Users throughout the world continue to recognize and reap the rewards of using a VPN when they access and surf the Internet.  Whether you use it to protect your privacy, skirt Internet restrictions, or prevent an ISP or corporate conglomerate from snooping on you and using your collected data for their own interest, a VPN is a practical security tool for today’s web environments.  There are also a number of great VPN applications to choose from such as Express VPN and Pure VPN just to name a couple.

The great thing about VPN services today is that you can initiate a VPN connection from just about anywhere through an app or web interface.  This is especially important when you are connecting within non-secure environments such as a coffee shop or community Wi-Fi.  But what about when you are at home?  What about using VPN to protect the web sessions of your children and other family members who live with you?  Having to log on a separate VPN session for every device in your home can be inconvenient and may hinder the willingness of your family to fully utilize your VPN service.

That is why many people either purchase a VPN router or configure their existing router to accommodate VPN.   There are a number of key advantages to operating this way.

  1. Your VPN connection is always protecting your family and friends along with their devices within your home on a 24/7 basis.
  2. You do not have to share your logon credentials with anyone in your home who wants to connect their device. Once the router is logged on, it is done.
  3. No more having to set up and configure a VPN app on every device in your home. Once your VPN service is set up on your router, you will never have to configure any further devices or even log on again.  All active client connections are simply routed automatically through the VPN.  This is especially convenient if you have friends over or Airbnb guests.

Router Options

There are several ways to integrate VPN service with your router.  Note that you need to first verify if your VPN service is router compatible.  Most are but some are not.

1. Purchase an out of the box preconfigured VPN router

If you want to escape the hassle of installing firmware and inputting extensive VPN configurations, then a preconfigured VPN router may be the best choice.  These devices will support most any VPN service available today and include dedicated support for VPN issues.  The downside is that these devices are more expensive than comparable routers that are not preconfigured.  Linksys makes some popular VPN routers.

2. Flashrouters

A flashrouter can be a good choice for advanced users.  These devices utilize open-source firmware that you can download freely online.  Flashrouters are not inhibited by proprietary software and offer greater flexibility in adding options and advanced features.  Like typical open source based products, obtaining technical support and product updates can be a challenge.

3. Setting up a normal router for VPN

Even if your router does not support VPN out of the box, you can still configure your router for VPN service as long as it support DD-WRT firmware.  Visit the manufacturer’s website to look up a DD-WRT firmware version that has been released for your router.  If not is not available, you might could download a third party version.  Keep in mind that in some cases, installing third party firmware can void your router’s warrantee but you can always revert back to the vendor’s standard firmware if you encounter a problem.

 

Configuring Your Router

The first step is to download the necessary firmware and then do a hard reset of your router in order to return it to factory-preset status.  This is often referred to as 30-30-30 hard reset.   Nearly all SOHO based routers today are configured through a web page.  You can access your router’s admin portal by typing in its IP address in a standard web browser.  This address is usually https://192.168.1.1.  You can go to a command prompt and type IPCONFIG and type in the IP address of the listed default gateway.  Once the portal comes up, simply logon your router using either the factory present admin credentials.  You can easily look this up on the Internet.

Most routers have an “Upgrade Firmware” section in the admin console.  You will navigate to the firmware file you downloaded onto your computer device and install it.  This will probably take a few minutes.  Once the installation is complete, do another hard reset.

Once the new firmware is installed, you will need to complete the following steps.

  1. You should also change the default admin credentials immediately and then set up any customized SSIDs you had previously created as well as any other settings you had configured personally
  1. Update the DNS and DHCP settings to match those provided by your VPN service provider
  1. If your router gives you the option of configuring either a VPN server or client, choose client
  1. You may have multiple protocol options for VPN service such as PPTP, OpenVPN or L2TP. The required settings for each of these VPN types will be slightly different.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  PPTP is the easiest to set up but the least secure.  OpenVPN is the most secure, but requires additional configuration.  L2TP lies somewhere in the middle. No matter which protocol you select, you will only have to input the IP address or URL of the VPN server.  Then input the logon credentials.  OpenVPN will require you to import a file or other components.  You can learn more about this process here.  L2TP will require you to import certificate.  Consult your VPN service provider on how to do this.

Once configured, you will activate the connection.  The router will create the encrypted VPN tunnel and will give some type of alert that the connection is active.  Once this is done, you, your family, friends and guests can surf the internet in total privacy.

Dilip Prashad
Dilip is a technology journalist and blogger, with an intuitive understanding of what makes a great piece of consumer software. He may speak tech as a first language, but he’s also an expert at breaking down even the most complex concepts in a way that anyone can understand.
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