The main thing about maintaining your online privacy and safety through VPN is to prevent third-parties from linking what goes on in the Internet back to you. Even if someone is watching something happen directly from a site’s servers, no one can tell that it’s you doing it.
These days, however, we do things online from an incredibly wide variety of devices. Sure, there’s the PC, the notebook, and the mobile device. But there’s also the Smart TV and other internet-connected appliances. Those who want to watch streaming site offerings from another country or continent might be doing it from everywhere from an Android TV box to a net-enabled digital receiver box. You might even be using a game console to do basic web browsing tasks!
Now the question is — can your VPN service keep up?
Today, cross-platform compatibility is less important than cross-device compatibility. Almost every single VPN provider offers software (or at least connection steps, through a third-party app) for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS. But compared to the number of services advertising themselves, relatively few offer options for various hardware builds.
Getting to the bottom of things
One great point of comparison is the router itself, that little box with blinking lights that is the nexus of any home’s internet connection (outside of your phone’s data service). Essentially, this is the single most important piece of internet-related device, and it is also the place where the internet begins and ends in your household. Other devices only tap to its internet connection, so it’s logical that if you want to protect your online security and privacy you should start here.
Setting up VPN in your router would be a more efficient and effective approach than setting up your VPN for each and every device that you own. After all, if you miss a spot with the latter approach any unscrupulous observer can still build a browsing profile out of whatever online activity is left unprotected.
Now, in a perfect world, connecting the vital device that is your router to your VPN service should be very easy. However, it’s not always the case. The wide variety of router hardware and firmware being sold in the market means even the best VPN services cannot support each and every one of them.
Then, there’s the router’s bundled software that acts as a dashboard where you can set up your internet settings, including that of your VPN. Even when your chosen provider supports your chosen router, how well the VPN software plays with the dashboard is a different thing. Some router dashboards are already pretty complicated in themselves, and you don’t want to deal with a troublesome VPN on top of that. Additionally, working with a router’s software may be intimidating to a few people, and it doesn’t really help that making a mistake can brick your router and render it inoperable.
It’s in these tricky but important situations that the best of the best VPN providers stand out. Some of the best VPN services we’ve reviewed, for example, have dedicated websites that allow for painless router VPN setup. For supported router types, there’s even an app that can be installed as easily as it can be on a PC. Even for services without a dedicated router app, it’s still possible to follow an easy manual setup process. There are even those VPNs that have partnered with some router brands, providing security and privacy integrations right out of the box.
A Smooth Client Is A Good Client
Of course, we don’t just review whether or not the VPN service has an easy-to-setup router VPN solution, we also look at all other VPN solutions that it offers. We also look at how smoothly these offerings stack up compared to others in the platform. Nowadays it’s the bare minimum to have a smoothly-working VPN client on both desktop and mobile, but you’ll be surprised to know that some services still have not achieved feature-parity between these platforms. That means some features are only available on the desktop and not on mobile, and vice versa.
These are just some of the things we look into when doing VPN reviews, to make sure you can choose a reliable VPN provider no matter your use case. Whether you’d like to protect your entire home connection by setting up a VPN connection in your router, or you’d like to pick and choose which devices to protect, there’s always an option — and we make sure to find out which is best.