You have a VPN account, and want it to run on all of your devices. Unfortunately the VPN service provider limits you to five concurrent connections. What can you do?
The answer is to set up a VPN on your router. Here’s why you should do that, and what problems you might face.
1. No Need for Individual Device Setup
When you sign up for a VPN, you’ll almost certainly get the option to install it on several devices. You might use this provision to set up the VPN client on a desktop PC, a smartphone, tablet, perhaps a media streaming device (like the Amazon Fire TV Stick). You may have a device left over for a family member.
Imagine setting up five VPN clients! This can potentially take up quite a bit of time, which is why setting up your router to connect to your VPN is a far better option.
VPN clients can cause your portable batteries to drain faster; they require additional CPU resources to deal with the encryption and decryption of data. Putting this load on the router, giving you a central point for configuration (which you can do from anywhere on your network) just makes sense.
2. Your VPN Is Always On
With a PC, your VPN might disconnect without warning; perhaps when the PC sleeps. But with your VPN set up on your router, this won’t happen.
The same thing might happen with a smartphone or other portable device. Battery management settings can result in the VPN dropping. When this happens, there is a potential for data to be transferred unencrypted.
If your life depends on total anonymity, this can be a frightening possibility.
Furthermore, if you’re trying to use a social network securely, without risk of ad trackers stalking your browsing activity, a moment of VPN-free activity could undo this.
3. Easier to Connect Devices Through the VPN
VPN accounts typically require a username, password, and perhaps some form of key (two-factor authentication) to be input when setting up. This probably isn’t something that you want other members of your household messing about with.
Yet you want them to engage in secure, private online activity.
4. Even Without a VPN Client, Devices Are Protected
Indeed, anyone visiting your home with a device they need to use online can do so with just the credentials you give them. Similarly, new devices you introduce to your network get online in the same way.
With the VPN installed on the router, finding a suitable client is no longer an issue. While most VPNs support Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS, some don’t support Linux, for example. In this case, you have the option of setting up OpenVPN.
But if you have the VPN set up on your router, that’s no longer a problem. All devices on your network will connect to the internet via the VPN connection you specify. Privacy, and security, remain in your control.
Another advantage of having the VPN on the router is another layer of protection against Wi-Fi poaching, which is when an uninvited guest decides to connect to and use your wireless network.
Now there are certainly best practices to avoid this situation, including having a complex, lengthy and robust password that uses upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols for both the primary wireless signal, and the Guest network too, as well as disabling PIN, and finally, running a current model router with the most recent firmware update.
However, even if you implement all those measures, in the worst-case scenario of an individual still managing to get onto your network and use it for nefarious purposes – at least with the VPN operational on the attacker’s device, you’ve got a certain level of anonymity, so whatever the interloper may have done (possibly something illegal), it doesn’t lead directly back to your IP address.
6. Network-wide protection
The deployment of a VPN network-wide can be likened to the firewall on a network. As you’re most likely aware, the firewall guards the entire network, policing incoming traffic and blocking anything malicious (and watching outbound traffic, too). While each Windows computer has a built-in software firewall, in most networks this is considered a secondary measure, and the primary firewall is a hardware firewall that is located on the router.
So, just like the router has a firewall to protect the entire network from malware or hacking, the router can be configured so that all traffic running to or from the network can be protected by the VPN.
With a VPN installed on the router, all of the devices connected to the router, whether via a wired or wireless connection, will benefit from the VPN with its encrypted tunnel to maintain the privacy and security of your data (and other benefits besides).
An additional advantage is that a VPN installed on a router is active at all times, and you don’t need to individually start each software client across your different devices every time you require VPN protection.
- It’s also worth bearing in mind the good reasons why a VPN isn’t enough
Downsides to Setting Up Your VPN at the Router Level
As good as it is to have your router configured with a VPN, it isn’t ideal in all scenarios. So we can clearly see there are definite positive points for having a VPN network-wide, but in the interests of balance, let’s look at any possible drawbacks before plunging in feet-first and installing a VPN on your router.
- Local resources become restricted. If you need to access a local source or service that uses VPN blocking, you’ll have a problem. For instance, in the UK, BBC iPlayer blocks VPN access, even from within the UK, using a UK VPN server. Other sites and services are following suit. The only solution here is to disable the VPN in your router.
- Bandwidth and speed are lowered. By setting up a VPN on your router, you’re essentially converting the device into a gateway. As a result, if all of your data is coming via this route, your internet connection will be slowed. This can be due to the processing required for encryption, as well as the distance between you and the VPN server.
- You’ll need to manually remove/change credentials if you switch VPN providers. It might be obvious, but it is also a frustrating fact. Switching to a different VPN (or even changing your password) means some manual revision of your credentials in the router.
- Few routers support VPN client functionality. Only relatively few routers support VPN client functionality. If yours doesn’t, you can buy a new one that does.
It’s Time to Set Up VPN on Your Router Instead
By now, you should have an idea of why you should set up a VPN on your router:
- No individual devices to spend time setting up
- An always-on VPN
- Easier to connect to the VPN
- Devices are protected without individual VPN clients
You’ll also be aware of what could cause problems:
- Some local resources are restricted
- Squeezed bandwith and lower speed
- Lack of VPN client functionality
- Router-level credential management