Hello, my name is Nicholas Katz. I am an employee of SwitcherryVPN. Today’s blog post is about using a VPN at home.
Many average users sincerely believe that when they are at home and they have a computer with a firewall turned on, an anti-virus running, and a cable connection to the Internet, they are completely protected from all threats coming from the network. Unfortunately, the popular phrase “my home is my fortress” does not apply to this situation.
Remember that a normal Internet connection cannot offer the average user complete anonymity and security because all of your online activity is transparent to your Internet Service Provider. According to the laws of most countries (including Western democracies), the Internet service provider is required to monitor and record in log files all the actions of its customers online. The information in these log files must be kept for at least six months and be available upon request to government agencies such as the FBI, NSA or CIA, who can easily determine from your IP-address your real name and exact location.
Moreover – if you live in the USA, your Internet service provider can legally sell confidential information about you to advertisers. All this jeopardizes your security and your anonymity. This article will explain how a VPN protects your privacy and what other benefits this technology has for average users. You will also learn how to install and configure a VPN on your home devices.
Table of contents
- 1 Why you need a VPN for your home
- 2 VPN options for your home network
- 2.1 Variant 1 – simple installation of an application or browser extension on the necessary devices
- 2.2 Option 2 is more complicated: setting up a VPN on a router
- 2.3 Option 3 – expensive: install and configure a VPN in the cloud or on a rented server
- 2.4 Option 4 is not the easiest: own VPN server at home
- 3 Connecting to your home network via VPN
- 4 FAQ
Why you need a VPN for your home
The benefits that VPN technology provides to the average user. VPN technology is designed to maximize protection and security against unauthorized access to data transmitted on an open network. The acronym “VPN” stands for “Virtual Private Network”. “Private” here means that the network in question belongs to a particular company, organization or community, and “Virtual”, that it is created within another network – a real network, in our case the Internet. The companies or organizations that own VPN networks are called VPN providers.
A VPN network is set up as follows: The VPN provider deploys special software on its servers, which is called “VPN-server”, and customers install on their computers or other devices a special application – “VPN-client” (most modern computers, tablets, smartphones and other devices have a VPN-client, which is part of the operating system, so it is not necessary to install a separate VPN application, you only need to activate the built-in VPN-client). A secure connection, a so-called “tunnel”, is created between the provider’s VPN server and the user’s VPN client.
In fact, the “tunnel” differs from the usual connection only in the fact that it uses a cryptographic protocol in its creation and operation. A reliable, state-of-the-art cryptographic protocol makes the connection safe and secure. An important feature of the VPN connection is the substitution and concealment of the user’s own IP address with the IP address of the VPN server.
A user who uses a VPN when surfing the web benefits from the following:
- Protection from being tracked by your ISP. Your ISP will no longer be able to monitor your online activity – its log files will only record your visit to the VPN server. Because the connection is encrypted, your ISP won’t even be able to determine what you’ve browsed or downloaded. At the same time, the Internet resources you’ve visited won’t be able to know your real IP address – it’s hidden by the VPN server’s IP address.
- Easily unblock sites. Bypassing censorship. The owners of some Internet resources provide access to their content, depending on the geolocation of the visitor. In some countries, Internet providers are required by authorities to block access to certain sites for censorship reasons. You can bypass the geo-blocking and censorship by swapping your IP address for the IP address of the VPN-server, located on the territory of the country where there is no censorship and other restrictions (all good VPN-providers allow you to choose the VPN-server geolocation).
- Downloading files from torrents. Some ISPs do not allow you to download files from torrents. Using VPN allows you to bypass the blockage easily.
- Unlimited access to the libraries of streaming services. Only U.S. residents can enjoy all movies and series in the libraries of Netflix, Hulu and other U.S. streaming services without restriction. Residents of other countries have to make do with heavily discounted libraries. For non-US residents to get full access to the libraries of American streaming services, it is enough to change your IP address to US IP address.
- Ordering goods and services from online stores at minimal prices. Prices in some online stores may also depend on the geolocation of the visitor. Particularly the prices of airline tickets vary. You will stop overpaying if you start substituting your geolocation with a VPN.
- Secure Wi-Fi (for mobile users). The insecurity of public Wi-Fi networks is common knowledge. VPN reliably protects your information. You can shop in cafes and hotels with free Wi-Fi, without fear of attackers intercepting your bank card data, if you protect your gadget with a VPN.
