As part of one of Cisco’s contests over the last year, I won a Cisco RV345 small business router, and I’ve been using it in my network environment for about a year now. I have used small business Cisco products over the years, including an RVS4000 and SG100-08, the RV042G and SG200-08, and the RV180 and SG200-18.
I was looking forward to upgrading to the RV345 when it was released, and I also won one in a contest. Although I am an objective technology reviewer, I have been evaluating Cisco in general as a small business networking solutions provider, and I will provide my honest assessment of the RV345.
HANDS-ON WITH THE CISCO RV345
With a stylish metal case complementing any desktop environment, the Cisco RV345 also offers the benefit of being rack-mountable. Though my RV345 sits on my desk in my office, those in need of rack-mountable routers will enjoy having it in their environment.
In addition to its sixteen ports of Gigabit Ethernet, one of the highlights of the RV345 is an in-line 16-port Gigabit Ethernet switch. Having my router and switch this way as well has been a huge benefit and an upgrade to my RV180 and SG200-18 combination because I need more than four ports (which are included in many standard router configurations) but fewer than sixteen. Being able to manage one device has been luxurious, saving workspace and some energy, as well as only having one device to reboot when it is necessary to do so.
Despite having two computers and a wireless access point on this RV345, I have plenty of space to provide service to my entire network. I have the ability to include all these features (a network printer, a VOIP phone system, an IoT hub, a weather station, a weather camera, a NAS, an LTE signal booster, and a DVR) without running out of space.
In addition, the RV345 features a dual WAN configuration, which is ideal for customers who need an automatic backup Internet connection or load balancing on their WAN configuration. Previously, Cisco routers I’ve used had single WAN configurations, so the RV345’s dual WAN was a huge upgrade, and one I hope Cisco adds to its small business routers as a standard feature, to gain an advantage over the competition.
Furthermore, the RV345 has two USB ports (actually three) on the rear that can be used for mobile broadband backup WAN connections, allowing customers to use a fixed and mobile broadband connection simultaneously in a dual WAN configuration. Since my iPhone offers unlimited mobile hotspots with T-Mobile, I am curious about using the USB port with a smartphone in mobile hotspot mode.
It would be interesting to be able to hook up my iPhone to an RV345 as a backup mobile broadband connection in case my main one goes down (although I have a local WISP with a dedicated fiber connection to the tower I access, so the primary connection is usually reliable). Perhaps next time T-Mobile offers a free add-a-line promo (to John Legere, hint hint) I might consider testing it with a dedicated mobile broadband device.
With its powerful administration interface, the RV345 is easy to configure yet still offers robust firmware. It was relatively straightforward to get my RV345 network set up and running (I contacted Cisco support about QoS configuration on the RV345), compared to the RV180. The RV345 firmware is more responsive.
Cisco could benefit from offering standard firmware in the future for their small business routers that would make upgrading them easily and would migrate their configuration settings with a few clicks. Moreover, the RV345 firmware can be updated over the Internet automatically, making it easy to maintain the router without manual intervention.
Also included in the RV345 firmware are all the features a small business needs from a router (DHCP reservation, port forwarding, firewall configurations, etc. ), and accessing and configuring these settings is a snap. In addition to IPv6 support, the RV345 is valuable for future-proofing any small business network environment.
In addition to the sixteen ports of Gigabit Ethernet switch onboard the RV345 also features VLAN and QoS, which is a great combination. There are three separate VLAN configurations in my network (one for the majority of my network, one for my VoIP phone system, and one for an LTE signal booster to enhance coverage in my building), and I also prioritize voice traffic from my VoIP phone system and LTE signal booster. A combination of VLANs and QoS offers a solid way to ensure my voice traffic flows over my network in crystal-clear quality. In comparison with the RV180, the RV345 offers better QoS settings that allow for more granular fine-tuning.
I have not been able to test out some of the Cisco Smart Licensing features on the RV345 yet, such as dynamic web filtering, client and application identification, and VPN functionality. In addition to getting briefed on Smart Licensing in the RV345, I would also like to discuss how they can improve network security in a small business environment. It seems to me that these are important additions to the RV345. For VPN, currently, I’m using a hosted Cisco IPSec VPN solution, but I would like to compare that to the VPN functionality of the RV345.
NETWORK PERFORMANCE AND RELIABILITY
Small businesses can rely on the RV345 for performance and reliability in their network environments to keep running smoothly for many years. The RV345 has still been a solid router for me over the years, and it has improved upon my RV180 in many ways. It’s Gigabit Ethernet supports the LAN, and its WAN connection will always be limited by the customer’s ISP. I’ve noticed a noticeable improvement in the firmware, and my connections to the LAN and WAN have both been solid and fast.
Additionally, I have taken the RV345 through a full battle test in an extremely demanding network environment. Having switched from a PC to a Mac, I had a lot of content I needed to move over the network, both locally and over the Internet over the WAN. In the transition, the RV345 handled everything flawlessly, and it continues to do so with ease even now when my network is bandwidth-hungry.
Almost all of my work is done through the Internet, and I use it for everything from my voice over Internet protocol telephone to video streaming content I view, and business and school meetings I attend. Cisco RV345 is a robust, reliable, proven networking solution; it handles everything with ease and does not disappoint. I will speak with Cisco when I am ready to upgrade my old wireless access point to one of Cisco’s newer wireless access point models, and that would be the only thing that would improve my network performance.
CISCO SMALL BUSINESS SUPPORT
It is not only a solid-performing router but also backed by the best small business support available from Cisco. Cisco customers are strongly advised to add a Cisco small business support contract to their RV345 models (I am in the process of adding one to mine as soon as I confirm the proper service contract SKU from Cisco), as the benefits of a service contract are definitely worth the price.
When I have a hardware issue, I am able to obtain a replacement the next business day by contacting Cisco’s small business support center and creating a support case. A small business router with the best support in the field offers the least expensive added peace of mind.
In addition, Cisco offers support options for small business customers, from phone and email support to the Cisco Technical Support mobile app, to the Cisco small business support community (where I enjoy interacting with other Cisco customers and Cisco engineers), plus Cisco also responds to questions on social media.
With Cisco, small businesses get the right combination of solid networking solutions backed up by solid support, allowing them to trust and depend on Cisco’s proven solutions for small businesses.
It is the ideal router for any small business environment, especially for those with the most demanding network performance and reliability requirements. In addition to enjoying the benefits of the RV345, I look forward to years of enjoyment with the RV345 for many years to come. With its sixteen port Gigabit Ethernet switch and dual WAN support, this small business network switch is a network administrator’s dream, the firmware is lightning-fast, and small business features like QoS and VLAN support offer solid performance.
It truly has a wealth of features for every small business to use on the RV345; however, I am still likely to find additional benefits and features to supercharge my network further. With a Cisco small business support contract, customers will have access to Cisco’s wide range of support options, which means they are assured of receiving one of the best small business routers available.