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 your VPN on every device you own! 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.
Setting up your router with a VPN is the ideal solution to this. Partners, parents, kids, grandparents; whoever is using the web, you don’t want to saddle them with the additional strain of a VPN. While VPNs are straightforward to understand, they aren’t something everyone will understand. Whether the other users live in the same house as you, or as visitors, having the VPN running on your router means that you take that concern away from them.
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.
Smaller devices (such as IoT or smart home hardware) that don’t have VPN support, meanwhile, will not enjoy the support of your chosen VPN provider. And yet, some of the security issues with smart home hardware in recent years could be mitigated if the hardware connects to the internet via a VPN.
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.
For more on privacy and security for VPNs, take a look at how an untrustworthy VPN can fool customers.
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. Additionally, setting you your router as a VPN has some performance issues:
- 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
What you do next is up to you; but however you’re using the internet, make sure you’re behind a VPN! Our guide on setting up a VPN on your router should help.