Maximum anonymity and security is guaranteed only if the VPN-provider, in its turn, does not monitor the actions of its customers. Company SwitcherryVPN does not keep log files, does not collect any information about their customers and does not record anywhere their real IP-addresses. We guarantee absolute anonymity and complete security to our users.
VPN options for your home network
You can protect your home computers and other devices in several ways:
- Install a VPN-client on each used device (all good VPN-providers allow you to use at least five devices at the same account, our company allows you to use seven devices at the same time);
- set up a router that supports VPN. This method protects all the devices connected to the router. This actually creates only one connection – between the router and a VPN-server;
- Deploy your own VPN-server, using a cloud service or by renting a virtual or physical server;
- Create a VPN-server on the basis of a home computer.
Variant 1 – simple installation of an application or browser extension on the necessary devices
In this option, each device installs its own VPN-client. The VPN-client can be a full-fledged application of the operating system, as well as an extension for a particular browser. In the first case, the VPN-client protects all network traffic of the device, in the second case only the traffic of the browser is protected, the traffic generated by other programs, such as a torrent client remains unprotected. Note that Opera browser already has a built-in VPN-client, which is enabled in the settings with one click.
If you decide to protect each of your devices with a separate application, please note that the company SwitcherryVPN offers a free download and installation of the entire range of VPN-clients for computers, laptops, tablets and iPhones under the operating system Windows 7,8,10, Android, iOS, Mac OS, and extension for the browser Chrome.
Read our review “How to hide an IP address in Google Chrome“.
Setting up a VPN directly in the operating system
Users who decide to protect themselves with a VPN, it is not necessary to install third-party software. All modern operating systems have a built-in VPN-client, which you can configure and enable.
Pros and cons
The only plus is that you don’t have to install a third-party program that will take up disk space and consume system resources. Otherwise, this method of installing a VPN has only disadvantages:
Installing a third-party VPN client
Setting up a VPN directly in the OS
|Installing a VPN-client – a third-party application is no different from installing the usual program for this operating system, which is well known to the average user.||The rules for setting up a VPN directly in the operating system are not that simple and are known only to experienced users.|
|VPN-client from a good VPN-provider has a convenient, intuitive interface.||Setting up a VPN in the OS is often confusing and requires special knowledge and detailed instructions.|
|You can turn VPN on and off, change geolocation, add exceptions, etc. with a good VPN client with just one click.||Since changing geolocation requires changing the VPN server, you have to reconfigure the connection (go into the OS settings, enter the data of the new server). Any change of settings takes time and effort.|
How to do it (using Windows 10 as an example)
- First of all, choose your VPN provider and get the data you need for the connection from him. If you choose SwitcherryVPN as your provider, simply contact our support team and you will immediately receive all the information you need.
- Then go to your computer settings, under “Network & Internet” and go to the “VPN” tab (full path: Start -> Settings -> Network & Internet -> VPN).
- Create a new VPN connection by clicking on “Add a VPN connection”.
- Select “Windows (built-in)” from the “VPN provider” drop-down list.
- In the “Connection name” field enter the name of the connection (any name that will serve as an identifier of this connection).
- In the “Server name or address” field, enter the name or IP address of the VPN server that you received from your VPN provider.
- From the list “VPN type” choose a cryptographic protocol, which will be used to create the “tunnel” (you should tell your VPN provider which type of the protocol you have chosen).
- From the “Type of sign-in info” list, select the authorization method: usually it’s a username and password, sometimes a one-time password or certificate, etc.
- If you set up VPN on your PC, then enter your authorization data (username, password, etc.) and tick the “Remember my sign-in info” box (if you don’t do that, you’ll have to enter your password and username every time you connect to the Internet).
- If you use a proxy server, be sure to specify it in the “Advanced settings”.
- Save the new VPN connection by clicking the “Save” button.
Now choose the newly created VPN connection when you connect to the Internet (its name will appear in the list of available connections).
Option 2 is more complicated: setting up a VPN on a router
Many modern routers have built-in support for VPN. That is, you do not need to download and install third-party software, just configure your router to work with VPN.
Pros and cons
The main advantage is that once you configure your router to work with a VPN, it provides protection for all devices connected to it. At the same time, from the point of view of the VPN provider, only one device will be connected – this router. As mentioned above, good VPN providers allow a minimum of five devices to be connected simultaneously for one account.
