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jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

I've got a conundrum at the office, and I'm looking for advice:

My team can only connect to the Internet via Verizon 4G devices because Reasons. (This 100% can not change no matter what, so no point in going into detail.)

We have 3 total 4G devices since we each need a fair amount of bandwidth.

BUT

My team has need for a shared server to store all our files.

Ideal solution: a beefy hotspot that can load balance between all three 4G hotspots so everyone on team connects to the same network, and we Magically™ share all the bandwidth.

I'm very tech savvy, but so far my research hasn't turned up any useful info.

Anyone dealt with this and have a solution/any ideas, or should I just give up and accept cruel reality?

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thebigcow
Jan 3, 2001

Bully!

There are solutions for this, but they all have problems. You will need to become an expert at something not supported, and it will still flake out on you. You will be either rolling your own router solution, or looking into companies like MikroTik that sell equipment to cheap ISPs and the third world, or looking into $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ specialty solutions. I have no experience with any of these, or cellular internet connections.

Option A) A connection to a data center that transparently combines your links.

Examples:
https://www.riverbed.com/products/steelhead/index.html
https://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Manu..._multiple_links

This option has equipment at your site and a data center (or cloud or vps or whatever) do the hard work and make things transparent. Problems will arise on anything that requires packets to arrive in order. You will be throwing money all over the place.

Option B) Load balancing over the links

https://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Manual:PCC
https://wiki.mikrotik.com/wiki/Impr...ltiple_Gateways

This has the router split connections to different sites across the connections. If it can't track a connection properly it will break web site logins in strange ways as your requests go over a different connection with a different IP. Apparently common in places where internet cafes are still a thing and the best they can get are a couple DSL connections.

Option C) Have an internal network with no default gateway set for internal things and everyone keeps their 4G dongles.

Local network with a DHCP server and no gateway set using an RFC 1918 network of your choice. Everyone still has their own 4G connection to the internet as long as it doesn't require PPP. Something will need to be set up to get security updates for your server.

Option D) Same as option C, but all the 4G connections are on the router and you configure static DHCP leases for everything in the office. Many lines of firewall rules to have requests from specific computers go over specific 4G dongles.

jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

Thanks, cow.

That unfortunately matches everything I've turned up, but at least it confirms my research.

I've done C before, and it confuses the computers way too much. I had lots of issues with computers insisting on looking for the server over the Wi-Fi connection, and ignoring the wired connection entirely. (Because of course the Wi-Fi is all that matters, that's where Internet access is!) So I don't think it's viable here, since it's even more users than last time I did it.

D might work, but I can't seem to tun up a hotspot/router that says it supports connecting to multiple 4G devices at once. But if you can point me to any that support it, I can check 'em out.

As for A and B... lol no. Way too cumbersome. B would be OK, except for the unreliable connections...

We might just have to deal without a central server, at least until 5G becomes a thing.

thebigcow
Jan 3, 2001

Bully!

D would be firmly in roll your own hardware and become an expert in it territory, although a MikroTik Routerboard and USB hub might do it.

https://forum.mikrotik.com/viewtopi...t=51072#p260921

jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

thebigcow posted:

D would be firmly in roll your own hardware and become an expert in it territory, although a MikroTik Routerboard and USB hub might do it.

https://forum.mikrotik.com/viewtopi...t=51072#p260921

Yeah... in a business environment, that's probably too home-brew. And it's just too niche a need to find an over-the-counter solution.

Ah, well. I appreciate your insight!

smax
Nov 9, 2009



Option B could probably be handled pretty well with a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter (ER-8 or an ERPro-8?) configured with sticky connections. They aren't incredibly expensive either.

craig588
Nov 19, 2005

by Nyc_Tattoo


jbone posted:


I've done C before, and it confuses the computers way too much. I had lots of issues with computers insisting on looking for the server over the Wi-Fi connection, and ignoring the wired connection entirely. (Because of course the Wi-Fi is all that matters, that's where Internet access is!) So I don't think it's viable here, since it's even more users than last time I did it.


