The last couple of years have been tough for Internet users around the world. We’ve witnessed the repeal of Net Neutrality, the widescale Facebook data breach, and news like these keep on coming. Just recently, we learned about the customer data being stolen from Flipboard, and Microsoft allowing email accounts to get exposed. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the use of VPNs is on the rise. However, this is where the complexity of VPN applications come into play, as they provide numerous ways to protect your data. One of those ways is to create your own VPN server, which is perhaps one of the most effective ways to make sure that no one has access to your personal data. With this said, we’ll talk about how to set up your own VPN server at home.
What you need to know is that VPNs are perhaps the most capable tools for keeping you anonymous online. They can also help with ISP throttling and even unblock geo-restricted content. However, there are too many VPN options out there, making this situation a bit more complex than it needs to be. So, let’s simplify everything and tell you how to set up your own VPN from scratch.
In general, there are three proven and reliable methods of running a private VPN server at your home. So, let’s guide you through each of those and we’ll make sure to provide links to additional resources so you can get the complete picture of what each method entails.
Understanding The Basics – What Does Creating Your Private VPN Server Entail?
If you continue reading, you’ll get to see three different options for setting up a VPN server in your home. However, regardless of which hardware platform you use, the basic process of setting up the server is broadly the same. We recommend OpenVPN as the software of choice for this project. You can download OpenVPN here.
- Download the OpenVPN software and install it on your computer;
- Generate certificates and keys;
- Generate config files for the server and clients;
- Start the server itself.
We won’t lay down the detailed instructions for every platform since the OpenVPN community has created great instructional documents with troubleshooting guides too. The best one to start with for most people is their easy Windows Guide for OpenVPN. Doing this on Linux is a bit more complicated and you’re best off Googling for instructions relevant to the specific distro of Linux you have in mind. Ubuntu is the most popular for home users and you can find the official Ubuntu OpenVPN documents at the preceding link.
Option #1: Get a VPN-Compatible Router
Perhaps the easiest option to set up a VPN server at your home is by getting a VPN-compatible router. There are many different options out there and you get to pick from various types of brands. We recommend you to check the best NETGEAR routers or the best TP-Link routers. However, before making your purchase, we also highly recommend you to read more about how to choose a VPN router.
What’s important to be said is that VPN routers come with their own Web UI. You log-in to your router by inputting the correct IP address in your Web browser, and this is when you’ll enter a username and password. This will open a Web UI where you can create your own VPN server. There’s also an option to use a commercial VPN and supply the corresponding OpenVPN files, which are then uploaded to your router’s UI. This way, you can get the best out of both worlds.
Depending on which type of router you buy, you need to do a Google search on how to use it as a VPN server. For example, here’s how to set up ASUS’ routers to act as VPN servers.
Option #2: Get a Custom DD-WRT Router
Previously mentioned VPN routers come with their own Web UI, powered by their stock firmware. However, there are third-party firmware versions that you can flash onto your router. In other words, you replace the stock version with a much more capable, third-party solution. For this purpose, we recommend using DD-WRT firmware.
There are many powerful DD-WRT routers, many of which are priced under $100. You can even find a few picks when it comes to DD-WRT routers under $50. All of them can be used as VPN servers since this type of firmware comes with an intuitive Web UI. To get the step-by-step directions on how this is done, here’s how to set up a VPN on a DD-WRT router.
Option #3: Turn Your Home Computer into a VPN Server
Finally, we’ve come to the most affordable method of creating a private VPN server. In case you have an old computer somewhere, collecting dust, why not turn it into a VPN server?
You can turn your computer into a server by using OpenVPN but note that the server (the computer you’re using) will need to be powered on all the time. This is done by using OpenVPN to configure it as a server on your computer. Then, you need to install OpenVPN on other devices since you’ll need to log-in each time you want to access your VPN network. Finally, to get more information about this method, we recommend you read OpenVPN’s helpful tutorials on how this is done on Windows PCs.
When to Set Up a Home VPN Server?
There are numerous good reasons why setting up a VPN server is an excellent idea. However, you should know that this solution won’t meet the needs of every possible type of user. So, let’s see why and when setting up a home VPN server is a good idea.
- You want to take full control over your data: There are many capable and reliable VPN services out there. However, even though there are ‘no-logs’ VPN services, all of them must collect at least some data including your payment information. The only way to truly be anonymous online and to make sure that no one sees your online whereabouts is by running a private VPN server (like in your home, for example).
- You want to access your Web connection from elsewhere: There are two types of users who could greatly benefit from private VPN servers, and those are small business owners and frequent travelers. You can allow your employees to log-in to your private VPN network when outside the office. And travelers can log-in to their private VPNs to continue using the websites that might be not accessible everywhere.
- You’re curious about how VPNs work: There are several different ways to set up a VPN server at your home. You can use a capable router, your computer, or even a Raspberry Pi device. And there are also numerous cloud hosting providers, allowing you to fine-tune your user experience and your expenses.
When NOT to Set Up a Home VPN Server?
As noted earlier, private VPN servers are not useful in every potential case. There are some types of users who could benefit more from getting a commercial VPN subscription instead. So, let’s check out some of the limitations of running a private VPN server.
- You won’t get to unblock websites available elsewhere: As explained earlier, travelers can use private VPN servers to unblock websites available in their home country. However, you won’t be able to unblock websites available elsewhere. For example, to unblock services such as BBC iPlayer, Sky Go, or NOW TV – you need to connect to a server in the UK. Commercial VPN services offer servers spread across the entire world, which is one of their biggest benefits.
- You’ll be facing various technical roadblocks: Commercial VPNs come with polished applications for various platforms including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android (among others). If you decide to set up a VPN server at your home, you’ll need to configure each device manually. This takes some time and it’s not the most elegant solution. However, this is the price you’ll need to pay to take full control over your Web data.
- You won’t get the benefits of shared IP addresses: One of the benefits of using commercial VPNs is the fact that they offer shared IP addresses. In other words, each VPN comes with a sizeable pool of IPs that get rotated from time to time. Even though you can change the IP address of your VPN server, this can be a tedious process in the long-run.
Dear readers, that would be all on how to set up a VPN server at your home. In case you found this article to be helpful, why not share it online? Also, don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks!