In this post, I am going to go through the different ways a VPN can be hosted.
I am just going to talk about VPNs in the context of people using them to secure their connection and/or hide their IP address (not about using a VPN for connecting two company networks together).
Should you setup your own VPN server? Only if you just require security not privacy. Otherwise I recommend going with a reputable VPN service.
This is when you run your own VPN server from your home/office. The main advantage of going this route is that you control your network, and you completely control your computer that runs the VPN server.
The Good: You get the advantage of extra security when connecting over a potentially hostile network (e.g., coffee shops, hotels, etc.).
The Bad: You get no privacy what so ever, since your online activity is under the IP address you have been assigned by your ISP (Internet Service Provider).
VPN on a Virtual Private Server
Many online companies offer virtual server hosting solutions. Many of these companies allow their users to setup their own OpenVPN server. You technically are running your own VPN server, but the server itself is being hosted elsewhere.
The Good: You get some privacy since the IP address of your server is owned by your web hosting company, not your ISP. In addition, you still get the extra security when connecting over a potentially hostile network.
The Bad: Since you are the only one using the assigned IP address from the web hosting company, there is very little “wiggle room” in-case someone wanted to track you down for some reason (e.g., for posting “offensive” comments or something).
In addition, since you do not operate the network your server is on, you can never be sure if your web hosting company is spying on you (always assume that they are). They can even spy on your virtual server too.
VPN via a VPN Service
This is when you go to an actual VPN service and pay to make use of their vast array of servers that they have specifically setup for people to use for privacy.
I am not going to recommend any particular VPN service. You must make that decision for yourself.
The Good: Going this route is usually quick and easy to get setup. Most VPN companies focus on your privacy (that is what they are supposed to be in business for anyway). This is the best way for someone to get started with using VPNs when they have never used one before.
In addition, since many other people are using the same VPN server you are on (hence, the same IP address), you “blend into the crowd”.
The Bad: VPN servers can get overloaded, since VPN companies usually have thousands of customers using their services at any given time. In addition, not all “no logging” VPNs are really doing what they say. I am not going to point any fingers, but just be careful when choosing a VPN service.
The following chart is my opinions for each type of VPN hosting.
Security Level – Determined by how much control you have over the VPN server and its network.
Privacy Level – Determined by how much the VPN hosting will protect your privacy.
|Self-Hosted at Home/Office||VPN on a Virtual Private Server||VPN Service|
Things to Keep in Mind
- VPNs cannot keep you completely anonymous. All you are doing by using a VPN is making the VPN your “new” ISP. They can potentially mess with your data that you are sending through their servers. In addition, someone could be tapping the Internet link that your VPN provider is using. This may compromise your privacy.
- Doing something malicious. No VPN will completely protect you if your are doing something to attract the attention of a large, well-connected organization (e.g., a government agency).
- Using a VPN because of “no logs” is not a good idea. I am sure there are some that really do not log, but even if they didn’t at some point, how do you know that they will not start logging without your knowledge?
- A VPN will not protect you from viruses. A virus (e.g., from a file download) can still infect your computer even if your are using a VPN.
- A VPN will not completely protect you from hackers either.
( Click here to read my “Popular Misconceptions About VPNs” article. )
Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Security, Software, VPN