Top Office Kit: The Perfect Router for a Virtual Assistant / SoHo

UPDATE: We still love our Draytek, however after eight years of service the WIFI stopped working. I just haven’t had the time or been in the right head space to look too deeply into it—switiching it off and on again definitely hasn’t done the trick. We’re currently using the router provided by our broadband provider—but if Draytek would like to send us their update to the marvelous 2820VN, we’d be happy to review it :)

Original article published on April 13, 2010.
I’m not often moved to write a review about new bits of hardware we’ve introduced to our virtual assistant office, but our latest purchase has prompted me to put fingers on keyboard and write this not-too-technical, but hopefully helpful, post.

We had been very happy with our D-Link 504 DSL router but we wanted to progress to wireless to free us from the confines of our desk and eliminate a few cables.

What were we looking for in a SoHo-level router?

Having a secure, fast, and reliable connection to the Internet is the A1 priority of a virtual assistant business—without it we can’t operate. So I wanted a router with a solid firewall and wireless security software, one with wireless N and at least four LAN ports. I also wanted it to have a USB port for plugging a printer in or to use with a 3G modem—to be used if the ADSL/cable broadband connection goes down.

As part of our virtual assistant service we provide some of our clients with their own contact number to divert their phones to when their personal assistant or secretary is on holiday or off sick. We route these calls to a dedicated line on our Snom 360 VoIP phone so we can answer with our client’s business name. Clients who sign-up for ongoing support are provided with a dedicated contact number which we use only when conducting business on their behalf. This means that we can easily provide a list of all the outgoing calls we’ve made for them and how much each call costs. Our client in turn can give this number out to their contacts, customers, or suppliers to contact us directly to make diary appointments, organise events, arrange travel, etc.

So I was looking for a router that would include bandwith mangement—including QoS (quality of service)—VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) capabilities, and VPN (virtual private network) facilities.

After a month of intense research, several bouts of bafflement and hair pulling, and some (thankfully) enlightening moments I came to the conclusion we needed a DrayTek Vigor 2820 router.  ‘Which model?’, was the next question. Followed by, ‘Which one can we afford?’

DrayTek is not the cheapest on the market. But…you get what you pay for, as I always say. [Take a look at the Vigor 2820 series specifications]

When it comes to business equipment, don’t mess around. Cheap may be appealing, but in the long run you may end up paying more. That said, look around for the cheapest price you can get once you’ve done your product research and made your decision.

And our final decision…?

draytek vigor 2820vn
We finally opted for the DrayTek Vigor 2820VN. It had it all; everything we needed, and a lot more to boot! We checked on eBay frequently and finally found an auction for one that had only been used for two weeks and came complete in original box. It cost £148.99 (inc. P&P). As at writing, it’s available for around £200 from Misco.co.uk.

I read the PDF instructions to get up and running, screwed in the three wireless attenae, plugged in the various cables, connected the Mac laptop via LAN (ethernet) port, accessed the DrayTek’s control panel via my browser (Firefox) and entered my ISPs details (account username and password) under WAN General Setup, set up a WEP password under Wireless LAN Security…and Bob’s your uncle.

After setting up the appropriate wireless settings on my Mac, I was connected to the Internet via wireless and connected to the Windows XP PC shared files, the PC having been connected to one of the LAN ports on the DrayTek. And we have one Windows 7 laptop connected wirelessly now.

The Snom VoIP phone plugs into a third LAN port and worked fine once I’d set the Open Ports under the NAT configuration in the DrayTek web control panel. And as the Vigor 2820Vn comes with two phone ports for use with VoIP with a fail-over to standard PSTN/POTS line if needed, we have a Panasonic dect phone plugged into one of these ‘FX’ ports so we can walk and talk and still use our Voip account. [NB: You may need an RJ11 Adaptor with Ring Capacitor to connect your UK phone for VoIP if one is not included in the box.]

Our Canon printer plugs into the USB port, so we can print via the LAN and wirelessly.

What more could we ask for?

From a virtual assistant business point of view, so far our new DrayTek router has done all we have asked it to do, plus the range of the wireless connection is far greater than we need at the current time. But we have put it to good use; we are able to provide our neighbour with temporary access should their connection go down. Yes, we are nice aren’t we?! ;)

We haven’t asked ‘Vigor’ to make coffee yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if was able to communicate with the Gaggia!

All the best for 2016!

A great BIG thank you to our lovely clients for choosing Freelancealot.co.uk as their virtual assistant for freelance business support, and we look forward to continuing our successful business relationship into 2016 and beyond.

Happy New YearThank you also to our suppliers who keep us online, supply our gadgets of communication, and assist in the efficient running of the Freelancealot office.

May the New Year bring you all health, happiness, and success.

Season’s greetings,

Tracy and Andrew
Freelancealot.co.uk