco SRP range of routers. Usually the only Cisco routers I've played with are 800 series ones, or 1900 series - routers that require care and patience to set up, plus command line skills that I don't really have - I'm a *nix dude after all.

He was using the SRP547, the higher model than the one I use now, at home and loved it - he was able to control his kids access to YouTube and Facebook, killing their WiFi so they'd sleep and allowing him full access to his bandwidth :-) More importantly, they are reasonably priced and capable of both WiFi and VPN support. We started to sell a few of these devices and recent events enabled me to pick one up for home. I need a VPN to the office for remote backups, maintenance and monitoring so it was an excellent choice.

The Cisco SRP527 is an unassuming looking beast. It's in the same chassis as the 547 (and the RVS4000 for that matter) and offers a wealth of configurability. First things first - it has a web based front end that is clear and easy to navigate around. There are a lot of options, but they are fairly intelligently divided up and you can follow your nose looking for things. I set up my ADSL credentials, configured my firewall - note that you have to set up the Port Forwards, then the Advanced Firewall to get things moving in the right directions. I made the error of assuming that since I'd set up the Advanced Firewall options I didn't need to do the Port Forwarding - you do. But you don't have to set up the Advanced Firewall if you're allowing any access to the port forwards.

The 527 has 4 10/100 ports, one of which can be used as a second WAN port. It has 802.11N wireless capabilities and 2 phone ports

Rightly placed under the Cisco Small Business SRP500 Series Services Ready Platforms on the Cisco support pages, these are terrific devices. Not only did I have it up and running, with the VPN connected successfully to the SRP547 at the office, but I picked up almost 1Mb in speed on my ADSL line. Not bad at all for 15 minutes work. Even setting up the SRP547 at the office, with *many* more port forwards and some quite complex routing only took about 45 minutes.

The thing that probably impresses me most about this device is the reporting. The status page gives you a breakdown of so many different things its amazing. I can see how much data the port forwards are doing - individually, I can see WiFi stats, ADSL stats, VPN traffic stats and so much more. For someone like me it's awesome - I can watch this while I'm testing various different pieces of hardware and things that I'm doing - useful if I'm trying to work out what's sucking the life from my internet connection.

Things to note - when upgrading the firmware make sure you pick the right one. I inadvertently used the SRP520 firmware instead of the SRP520U firmware. Luckily a restore from backup fixed everything. With a reasonable price tag and lots of stuff it can do - it's well worth checking out the Cisco SRP527. With a bit of extra coin go for the SRP547 and get gigabit network ports!

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