Device is in the “sweet spot” of small business routers.
I had the privilege of winning a Cisco RV345 small business router during one of Cisco’s contests, and I have also had the opportunity to “battle test” the Cisco RV345 in my network environment for a little over a year. I am certainly not a stranger to Cisco small business products, using an RVS4000 and SG100-08, RV042G and SG200-08, and RV180 and SG200-18 over the years. When the RV345 was released, I was excited about upgrading to the RV345, and winning one in a contest was the icing on the cake. Nevertheless, I am an objective technology reviewer, so this review will be my honest assessment of the RV345, as well as Cisco in general as a small business networking solutions provider.
Hands-on with the Cisco RV345
The Cisco RV345 comes in an attractive metal case that complements any desktop environment, as well as offers the added benefit of being rack-mountable. While mine is installed in my office sitting on my desk, those needing a rack-mountable router will enjoy adding the RV345 to their environment.
One of my favorite benefits of the RV345 is that the router includes a sixteen-port Gigabit Ethernet switch in the same chassis as the router. As someone who needs more than four ports (which are included on many standard router configurations) but fewer than sixteen, having my router and switch all in one device has been a huge benefit and a solid upgrade to my RV180 and SG200-18 combination. Having one device to manage, saving desk space and a little energy, as well as having only one device to reboot when I need to occasionally reboot my networking equipment, has been luxurious. I have plenty of space on the RV345 to service my entire network (two computers, a wireless access point, a network printer, a VOIP phone system, an IOT hub, a weather station, a weather camera, a NAS, a LTE signal booster, and a DVR) and still have room to spare for future expansion.
The RV345 also features a dual WAN configuration, which is ideal for customers needing an automatic backup Internet connection or load balancing on their WAN configuration. In the past, the Cisco routers I have used came in single WAN configurations, so having a dual-WAN configuration on the RV345 has been a beneficial upgrade, one which I am glad to see Cisco adding to small business routers, and one that would be beneficial for Cisco to add as a standard feature on all routers as a competitive advantage.
An even better benefit to the RV345 is that it offers a USB port (actually two) which can be used with a mobile broadband connection for the backup WAN, allowing customers to use both a fixed and mobile broadband connection in a dual WAN configuration. I have not had a chance to test it yet, but I am curious if the USB port could be used with a smartphone running in mobile hotspot mode (since my iPhone offers unlimited mobile hotspot with T-Mobile). If so, it would be interesting to be able to plug in my iPhone into the RV345 as an instant mobile broadband backup in the event my primary connection goes offline (although my primary connection is generally reliable being a local WISP with its own dedicated fiber connection to the tower I access). Another option I could try to test this as a backup with is with a dedicated mobile broadband device, possibly next time T-Mobile offers an add a line for free promo again (to John Legere, hint hint).
The RV345 offers robust firmware with a powerful yet easy-to-configure administration interface. Compared to the RV180, the RV345 firmware is noticeably faster, and configuring my network on the RV345 was overall straightforward to get up and running (I had a few questions for Cisco support concerning how to configure QoS on the RV345). It would be a nice benefit in the future if Cisco offered a standard firmware for all of its small business routers (possibly an “IOS Lite” which primarily uses a GUI but allows small business customers to get their feet wet with dabbling in IOS commands) which would allow customers to upgrade to new router models and be able to migrate their configuration settings in a couple of clicks (although the RV345 does an excellent job backing up and migrating settings between two RV345 models). Another benefit of the RV345 firmware is that it can update firmware automatically over the Internet, which is a great way to ensure the router remains up-to-date without manual intervention.
The RV345 firmware also features everything that a small business depends on in a router (DHCP reservation, port forwarding, and firewall configurations, etc.), and accessing and configuring these settings are effortless to make the most out of one’s network environment. The RV345 also offers IPv6 support, which is valuable for future-proofing any small business network environment (my ISP is still running IPv4, but when they eventually transition to IPv6, I can rest assured I will be ready to support it with my Cisco RV345).
A super beneficial feature of the RV345 is VLAN and QoS, especially having VLAN paired with the sixteen-port Gigabit Ethernet switch on board. My network environment utilizes three separate VLAN configurations (one for the majority of my network, one for my VOIP phone system, and one for an LTE signal booster to improve in-building LTE coverage), and I also have VOIP phone system and LTE signal booster voice traffic prioritized in QoS. Pairing VLAN with QoS offers a solid combination to ensure I have crystal-clear voice traffic going over my network. Setting up the VLAN was straightforward, although the QoS settings changed from the RV180 to the RV345 (although for the better as one can more granularly fine-tune the QoS settings on the RV345).
I have not had a chance yet to try out some of the Cisco Smart Licensing features on the RV345 such as dynamic web filtering, client and application identification, and VPN functionality. I would like to have a discussion with Cisco to get a briefing on the Smart Licensing features in the RV345 and how they improve network security in a small business environment, as they seem to be beneficial additions to the RV345. In terms of VPN, I am currently using a hosted Cisco IPSec VPN solution for network security, but comparing what I’m using with the VPN functionality of the RV345 would be interesting to look into.