So if you have, for example, five computers connected to the router, you will still be able to connect at least four more devices (which can be smartphones, tablets, laptops) to the VPN. The disadvantages of this method of connecting to a VPN are the same as those of setting up a VPN directly in the OS – complexity, inconvenience in changing geolocation and reconfiguration.
How to set up a VPN on a router
- Step 1 – Choose the right router. As mentioned above, not all routers have built-in support for VPN. In addition, some routers only work with weak encryption protocols. So before you buy a router, be sure to ask whether the device even supports VPN and, if so, what cryptographic protocols it uses
- Step 2 – Get the data to set up the connection. Choose your VPN-provider and get the name (or IP-address) of VPN-server and authorization data from it. If you have chosen our company, please contact our support – you will get all the data for connection setting immediately.
- Step 3 – Set up a VPN-client on the router. Go to the router’s web interface. To do this, you need to know its IP address. Usually it is 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1, refer to the technical documentation of your device to find out its IP address. Enter the router’s IP address into your browser’s address bar. The home page of your router opens, which gives you access to all the settings of the device (sometimes you can access the router settings after entering your login/password). Go to the “VPN” section and enter the authorization information you received from your VPN provider.
To configure our product on your router, contact our technical support – our specialists will give detailed instructions and all necessary information to configure SwitcherryVPN for your home network.
Option 3 – expensive: install and configure a VPN in the cloud or on a rented server
If you decide to start using VPN technology in practice, you don’t have to go to a VPN provider at all. You can deploy your own VPN server on a cloud service or on a rented virtual or physical server.
Pros and cons
The main advantage is that you become the sole owner and the only user of the personal VPN-server. The highest possible data transfer rate and complete security and confidentiality are guaranteed (if you choose a reliable cryptographic protocol). But this method has a lot of disadvantages. The main disadvantage – the complexity of independent deployment VPN-server: you need to have special knowledge and professional skills.
There is a monthly fee for renting a server or using a cloud service. Finally, you will not be able to change the geolocation, because it will be tied to the location of your rented server or cloud service server location.
How to do it
The easiest way is to rent a VPS (virtual server) and deploy the free VPN server software on it. OpenVPN is usually chosen. The appropriate VPN-client is installed on the computer and other user devices. Detailed instructions on how to install, configure and test your own VPN-server deserves a separate large article.
Option 4 is not the easiest: own VPN server at home
If your ISP provides you with a static IP address, you can deploy your own VPN server on your home personal computer. Naturally, this computer’s normal Internet traffic will remain unprotected (unless this computer in turn is connected to a remote VPN server and has a VPN client installed and enabled).
But if you, using the IP address of the computer, connect to it, for example, from some of your mobile devices – tablet, smartphone, etc. with a VPN-client installed on it, then a secure connection – a “tunnel” – will be created between your home computer and the mobile device.
Why it’s needed
Usually a VPN-server on a home personal computer is installed to gain secure access to its files and folders from anywhere in the world;
Some online resources link a user’s account to his or her IP address. If you try to sign in to your account when you’re away from home, in another country for example, your account is blocked. To bypass the blocking, the user can go online and log in through their home computer using a VPN connection;
Another reason is to bypass censorship. That is, if the user’s home computer is located in a country where there is no censorship, and the user is abroad (on vacation, business trip), in a country with Internet censorship, he can easily bypass the censorship by accessing blocked sites via his home computer.
How to do it
Windows 7, 8, 10 has a built-in VPN server, which is activated in the network settings of the operating system. You can also download and install third-party software (usually OpenVPN) to deploy a VPN server on your home computer. As with installing a VPN server on a rented server or cloud service, detailed instructions on how to deploy a VPN server on your own home computer are too extensive to be provided within the scope of this article.
Connecting to your home network via VPN
Many router models (but not all!) have a built-in VPN server, which is quite easy to activate in the settings. So you can create a secure connection not only to your single home computer, but to your entire home network if you set up a VPN server on your router.
Why you need it
Creating a secure connection to your home network via VPN may be necessary for the same reasons as setting up your own VPN server on your home PC. When you set up and enable the VPN-server on your router you get safe access not only to your home computer files but also to other devices connected to the router, such as video-cameras.
How to do it
It’s necessary to enter the web-interface of your router, in the section “VPN” (it was told above, in the section “How to set VPN on router”) and then go to the tab “VPN-server”. VPN server activation methods may be unique for each model. For detailed instructions on how to install and set up a VPN server on your router, refer to the technical documentation of the device.