I'm way out of my field in general here, but I have had this problem and worked around it by disabling devices in device manager. You all probably know better why that's a bad idea in this case, but just in case you hadn't considered it maybe it'll help.

jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

craig588 posted:

I'm way out of my field in general here, but I have had this problem and worked around it by disabling devices in device manager. You all probably know better why that's a bad idea in this case, but just in case you hadn't considered it maybe it'll help.

What devices did you disable? Network devices? I'm confused.

thebigcow
Jan 3, 2001

Bully!

I'm presuming other network devices, but you would be using all at once.

You can manually set interface metrics to give Ethernet priority, but it feels like that's one Windows Update away from being reset and everything broken again.

jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

thebigcow posted:

I'm presuming other network devices, but you would be using all at once.

You can manually set interface metrics to give Ethernet priority, but it feels like that's one Windows Update away from being reset and everything broken again.

Yes - Windows and Mac. Each newest device would try to declarer itself priority, so e.g. connecting to the 4G Wi-Fi after booting up would move it universally to the top.

I also assumed he meant "other network devices," but that didn't make sense, given the context...

craig588
Nov 19, 2005

by Nyc_Tattoo


Oh, yeah, I thought it was a remote shared server. I see now, the local server is on one interface and the internet is on another. Sorry, I was thinking is was devices trying to take priority while they weren't used at all.

jre
Sep 2, 2011

To the cloud ?





smax posted:

Option B could probably be handled pretty well with a Ubiquiti EdgeRouter (ER-8 or an ERPro-8?) configured with sticky connections. They aren't incredibly expensive either.

Seconding this,
The edge router even comes with a dual wan setup wizard. It's the only reasonably priced multi wan setup I've ever used. Other low priced solutions like draytek routers were flaky.

edit: assuming the 4g modems have ethernet ports and aren't just usb dongles ?

jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

jre posted:

Seconding this,
edit: assuming the 4g modems have ethernet ports and aren't just usb dongles ?

Actually... Wi-Fi hotspots. So to go this route, I'd need a plug-in Wi-Fi-to-Ethernet device for each 4G connection.

smax
Nov 9, 2009



Oh god. It'd make more sense to transfer the service to 4G base stations with Ethernet ports. Don't do the 4G - WiFi - WiFi client - Router thing.

jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

smax posted:

Oh god. It'd make more sense to transfer the service to 4G base stations with Ethernet ports.

Have you ever read Catch-22? Or played Paranoia?

In the case of my situation, "making sense" is not a requisite for our operating procedures.

Case in point, I'm managing a team that can only use 4G wi-fi devices for internet access in a business environment.

Mr Shiny Pants
Nov 12, 2012


You could ghetto it and configure the gateways on the machines to one of the three gateways. So you have two computers going over gateway one, the second set of computers over gateway two etc. etc.

You could even do this using DHCP and configure some reservations with different gateways.

Space Gopher
Jul 31, 2006
BLITHERING IDIOT

jbone posted:

Actually... Wi-Fi hotspots. So to go this route, I'd need a plug-in Wi-Fi-to-Ethernet device for each 4G connection.

Can you yank the SIMs and drop them into something like this? (bonus: you're not depending on the reliability of a stack of consumer hotspots)

If you can't even do that, most decent hotspots offer USB tethering. You might be able to get away with hooking multiple hotspots up to a PC or embedded USB host that acts as an intermediary router between the hotspots and your real router/load balancer.

(oh, and, what's your budget here?)

jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

Space Gopher posted:

Can you yank the SIMs and drop them into something like this? (bonus: you're not depending on the reliability of a stack of consumer hotspots)

If you can't even do that, most decent hotspots offer USB tethering. You might be able to get away with hooking multiple hotspots up to a PC or embedded USB host that acts as an intermediary router between the hotspots and your real router/load balancer.

