Cheap hardware to load balance two lines in a hostel.

  • We are a charity providing accommodation for homeless young people. I am looking for hardware to run pfSense to load balance between two 300/50 lines. We have about 40 clients in the hostel, and they do a lot of video streaming and gaming. I will also need to do some serious content filtering. I am considering getting a second hand Dell PowerEdge R210ii (Pentium G850 2.90GHz, 16GB RAM (I would need to get an additional network card)), but thought I better check here to see if there are better options for a low budget (<£200).

    Any recommendations and/or things to look out for would be appreciated.

  • Netgate Administrator

    That's not a terrible choice if you have the space for it and power consumption or noise are not an issue. However that is old, the reliability of something that age is always questionable.
    A Sandy bridge CPU like that should be OK with 750Mbps total throughput but you won't have a huge number of CPU cycles left if you ever want to run packages or VPNs etc.


  • Thank you @stephenw10. That is helpful.

    As I said I will need to set up some serious content filtering (no VPNs though), do you think I would be better off with an other machine? I have had a look at different machines, but on the current budget, I don't seem to be able to do much better than the Dell for what I need. I am more than open to suggestions, and probably could get a slightly higher budget approved with a good argument.

  • Netgate Administrator

    The Pentium G850 is just not that fast. You will see significant load if you need to run content filtering. I would definitely run pfBlocker with DNS filtering rather than Squid if you can. If you do need to run Squid consider running it on a separate box.

    As an example some years back when users first started getting home Gigabit connections, in pats of the world lucky enough to have that, there a reference spec used built on a Sandy Bridge Celeron. The G850 is not significantly more powerful than that:

    I threw in the E8400 there because I bought one a few days ago for £3! (CPU only).

    If space, noise and power consumption are not a problem for you I would expect you coild get something faster.
    Maybe not newer though and that is a real concern on a 9 year old system. It may just stop working....


  • Thank you @stephenw10, sorry I keep asking questions about the same thing, but your answers are helpful and thought provoking. Based on your answer I did some research and I stumbled across this:

    I would have to get the budget on this doubled, but I think I can argue it will last longer, use less energy, and will be quiet, and that in the long run it might not cost any more.

    Any comments?

  • Netgate Administrator

    That is probably a better choice in my opinion.

    Though you are paying for quiet, small and low power there and seemingly might not need to.

    You are also getting up towards the cost of our own devices there when you have added ram and storage.


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