Most consumers and even small businesses are fine with a standard wireless router. If all you want to do is add an extra layer of security or access geo-restricted sites, you can do so with a subscription to a reputable VPN service installed on your devices.
For enterprises who want site-wide access to a particular network, however, things get a little more complicated. Those folks may want a VPN router. Here’s what that means.
VPN routers explained
In order to understand VPN routers, you need to know what VPNs are.
When you use a VPN, or virtual private network, you run your web traffic through an encrypted tunnel to a private server. By doing so, you ensure that no one can peek in on your internet activity, including seeing your ISP. Normally, you do this by installing a VPN application device that gives you access to a remote server. This works well for one or two devices, but for a business, it’s not very practical.
A VPN router, then, is a router with VPN software installed on it directly.
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What do VPN routers actually do?
Put simply, a VPN router secures an entire network through a single VPN connection.
Let’s say you’re in a branch office of a larger company, and everyone needs access to shared resources from the main location. Instead of installing and configuring apps on every computer in the office, it’s much easier to use a VPN router to create a secure link for the entire network.
Then, your employees only need to log into the VPN when they’re working remotely, instead of every time they boot up their computers.
Most home users don’t need VPN routers, but there are some cases where you might want an extended connection to servers in another country for unblocking geo-restricted sites. For devices like game consoles and some smart TVs, the only option is to use a VPN router to virtually change locations.
You can also use a VPN router to get around the device limits imposed by premium VPN providers, since the router counts as a single device.
Can all routers be VPN routers?
There are a couple of ways you can get your hands on a VPN router.
VPN providers offer firmware that you can install manually, though not all routers will accept it. In fact, trying to flash (install) incompatible firmware or doing it incorrectly can leave you staring at a funny-looking paperweight. If you want to go this route, you’ll have to do some research on the brand and model of your router before you get started.
An easier option is to check your VPN provider’s website before buying a new router to be sure they can support it. Or, easier still, you could purchase a router that’s preconfigured with a VPN so you don’t have to bother with the installation.
In any case, you should now know what a VPN router is, what it does, and some steps you can take if you’re interested in using one.