(oh, and, what's your budget here?)

Although that would provide the best possible link between systems, I don't know that I could justify to the budget folks spending $1000 on three WR11-L800-DE1-SU's when Verizon gives us the wi-fi hotspots for free.

We don't have a fixed budget, I'd just need good justification for the specific route we take. It wouldn't be hard to justify $300 for something like a Ubiquiti ER-8. But any more than, say, $100 per 4G-to-Ethernet device and I'd have trouble making a case, especially when the server/NAS would be around $1k by itself.

My ideal solution would be a MIMO multi-antenna hotspot I could configure for multi-WAN @ 2.4GHz and single-LAN @ 5GHz. But That doesn't exist.

It looks like Verizon offers a "Verizon 4G LTE Broadband Router with Voice," though I had to do some digging to find it. I'm doubtful I can get those instead of a hotspots because Bureaucracy, but it might be worth asking about.

Space Gopher
Jul 31, 2006
BLITHERING IDIOT

jbone posted:

Although that would provide the best possible link between systems, I don't know that I could justify to the budget folks spending $1000 on three WR11-L800-DE1-SU's when Verizon gives us the wi-fi hotspots for free.

We don't have a fixed budget, I'd just need good justification for the specific route we take. It wouldn't be hard to justify $300 for something like a Ubiquiti ER-8. But any more than, say, $100 per 4G-to-Ethernet device and I'd have trouble making a case, especially when the server/NAS would be around $1k by itself.

My ideal solution would be a MIMO multi-antenna hotspot I could configure for multi-WAN @ 2.4GHz and single-LAN @ 5GHz. But That doesn't exist.

It looks like Verizon offers a "Verizon 4G LTE Broadband Router with Voice," though I had to do some digging to find it. I'm doubtful I can get those instead of a hotspots because Bureaucracy, but it might be worth asking about.

How to justify the budget:

Take the total yearly cost of employment for everybody in the office depending on this system, divide by 200, and say that they can still manage 50% normal productivity when connectivity is seriously impaired by a hotspot dropping out. Let's assume you've got 10 people taking home an average of $50k/year and employer-side overhead (benefits, payroll taxes, etc) is 50% of salary.* The cost of one workday of downtime is at minimum $1,875, assuming these people are only barely bringing in enough money to cover their salaries. If they're actually turning a profit, or if them dropping off the planet for a day has risk implications elsewhere, that number will only go up. These hotspots are cheap, lowest-bidder 'free' consumer hardware, so odds of a lovely hotspot forcing you to make an emergency trip to the Verizon store and wait in line are pretty high.

Option one, you plan to eat that risk, and come up with whatever free mitigation you can. If this is the decision be sure to document it, because it'll be a very important CYA when things do go to poo poo.

Option two, you invest a couple grand into mitigating it with better hardware. There's still some risk, but you're better positioned to deal with it.

Option three, you just get them to dig an exemption out of somewhere and get you a loving business-grade cable modem connection, or a fixed wireless connection, or something already. It's a bureaucracy, that means somebody somewhere has the power to override things if you get important people on your side raising a stink.

*these numbers are of course all deliberately skewed low, adjust to taste for your situation

jre
Sep 2, 2011

To the cloud ?





jbone posted:

Although that would provide the best possible link between systems, I don't know that I could justify to the budget folks spending $1000 on three WR11-L800-DE1-SU's when Verizon gives us the wi-fi hotspots for free.
This is just nuts unless the people relying on this are working for free, and them sitting doing nothing for hours when a solution held together with duct tape inevitably falls over is fine.

If you have to spend more than 10 seconds explaining this to the person who approves a $1000 spend

Seriously. from personal experience never look back.

abigserve
Sep 13, 2009

this is a better avatar than what I had before


jbone posted:

I've got a conundrum at the office, and I'm looking for advice:

My team can only connect to the Internet via Verizon 4G devices because Reasons. (This 100% can not change no matter what, so no point in going into detail.)

We have 3 total 4G devices since we each need a fair amount of bandwidth.

If this is in an office building, take the subscriptions to 4G services and just buy a normal internet service (here in Australia it'd either be an ethernet service delivered via fibre or ADSL if it's a remote site). The cost of 3x4G services (with enough capacity to handle office traffic day-in day-out) would eclipse the cost of a regular service not to mention be hot garbage in terms of reliability.

You will need to buy a router which involves spending at least a thousand bucks. I don't mean any disrespect by this but a team trying to sticky tape a 4G solution together out of wifi hotspots in an office envrionment sounds like someone has gotten into an argument with IT and decided to segregate themselves from the rest of the network.

Nystral
Feb 6, 2002

Every man likes a pretty girl with him at a skeleton dance.


abigserve posted:

If this is in an office building, take the subscriptions to 4G services and just buy a normal internet service (here in Australia it'd either be an ethernet service delivered via fibre or ADSL if it's a remote site). The cost of 3x4G services (with enough capacity to handle office traffic day-in day-out) would eclipse the cost of a regular service not to mention be hot garbage in terms of reliability.

You will need to buy a router which involves spending at least a thousand bucks. I don't mean any disrespect by this but a team trying to sticky tape a 4G solution together out of wifi hotspots in an office envrionment sounds like someone has gotten into an argument with IT and decided to segregate themselves from the rest of the network.

My take on his "for reasons" is he needs a "clean" IP that isn't linked back to his employer for "reasons".

Example: I worked for a game developer that had an MMO. They would pull out the 4G hotspot to buy the latest cheat clients so they could reverse engineer the thing and patch it.

We looked at something similar and your three LTE issue is the stumbling block here. You can buy commodity hardware toss on a *wrt firmware and load balance across two connections using a GUI and a guide. That may be a way forward for you to explore.

I like tomatousb but I'm lazy and it worked years ago. I'm sure openwrt or dd-wrt is better today.

jre
Sep 2, 2011

To the cloud ?





Nystral posted:

My take on his "for reasons" is he needs a "clean" IP that isn't linked back to his employer for "reasons".

Or much more simply he's somewhere rural where decent ASDL / cable is unavailable and a leased line is prohibitively expensive?

OP, do you definitely need all 3 hot spots to be connected to the lan?

Could you work with just a pair of 4G modems connected to an ubiquity edge router, then have the 3rd remaining hotspot for shitposting employee byod web browsing?

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jbone
Jan 25, 2004

bigeaux, it's showtime, chah

Nystral posted:

My take on his "for reasons" is he needs a "clean" IP that isn't linked back to his employer for "reasons".

Actually, we're in a facility that doesn't allow any wired connections aside from the ones already installed - and we're contractors, so we're not allowed on the wired connections. (But "because reasons" was shorter to type.)

Nystral posted:

We looked at something similar and your three LTE issue is the stumbling block here. You can buy commodity hardware toss on a *wrt firmware and load balance across two connections using a GUI and a guide. That may be a way forward for you to explore.

I like tomatousb but I'm lazy and it worked years ago. I'm sure openwrt or dd-wrt is better today.

Yeah, after your posts here I started looking into Tomato and DD-WRT some more, since I hadn't really played with them in a while. Looks like both now do support load balancing with in a multiwan environment, but only one of them can be a wwan. But I'm starting to see options.

jre posted:

Or much more simply he's somewhere rural where decent ASDL / cable is unavailable and a leased line is prohibitively expensive?

Nailed it, jre. I'm in the extremely rural, low infrastructure small town of Washington, DC.

jre posted:

OP, do you definitely need all 3 hot spots to be connected to the lan?

Could you work with just a pair of 4G modems connected to an ubiquity edge router, then have the 3rd remaining hotspot for shitposting employee byod web browsing?

If 3 doesn't seem feasible, we could possibly work off just 2. But the more, the better. We're a team of 5 and some of our work takes a fair amount of bandwidth.

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