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Discussion Starter #1
http://lifehacker.com/5940565/why-you-should-start-using-a-vpn-and-how-to-choose-the-best-one-for-your-needs

You may know what a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is; you probably don't use one. You really should be using a VPN, and even if you don't think so now, at some point in the future you may consider it as important as your internet connection.

When we took at look at your five favorite VPN service providers, we noticed a few things. First, being the "best" is big business for VPN providers, and they'll fight dirty to be one of them. Second, there are so many VPN providers that it's difficult to choose a really good one. VPNs are not all created equally, and in this post, we're going to look at what a VPN is, why you want one, and how to pick the best one for you.
Does anyone here use a personal VPN while travelling or using hotspots? It seems like common sense but I don't know how "common" it really is.
 

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Using a VPN on mobile devices is a good idea. That's because the link to the VPN is encrypted and things like passwords cannot be read by the hotspot host, ISP or nearby hackers. The RF link should be encrypted, of course, but I wouldn't count on that, or the integrity of the local Wi-Fi hotspot. If a VPN is used, the VPN must also be secure and trustworthy. That's why it's better to go with a well known service. Another issue is that some VPN services keep records of connections that could be stolen or disclosed under subpoena. Some don't keep records. Another issue I've found is that some apps on Android don't work well with VPN apps.
 

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I have used a VPN, both to access my home network and also the office network. One advantage of using a VPN at a public hotspot is that it can be configured to set up your default route through the tunnel, so you don't have to worry about exposing anything. I have used openVPN on Linux and Windows and also the built in VPN on Windows.
 

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Setting up your own VPN is certainly an option. One I would recommend if cost and security are concerns. However, the one I use costs less annually than running a small server 24/7. The downsides are the difficulty of setting it up and reliability compared to commercially available services.
 

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An inexpensive VPN I use is the USB version of Surfeasy - one time payment, runs a separate browser leaving no trace on the host computer, and enables access to US and UK media otherwise subject to geo-blocking.
Works for me.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
My ASUS RT-N66U can be flashed with 3rd party firmware (which I already use on my WRT54GL) that will run a VPN service at the router if I choose. That would seem to address the issues of 24/7 availability and reliability. So the only reason NOT to use a VPN is for compatibility with clients?

Wouldn't most ISPs ToS exclude the right to run a VPN service?
 

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^^^^
Define "VPN service". If you mean providing the service to others, then yes they do. On the other hand, an ISP should not prevent you from running a private VPN for your own use. Before I started running IPv6, I had to use a VPN to access computers behind my firewall/router. I recall reading some comments on the Rogers site several years ago. Their position was they have the prohibition on servers, so they would have a tool to use against those who abuse the service, by running public servers. They had no problem with individuals remotely accessing their own systems.
 

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Well, their only legitimate concern is for those offering public servers. They can't tell a customer what they're allowed to do with their connection beyond that. That would be like the phone company telling you who you can call or what you talk about. Also, with some protocols, it would be difficult to tell which end is the server. Someone running a VPN is likely using much less bandwidth than someone who does a lot of video downloading.
 

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So, I've been investigating getting one of these services and the benefits provided while using public / hotel wifi would make the cost worth it IMO (i.e on our smart phones).

Now, if I were to get such a service I would like to implement it at home as well using a router based solution. That being said, does anyone have any experience using this type of solution for i) VoIP and ii) using a work PC which also have a VPN to connect to the office?

The service I've been investigating looks to have plenty of speed on my home connection. Just wondering if the lag / latency introduced by the VPN will cause issues for our VoIP. And, I still need the ability to VPN into work and this would essentially double VPN the connection (if that makes sense).

TIA.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I would be interested in any comments as well.

I have discovered that my old Linksys WRT54GL has a stripped down firmware by Shibby (Tomato based) that can run a VPN. So you may want to look at your existing hardware to see if it can be converted.

I seem to recall you talking about Tomato in the past.
 

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Thanks Jake... yes, I've been running the stock Tomato 1.28 on my Buffalo WHR-HP-G54 for some time. It seems that Shibby will run on it so I will have to give that a try.

If a router wide implementation doesn't work for me (due to VoIP or work VPN issues) I'll just install the client on my specific devices so it isn't a deal breaker for me in either case.
 

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Well, I guess I can answer my own questions now. I signed up for the VPN service last night and got it working on my phone straight away (using OpenVPN).

This evening I upgraded my very antiquated Buffalo router to the VPN Tomato by Shibby.

VPN over VPN works fine. VoIP works fine.

The only issue so far is when I try to login to my VoIP provider I am shown the following screen... "-- Interface access is not authorized from this IP Address - Contact us if you think this is an error".

I did have to reset the NVRAM on my router so getting everything back took a little while.
 

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Thanks for the update. I will have to get off my butt and unwrap my shiny new router soon.

Interface access is not authorized from this IP Address
I am willing to bet the VOIP provider blocks IPs if they are not originating from the same IP as the ATA. Is there a setting about this in the VOIP portal?
 

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^^^^
Given many ATAs are used behind NAT, different addresses are often the case. It's why it's necessary to use STUN servers, to tell the VoIP server where the ATA or other device really is. While STUN can be made to work for home or small office networks, there's no way it can work on a larger scale.
 

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I haven't seen anything about it on the portal Jake.

I played around with having OpenVPN installed on the router until late into the night and I'm not convinced it is efficient in the long run. While everything works (Netflix, Hulu+, VoIP, Home Alarm Monitoring, etc...) my 25 Mbps / 10 Mbps connection seems kind of sluggish. I looked at the bandwidth stats on the router and we are only ever getting a little over 1/4 of the speeds we see without it.

I'm going to try to find a balance between having everything use it and having just some devices / activities use it. Do I really care if the Apple TV isn't using OpenVPN? Or my IP Phones or ATA device? My wife really loved it because some shopping site which is currently blocked to my ISP (Anthropologie) was no longer blocked since we now appeared to be from Ontario or the US.

I must say though that having OpenVPN on my iPhone has made a huge difference when on public wifi. For some reason everything seems faster / smoother from there.
 

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I decided to try a month with Private Internet Access. If things worked out I would sign up for a year which drops the monthly price to $3.33 instead of $6.95.
 
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