My new Mikrotik Love

Recently I’ve begun playing around with Mikrotik routers as part of my normal day job, and I’m really impressed by them! I’ve now used two different models:

  • The RB2011LS-IN, which I’ve set up as an edge router on our backup SHDSL link, so that I can do more complex routing than a normal consumer router could do, and survive the high-usage scenarios that our old router (a Cisco 877 router with suspect stability) was stressed by.
  • The RB751U-2HnD, which I’ve now set up two of: one as the main router in a small business, providing two virtual access points; and a secondary switch and access point to that same network.

I’m really loving both the web interface and the Windows GUI interface, but the fact you still retain the command-line interface as well (like a Cisco device) is pretty cool. The fact that it uses the same operating system across all devices is also great, as it means a nice upgrade path exists if we want it.

As far as I can see, Mikrotik routers are basically Cisco gear without the indestructible casing (though don’t get me wrong, Mikrotik stuff is still pretty well built) and a price tag that’s a fifth of what an equivalent Cisco router would cost (usually even less!).

I’m seriously considering buying a Routerboard for home; the only thing they lack as far as I can see is an ADSL2+ port. I reckon I’ll just use a simple TP-Link modem in bridge mode until my home gets provided with a fibre-to-the-premises link (hopefully) later this year. I’m not yet sure what model I’ll buy. My heart really wants a rackmount device, because rackmount is codeword for cool, but my brain says something from the RB751 series or the RB433 series would do the trick.

ExpanDrive for Windows

Recently I found a quite awesome piece of software, and I thought I’d share it with you.

ExpanDrive is basically an SFTP file system driver for Windows. What it does in plain English is turn an SFTP share on a remote computer (say, for instance, my virtual server on the other side of the world) and turn it into a drive letter on my laptop. Like so:

My Computer using ExpandDrive
My Computer using ExpandDrive

This is the first piece of software I’ve found that does this, and does it well enough that I can just click on the drive, click on any file inside the drive, and it automatically copies and opens in the appropriate application. Saving inside the application also works. For instance, I had a word document lying around on my server, so I thought I’d test it out. I opened it up just like a normal file, edited it, saved it, and so on, and it just all worked normally.

The only difference from a local drive or a Samba share is the speed at which things happen. There is a noticeable difference (to be expected, it going over several ADSL connections). Opening a text file took about half to one second, saving it about the same.

The people who make this software say that it’s “rediculously simple”. They are very right, it is. Anybody who has used WinSCP would be familiar with that software’s connection screen. ExpanDrive’s is very similar:

ExpanDrive Main Window
ExpanDrive Main Window

One bug I have noticed is that the drive usage is wrong. I know for a fact my vserver doesn’t have 12TB of storage space available (as shown in picture above). I’m actually using about 30% of 12GB, so I’m guessing they just checked total disk space wrong.

The only downside is to this software is cost. It’s $39.95USD for a single license (a license can be used for multiple SFTP shares). While it’s not a huge amount, it’s more than I’d like to pay for something like this (in my mind, this sort of thing is worth about $20USD). I haven’t bought it yet, I’m still using the trial (which lasts for 30 days). But I think I will.