VPN Router

Today’s question comes from Martin in Italy. He writes

What exactly is a VPN router ? And why would you possible want to use one, as a method for using you VPN ?

By using a VPN router, you can secure your whole network, from just one source. Seeing as all your network traffic goes through your router, before leaving your home, having a router to save you having to configure each device connected to the internet.

Cisco Linksys E4200 / VPN Router

This router, the Cisco Linksys E4200, is an example of one such router that can be configured to direct your web traffic to a VPN server.

Typical Network Setup

Here is a typical network setup. On the left we have a mobile device and computer connected via WiFi to a wireless router. The router in turn connects to different web-servers depending on what domains / webpages you want to visit. The web-server for Hulu is located at a different location (IP address) to where the server of the BBC is. Depending on what domain you type in, the router will fetch that webpage.

without VPN router
without VPN router

Using a VPN router

Here we add an intermediary server. In this example the intermediary server is a server that’s controlled by your VPN provider. By configuring your wireless router, instead of it requesting Hulu or BBC directly, these requests are sent first to the VPN server, which in turn connects to Hulu or BBC. It can be the case that the VPN server is located in a different country to where you are, but to websites like Hulu or BBC you will appear as being in the same country as the VPN server, and not where your router is physically located.

VPN Router in action
VPN Router in action

It’s also possible that your VPN provider will have more than one VPN server which could be located in another country. This means that you can change the location that websites will see you coming from, which would further extend your anonymity online.

To see if your router is compatible you would need to check the manual, or check around in the settings. If your router doesn’t support a VPN, there might be still an option to use a DNS service, a so called Smart DNS service, which doesn’t provide encrypted traffic rather it can just tell the websites that you are in a different country when it comes to do it’s DNS lookup.

Alternatives to a VPN router

If you don’t use a VPN router, you will need to configure each device, which can get to be a big hassle if there are iPads, iPods, iPhones and other devices that you want to use your network and your VPN service. A router will save you some configuration and will work for everyone on the network as soon as they connect, with the need to have any extra settings. This type of VPN setup is particularly useful for those people who don’t want to worry about all the technical steps.

This is a good question, thanks for your submission Martin in Milan, Italy!

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