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pfSense - Router OS

I recently started evaluating load-balancing solutions for our small office.  Verizon seems to never have a clue, and loves to spontaneously shut accounts down for no good reason, and without warning.  For any of your Verizon DSL or FiOS users -- beware!

I have begun evaluating a hardware device called the HotBrick LB-2 which supposedly is designed specifically for taking two WANs and load balancing traffic (with failover).  Exactly what I want. While looking at prices, I came across discussion of an open source project called pfSense.

Now normally I will consider open source for applications I can customize, but I never really considered running something like this in place of our router or firewall.

Documentation is scarce, but I have been discovering some impressive things about pfSense:

  • It is based on m0n0wall -- an excellent BSD router OS with a web management interface
  • It can be run off a Live CD !!!
  • You can set it up to run in production off the live CD and save your changes to a USB key (no hard drive!!!)
  • It has built in support for load balancing WANs
  • It has built in QoS (Quality of Service) weighting, and it works for VOIP (Voice over IP)
All of these things add up to something that is a lot less scary... sort of...

I am impressed enough that I will being a new project on the side (yeah, that means it will take a while) to setup a pfSense box for our office.  I expect my specific challenges will be around configuring the DMZ for our servers, which use static IPs on ONE of our WANs.  Once its load balanced, hopefully incoming traffic will go to the right place for the DMS, and outgoing (and VOIP phones) will be load balanced both ways.

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