Network Performance and Reliability
The network performance and reliability on the RV345 have been solid and what small businesses expect to keep their network environments running speedily for years to come. All Cisco networking solutions I have used over the years support Gigabit Ethernet for the LAN, plus every WAN connection is certainly limited by the customer’s ISP, but overall, the RV345 has still been a solid running router and an ideal upgrade to my RV180. The firmware is noticeably faster, and my connections both at the WAN and at the LAN have been speedy and solid.
I have had a chance to fully “battle test” the RV345 as well in a demanding network environment. I transitioned from a PC to a Mac for my day-to-day work machine, and I had plenty of content to move over the network, both over the LAN and over the Internet over the WAN. The RV345 handled everything flawlessly during the transition, and it continues to handle my bandwidth-hungry network effortlessly today. The bulk of my work occurs over the Internet, and the Internet powers my VOIP phone system, the majority of the video streaming content I view, meetings I attend for work and school, and everything in between. I need solid, reliable, proven networking solutions powering my network, and the Cisco RV345 certainly does not disappoint but handles everything without breaking a sweat. The only thing that would improve my network performance is upgrading my old wireless access point to one of Cisco’s newer wireless access point models, something I will discuss with Cisco at some point when I am ready to supercharge my wireless network.
Cisco Small Business Support
Not only is the RV345 a solid performing router, but it is also backed by top-notch Cisco small business support. I highly recommend Cisco customers add a Cisco small business support contract to their RV345 model (I am in the process of getting a service contract added to mine as soon as I confirm the proper service contract SKU from Cisco), as the benefits of a service contract are certainly worth the investment. I enjoy having 24/7 access to the Cisco small business support center, creating support cases with Cisco, using the Cisco Technical Support iPhone app, and having next business day replacement in the event of a hardware issue. It is simply affordable added peace of mind to know that the best small business router is backed by the best small business support in the industry. Cisco also offers a range of support options for small business customers, from phone and email support to the excellent Cisco Technical Support mobile app, to the super-beneficial Cisco small business support community (a place where I have enjoyed interacting with other Cisco customers and Cisco engineers), plus Cisco is also responsive on social media as well. Cisco ensures that small business customers receive the ideal combination of solid networking solutions backed up with solid support when customers need it, allowing customers to trust and depend on Cisco’s proven solutions for small businesses.
The Cisco RV345 is truly the sweet spot of small business routers and the ideal small business router to install in any network environment, especially those with the most demanding network performance and reliability needs. I am thrilled to be powering my network with the RV345, and I look forward to enjoying the benefits of the RV345 for years to come. The integrated sixteen-port Gigabit Ethernet switch and dual WAN with mobile broadband support is a small business network administrator’s dream, the firmware is speedy and a joy to use to get one’s network environment up-and-running quickly, and small business features such as VLAN support offer solid performance when paired with QoS. There is a wealth of features on the RV345 for every small business to use, and I likely still could dig into some of the additional features and benefits to supercharge my network further. I highly recommend customers include a Cisco small business support contract with their RV345 purchase to tap into Cisco’s wide array of support options available to customers, and customers can purchase the RV345 with the confidence they are receiving the best small business router and support in the industry.
I will also take a moment to evaluate Cisco in general as a networking solutions provider. As a long-time Cisco customer and one who has worked in IT (and will be continuing to serve in IT in academic and education environments), I would not power any network I administer or service with anything else but Cisco networking solutions. From small business environments to the largest enterprise deployments, Cisco offers solutions that fit everyone’s needs of all sizes, all backed with proven performance, reliability, and support. With Cisco small business networking solutions offering affordable solutions near or only slightly more than the cost of premium residential networking solutions, I even recommend Cisco small business networking solutions to residential customers in addition to small businesses. As residential customers operate home office or telecommuting working environments, and as more of our digital lives are powered by the Internet, the additional benefits of Cisco small business routers are handy to have at one’s disposal when one needs them while still offering solid performance, reliability, and support out-of-the-box. Every network of every size should be powered by Cisco. Cisco has been the backbone of my network for years, and I will continue to be both a Cisco customer as well as recommend Cisco networking solutions to everyone I consult with for years to come. I look forward to looking into opportunities to assist Cisco in driving further deployments of Cisco networking solutions into additional environments such as academic and educational networking environments.
Submitted by Nathan Parker
Nathan is an IT consultant for Earth Networks and contributes to the WeatherTogether.net blog. Earth Networks used to own WeatherBug (it was sold to GroundTruth), but Nathan still consults for them on support and training projects. On the WeatherTogether blog, Nathan writes a weekly column for Arkansas weather (hence why he also tweets often with severe weather posts for Arkansas). Follow Nathan on Twitter.