Why install VPN on the router?
Setting up a VPN client on your router means you do not have to install it separately on each of your devices. You can configure the VPN client to route all or some devices thru the VPN tunnel. Likewise, you can also choose to route specific traffic through the WAN or VPN interfaces.
A VPN is just one of the many tools available to assist you with online security. One of the biggest benefits of installing VPN on the router is the ability to bypass geographical location restrictions for streaming media clients on your network.
One of the many reasons I prefer TorGuard to other VPN providers, is their support for a wide range of router firmware. In this post, I provide a high level overview of the firmware supported by TorGuard.
Router Firmware Supported by TorGuard
DD-WRT is Linux-based open source firmware for wireless routers and access points. Originally designed for the Linksys WRT54G series, it now runs on a wide variety of router manufacturer models.
Tomato is a small, lean and simple replacement firmware for Linksys’ WRT54G/GL/GS, Buffalo WHR-G54S/WHR-HP-G54 and other Broadcom-based routers. There are several forks of Tomato firmware. Do your research before you decide what branch works best on your router.
Originally based on Tomato, Asuswrt is the name of the firmware developed by Asus for use on all their recent routers. Asus have extensively modified the firmware over the years as they added their own features to it.
The Asuswrt-Merlin firmware project is a third party alternative firmware for Asus routers. Asuswrt-Merlin places a special emphasis on tweaks and fixes rather than radical changes or collecting as many features as possible. Asuswrt-Merlin OpenVPN functionality provides additional enhancements when compared to the stock Asuswrt firmware.
OpenWRT is a highly extensible GNU/Linux distribution for embedded devices. OpenWRT is built from the ground up to minimize bloat, yet provide a full-featured, easily modifiable operating system.
pfSense® software is a free, open source customized distribution of FreeBSD specifically tailored for use as a firewall and router that is managed via web interface. It includes a long list of features and a package system allowing further extending the capabilities.
Sabai Technologies focuses on the development and distribution of wireless network equipment for use with VPN clients. Sabai Technology developed a custom operating system, based on Tomato. Sabai’s goal is to make VPN routers and VPN network technology accessible to the average home or business office at an affordable price and ease of use.
One the major complaints of OpenVPN is the negative impact on download and upload speeds. The first issue is the architecture of OpenVPN. It is single core threaded. As a result, OpenVPN is unable to take advantage of dual or quad core processors. The second issue are with the processors used in consumer grade routers. They lack the horsepower to process the encryption algorithms in an accelerated manor. Using an Intel processor that supports AES-NI will greatly enhance OpenVPN performance. These are not yet available in consumer grade routers. This is the primary reason I built a pfSense appliance with an Intel i5 CPU with AES-NI support.
Sabai Technologies has overcome the OpenVPN performance issue on consumer routers by offering the VPN Accelerator appliance. The VPN Accelerator appliance plugs into an Ethernet port on a Sabai Technologies router. The addition of the VPN Accelerator brings a major speed upgrade to the VPN connection. This makes it the perfect device for streaming 4K UHD content.
Flashing DD-WRT or Tomato firmware does have risks. If done improperly, one can brick the router, rendering it useless. If you lack the expertise to flash the firmware and need help with the configuration, Flash Routers can help. Flash Routers provides a variety of consumer routers that come with DD-WRT or Tomato firmware preinstalled. Flash Routers will flash your router, setup your Internet and wireless network, as well as configure any supported VPN service.
Super Charge Your Network
Setting up a VPN on your router can super charge your home network. Doing so can provide an increased level of privacy and security, and greatly enhance your online streaming media experience.
When selecting a VPN provider, make sure they support a firmware that is compatible with your router. I also recommend that you visit the forum sites for each firmware to gain additional knowledge before making a decision on a router or firmware. Some firmware has a steeper learning curve when compared to others. Most of the firmware listed in this article supports the ability to import an OpenVPN configuration file, which you generate on your provider’s website. This greatly simplifies the OpenVPN configuration.
Installing OpenVPN on the router is a cord cutters dream come true. A VPN can greatly enhance your streaming media experience and increase your online privacy and security. I have used OpenVPN on DD-WRT, Asuswrt-Merlin, OpenWRT and pfSense. I plan to cover each one in more detail, along with advanced selective routing for streaming media traffic, in future articles.