I have been in telecommunications for over thirty years and I now run a business Internet VoIP company. We offer hosted PBX, where the phone servers are in the data centers and the phones are located at the customer sites. I operate several brands, but the primary focus of my business model is pizza restaurants. I offer customized phone service with cellular internet backup to the restaurant locations. This may sound like a limited market, but there are currently 75,000 pizza restaurants in the US.
We used to have terrible issues with customer routers, as many of them stick their fingers into VoIP packet headers in a poorly engineered attempt to make it work better. Instead they generally cause problems. Sonicwall is the worst (we refer to them with the technical name of “Sonicwall of death to VoIP,” but that was too long for their business cards).
I had resisted installing my own routers at customer locations as I had thought they would be a nightmare to manage. I then had a customer request cellular backup to keep the phones online when their Internet failed, that is when I began installing Peplink gear – specifically the Pepwave Max-BR1 router with an integrated cellular backup modem.
This quickly caused a massive shift in how I do business and I re-engineered my infrastructure to make better use of the capabilities this device offers.
I have two data centers located in Memphis and Columbus.
In each data center I have a pair of Peplink Balance 710 routers, soon to be replaced with a pair of Balance 2500 routers as the border routers due to continued growth and expansion of my business. These routers are set as a high availability pair offering failover capability. They primarily act as VPN concentrators for the Pepwave routers located at the customer sites.
Behind the Balance routers at the data centers there are a pair of Juniper firewalls.
Behind the Juniper firewalls are the servers.
At each customer location there is a Pepwave MAX-BR1. The BR1 has a SpeedFusion VPN connection to each data center.
In most cases there is an existing firewall protecting the point of sale system. This is frequently a Sonicwall. Instead of trying to replace this we insert the BR1 between the internet modem/router and the existing firewall making whatever changes are required. The final configuration result is that the phones are on IP addresses that route to the two data centers over the SpeedFusion VPN (not a NAT translation) while the POS system traffic goes straight to the internet.
The cellular backup is protecting both the phones and the POS with automatic failover to the cellular link so credit card processing and web order flow stay up when the internet goes down.
The reason for having two data centers is also for failover capabilities. Each customer is set to “home” to one data center and failover to the other. So if we have a problem in Memphis, within two minutes everyone has connected to Columbus and calls still go through.
As we started doing these installations we realized that there are many additional advantages we had not originally considered:
• We can directly reach the IP addresses of the phones from our desks. As we are connected to the hub of the VPN network we can browse directly to a phone when it is not operating properly. This is a huge improvement in supportability.
• Ease of installation. Installation and cutover to our service does not even require a tech to be onsite. Having the cellular connection available allows us to walk our customers, many of which have zero technical knowledge, through the process step by step over the phone. We simply instruct the customer to mount the BR1 and power it up. No cabling has been moved at this point so the existing service is still in place. We then log into the BR1 over the cellular link and access the router as soon as it boots. Next we get the information needed to get the existing firewall moved behind it. At this point all that is needed is to attach the existing internet service provider’s link to the BR1. If you compare this to trying to walk a non-technical person through making changes they do not understand to equipment they do not know…wow. The Pepwave equipment has drastically reduced the complexity of installation and cutover at a customer site.
• All of the Peplink/Pepwave routers we utilize have the ability to perform packet captures. Having a test point at the customer location is extremely helpful. We can also perform ping and traceroute tests from the BR1, located at the edge of their network, looking in or out. So when the problem is inside their network (common) or in their internet connection (very common) we can diagnose and help deal with it. If the issue is related to their internet service provider we simply push the Pepwave to the cellular link and put in a ticket with the customer’s ISP.
The end result is that our installations go smoother and far faster than other companies, with less trauma and downtime for the customer. We sell and support service all over the US with just two techs and the Peplink/Pepwave gear is what has made this possible.
Chief Cook and Bottle Washer