VPNs are now more popular than ever amongst regular internet users.
The World Wide Web is now awash with free and subscription-based VPNs. However, users do not have to simply settle for a paid VPN service or take a risk using a less than secure free VPN. With a little tech knowledge and an adequate level of bandwidth, you can create your own VPN server at home.
But is setting up your own VPN server really worth all the effort?
In this article, we will give you all the inside information you need to set up your own VPN. We will also go through the pros and cons of running your own VPN network. So, let’s get into it. We’ll start with the basics.
What is a VPN?
The acronym VPN stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’ and that is exactly what it does. A VPN is used to establish a secure connection from a computer to another network via the internet. Using a VPN instead of a normal internet provider will ensure that your location and all your online activity remain private. VPNs usually ‘bounce’ a computer’s internet connection between different countries and different servers. In this way, the original location and any online activity will be obscured.
Why do people use VPNs?
Many people use VPNs as a way to add extra levels of security while online. They are particularly popular with journalists, lawyers, and activists. However, more and more regular people are using VPNs as a way to safeguard their information and activities while online. VPNs are also commonly used for people to gain access to their favorite streaming services while overseas (See: Netflix via VPN). Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network via a VPN will provide you with extra security and protect you from anyone trying to spy on your activity.
How to set up your home VPN server
There are three main ways of achieving a home VPN setup for yourself.
Use a VPN capable router
Here is a fast and easy way to set up a home VPN system yourself: just get a router that has a VPN already on it! Many high-end home routers have a VPN server built into them. You will need to look for a wireless router that has VPN server support. Using the router’s web interface allows you to activate and configure the VPN server. It is recommended that you do your research first to be sure the router supports the type of VPN you want.
Use a router with DD-WRT or third-party firmware
You can actually customize your router by installing a new operating system on it. You will need a home router that can support DD-WRT, OpenWrt, or some other kind of third-party router firmware. Just flash the router with the new operating system, and you can set up a VPN. This is an effective way to set up a VPN using a router that doesn’t have VPN server software already installed. Make sure that your router does actually support DD-WRT software first though!
Build your own dedicated VPN server
Another option is to simply install the VPN server software on your own computer. To do this, you will need to ensure that the device in question is always running. You can’t just set up a VPN on your daily laptop or desktop computer that you shut down every night! You can also use a Raspberry Pi to build a low-power VPN server.
Both Windows and Apple operating systems have built-in software that can be used to set up VPNs. It should be noted, however, that these options are not as powerful or as secure as other VPN software that is available.
There is also third-party VPN server software like OpenVPN that can work on a range of operating systems, including Linux.
Get someone else to host your VPN for you
Here is a ‘meet in the middle‘ solution: you can have a web hosting provider host a VPN server for you. This can wind up a cheaper option than paying for a full-blown VPN service. Simply pay the web hosting company for server hosting and then set up your VPN server on the server they provide.
It does depend on the web hosting company as to whether or not this is an easy or a complicated process. Some offer point and click interfaces, while others require you to work with a command prompt.
Enable dynamic DNS
When you are setting up a home VPN, it is recommended that you enable dynamic DNS on your router. This means that you will be able to easily access your VPN even if you change your home’s internet IP address.
The benefits of a home VPN server
Setting up a home VPN network sounds like a lot of work. So why would your ordinary web user want to go through all the hassle? There are actually a few reasons why setting up your own VPN network could be useful.
You can take control of your data
Using any VPN service means that you are entrusting a company with the security of your data. While many people might be OK with this, if you are a little more concerned with online security than most, this may not be the best option. Setting up your own VPN network will mean that you, and only you, are in control of your data and your privacy.
You can build a better business network
Many big companies hire specialized programmers to create their own VPN networks. Why? As above, it is so they can control their data themselves. With a dedicated VPN, a business can be sure that only authorized employees or customers access their network. Many small business owners actually run their own VPN networks from their private homes. This way they can be sure of their privacy and security and save some bucks.
You can satisfy your own curiosity
Maybe you are a full-blown computer geek who loves to play around with technology. Setting up a VPN is a great way to learn about networks and servers. VPNs can be run via desktop computers, Raspberry Pis, or routers. Cloud hosting opens up a range of options in how you route traffic.
You are an avid gamer
Setting up a VPN will give you a secure network you can use to host multiplayer PC games. Usually, these types of gaming sessions would be done over a LAN internet connection, but with your own VPN, you can be your own host. There are simpler ways of achieving a temporary PC gaming network, but with a VPN in place, you get an added security boost.
The drawbacks of a home VPN server
Users should know that setting up a home VPN does have some drawbacks. Have a close look at the points below before you make a decision. You could be saving yourself a lot of time and effort!
You will not be able to unblock geo-restricted web content
A big selling point for the main VPN services is that they can bounce your IP address to another country. This gives you the ability to unlock geographically blocked streaming content. If you have set up a VPN in your own home, you won’t have this feature, unless you yourself are accessing the VPN from overseas. Even then, you will only be able to access content that is usually available in your own country.
You will have to be your own customer support
If you have an issue with your VPN service the first thing to do in a normal situation is to get in touch with customer support. But this won’t be an option with a home VPN setup. If something goes wrong, you will be on your own. Also, a home VPN setup will have to be configured each time it connects with a device that uses a different operating system. For people who love problem-solving, this might not be such a bad thing, but for others, it just might be too much hassle to bother with.
You will not be as secure
Because VPN companies use shared IP addresses, they can offer a high level of security. With a home VPN, this won’t be an option. You will be restricted to just one IP address and so will lose that extra layer of security. Admittedly, you can frequently change the IP of your VPN server to avoid this issue, but that will result in even more work.
You will lose bandwidth speed
Finally, most home internet users have limited or slow upload bandwidths. Some may even have bandwidth limits or caps. So, unless you are one of the very few who actually have a gigabit fiber set up at home, you are going to lose a lot of bandwidth speed when using a home VPN.
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