As we get used to the idea of working from home, virtual private networks (VPNs) have emerged as the backbone of this transition. A VPN is a private network within a public network that allows you to safely transmit information between devices. It can be seen as a tunnel that sends and receives your encrypted data. Since it is a safe and secure way to send and receive confidential information, more employees and businesses today are switching to this technology to continue their business operations. But VPN is not without its own limitations, the primary of which is speed. When you use a VPN client, it routes all your information through the VPN server. In reality, though, you don’t need 100 percent of your content to pass through the VPN tunnel because a lot of the content may not be confidential. In other words, you could use social media, watch an online stream, and access your company’s confidential information on a given day. Out of these, only your company’s information should be through a secure channel while the other two can access the Internet directly. Since you’re routing everything through a VPN, it clogs the tunnel and slows down the speed of transmission, leading to reduced productivity and frustration. A better option is to choose just those activities that should pass through a VPN tunnel while the others can access the Internet directly, and VPN split-tunneling allows you to do this.
What is VPN split-tunneling?
In simple words, VPN split-tunneling is a feature that allows you to select the traffic that should be routed through a VPN server while the remaining is directly handled by your Internet service provider (ISP).
The obvious advantage of splitting this traffic is speed. Since a lot of your content doesn’t have to pass through the VPN tunnel, it’ll be faster and won’t clog up your bandwidth. Also, the content that you send and receive through the VPN will be faster as well. This is why a VPN split-tunneling is a great way to boost speed without compromising on security.
How does a VPN split-tunneling work?
By default, a VPN client passes all traffic through the tunnel to a VPN server, that in turn, accesses the Internet anonymously. This is how VPNs offer security and anonymity when you access the content.
But you can configure your VPN client to route only the “essential” traffic through your VPN and the rest directly to the Internet. Now let’s say, you want to access Facebook. You can route it directly to access the Internet through your ISP. On the other hand, if you want to send a confidential email to your coworker, you can route that through your VPN.
When you split this traffic, it eases the pressure on bandwidth and is less taxing on the VPN server as well. In turn, the response time is faster because you don’t have to go through the complex tunnel for every information, so your streaming and social media will be faster.
How to configure VPN split-tunneling
Now that you know what VPN tunneling and its benefits, let’s see how you can configure it.
First off, tell your VPN client what traffic it should route through your internal LAN and what can go directly to the Internet, and for this, you should set up the routes on the VPN client. You can do this through DHCP or the connection manager administration kit.
To make things easy, Windows 10 allows you to set up split-tunneling in two ways — using PowerShell and through VPN connection properties.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to use PowerShell to enable VPN split-tunneling in Windows 10.
- Open your PowerShell application
- Type Get-VPNConnection and this will display the names of all VPN connections.
- Choose the VPN connection on which you want to enable split-tunneling and type this command:
Set-VPNConnection -Name Connection Name -SplitTunneling $True
- To verify, type the Get-VPNConnection again and you’ll see that split-tunneling is true, which means it’s set up for your VPN connection.
Using VPN properties
If you do not want to use PowerShell for some reason or if you’re using Windows 7, here’s another way to set up VPN split-tunneling.
- Right-click your VPN connection and select Properties
- Navigate to the Networking tab, choose Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4), and click on the Properties button.
- In the next tab, click the Advanced button.
- In the Advanced window, uncheck the “Use default gateway on remote network” box and this should enable split-tunneling.
- Click OK on three tabs to exit the Properties windows
Choose either of the methods to set up VPN split-tunneling and enjoy the higher speed and security it offers. There is no difference in the final result, and the choice of method depends on your personal preferences.
Pitfalls of VPN split-tunneling
While VPN split-tunneling is a great way to improve speed, it comes with a few pitfalls as well. It’s important to know the downsides of VPN split-tunneling, so you can make an informed decision.
- The content that bypasses the VPN will not have the security protocols in place, so you may want to consider having a firewall or antivirus software to protect your device.
- The VPN split-tunneling has to be set up properly, otherwise, it can open the room for hackers to access your personal and confidential content.
- It’s not possible to audit all the Internet traffic, especially if you need it from a compliance standpoint.
Thus, these are some of the pitfalls. Make sure you understand them and have alternate provisions in place for security before enabling VPN split-tunneling on your VPN connection.
VPN split-tunneling: Reap the benefits and avoid the pitfalls
VPN split-tunneling is a great option to boost the speed of your connection. Essentially, it routes confidential and important information through the VPN and the rest directly to the Internet, so your bandwidth doesn’t clog and you can access the content faster. It is also easy to set up as you can use PowerShell or use Windows Explorer for the same.
However, there are a few pitfalls to VPN split-tunneling and it’s important you understand its consequences as well before you decide to go with this option.
In all, VPN split-tunneling is being used by millions of people and it is a great option to split your content, so you can have the best of both the worlds of privacy and speed.
Featured image: Shutterstock
More Remote Work articles
- Digital workspaces: A successor to the enterprise VPN?
- COVID-driven work changes have elevated IT cybersecurity risks
- Top five complaints from remote workers — and how to respond
- Best remote work collaboration tools to maintain peak productivity
- Free remote work tools for IT teams during coronavirus pandemic