Most of you will have heard of VPN and have a basic understanding of what it does. For those who haven’t, a virtual private network provides high-grade security for your Internet connection, hides your IP address, and can make you appear as though you’re located in another country.
For business users with sensitive data regularly transferred between locations and devices, security is a must, and VPN is a great solution.
For home users who want to watch selected TV programming that’s only available in other countries, well, you can do that too.
Your data and location are protected from hackers, phishing, and anyone else trying to intercept your information as it travels between your device and its final destination.
In this article, we’re going to look at a few 2020 options for hardware, VPN routers, and the services you can use with them.
Why should I use a VPN?
The main reason is to encrypt your data and protect your sensitive information. If you’re simply looking for a way to hide your location, to appear to be in other countries to access geolocation-blocked services, then there are alternative systems that could be a better choice. These alternatives could provide a faster and more affordable solution for those more-specific needs.
How does VPN work?
VPN creates what is often described as a tunnel underneath the Internet. Because of the way it encrypts and protects your information, you can imagine that your data is flying through a protected tunnel, only available to you and the user at the other end of your transfer.
The problem with that, though, is your tunnel is limited in size, so the amount of information you can send is also limited, affecting your download and upload speeds. If several connections are sharing the same tunnel, that means even less capacity for its users.
VPN software services
Typically, a VPN service will sell you a license to use their protection using a piece of software, or an app, that you download onto your devices. You can switch the app or service on and off depending when you need it, and you can choose the location you want to ‘appear’ in for geo-blocking workarounds.
You can download it onto as many devices as you want, but the service will only let you make a limited number of connections at a time. That isn’t a problem if the VPN is solely yours to utilize, but if you have to buy one for everyone in your office, family, or household, well, it’s going to get expensive pretty quickly.
What is a VPN router?
To cover as many devices and platforms in your home or office, a better option (or more economical, anyway) is to protect the point where they all connect to the Internet—your WiFi router. By applying the VPN to your WiFi router, any device that connects using it is sent down your ‘tunnel’, protecting your data, and keeping your location private. Your WiFi router then becomes your home VPN server hardware.
A VPN router needs an operating system that allows you to apply your VPN service to it. Many standard routers come with the ISP’s OS installed and don’t allow access to change the settings. Others do.
You can install a new operating system on some of these closed system routers to replace the version it was bundled with, but there’s a chance you might kill your router in the process.
VPN router operating systems
There are two main operating systems that allow you to input your VPN profile and run it through your router. They are DD-WRT and Tomato.
With either of these installed, you should be able to apply your VPN to your home setup.
Pre-configured VPN routers and pre-flashed VPN routers
Your alternative is to buy a pre-configured or pre-flashed router.
A pre-configured router is sold by the VPN service. It comes ready to plug in, with their service settings already set up for you.
A pre-flashed router is one with an operating system installed that allows a VPN service to be applied. You’ll still have to set it up with your service, but at least you won’t have to overwrite any OS software.
Pros and cons of using a VPN router
Advantages of using VPN hardware
- Protects and connects all of your devices on a single account
- Covers all your Internet-enabled devices
- Saves time
- Protects your data
- High-level security
Disadvantages of using VPN hardware
- Can be challenging to set up
- Problematic settings
- It’s expensive
- Limits your connection speeds
- Lack of support from router manufacturers
- Less flexible with international connections
- Shared, so slower speeds
The best hardware for VPN
According to PC Magazine, these are a selection of recommended options from the major brands, including Asus, D-Link, TP-Link, Trendnet, Linksys, and Netgear.
- Asus RT-AC88U Dual-band router
- D-Link AC5300 Ultra Wi-Fi Router
- TP-Link Archer C7 AC1750 Wireless Dual Band Gigabit Router (v2)
- Trendnet AC2600 StreamBoost MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Router
- Asus RT-AC%300 Wireless AC5300 Tri-Band Gigabit Router
- Linksys WRT3200ACM MU-MIMO Gigabit Wi-Fi Router
- Netgear Nighthawk X4S Smart Wi-Fi Router
- TP-Link AC1900 Touch Screen Wi-Fi Gigabit Router
- D-Link AC1900 MU-MIMO Wi-Fi Router
- Netgear Nighthawk AC2300 Smart WiFi Router
The best VPN providers for VPN routers
It’s hard to determine an overall winner for the best service to install on your VPN router/hardware, as it depends on what you need your VPN to do.
VPN Mentor has put a list together that reflects the typical industry selections and provides additional information about how they work, which OS they adhere to, their ease of installation, their main advantages, and their primary uses.
- Private Internet Access
What StreamLocator provides that a VPN doesn’t
StreamLocator supplies its customers with a smart hub that plugs into their WiFi router primarily to change their digital location. Our hardware is designed purely to access geo-blocked TV channels, streams, and websites, so that you can watch all the international TV you couldn’t previously access.
The main advantage over a VPN router is that there is no limit made on your WiFi speed. The technology inside our box works in similar ways to VPN, but it’s not quite the same. And that’s why our customers love it.
They can connect all of their household devices through their smart hub and use the full bandwidth their ISP allows—no slow playback, no buffering, and no dropped connections where the full force of their network speed can be utilized.
There are plenty of other advantages to choosing our system. Why not dig deeper into our services and news pages to find out all the ways you could be taking advantage of our unique system? It could be the best decision you make all day.