While VPN is a great tool to hide your internet identity but it’s not fun when you have to switch it off and on again to access your local network for a while.
And it could be because of any reason. Maybe you want to access your wireless printer set up on your local network or you just want to smoothly carry out your internet banking activities.
But you won’t be able to do these things as long as you’re connected to a VPN. So is there any way you could access the regular internet while still being connected to your VPN to avoid compromising your sensitive data?
With a split tunneling feature, you can. A split tunneling feature lets you divide your traffic so you could have a secure connection and access to the open network at the same time.
Let’s see more about what is split tunneling, how it works, and when you should use it.
Short on time? Here’s a Short Summary Of What Is Split Tunneling
- Split tunneling divides your internet traffic.
- A part of your traffic routes through the VPN tunnel and the other part can access the open network.
- With this feature, you remain connected to your VPN without slowing down your internet speed.
- You can easily set up the apps or URLs which don’t require a VPN by heading to your VPN settings.
- Split tunneling gives you access to the local network so you can utilize the devices connected to your local network while still being connected to a VPN connection.
What Is Split Tunneling?
As the name indicates itself, split tunneling simply splits your connection. Dividing it into two, one connection is a secure VPN tunnel that encrypts your traffic and the other one is the regular connection that lets you connect to the internet directly.
When you turn on your VPN, all your traffic travels through the VPN tunnel. And to use the split tunneling feature, you’ll have to select the sites, apps, or programs that you don’t wish to run through a VPN connection. That means you can choose which programs should run through a VPN and which programs or apps should run normally.
This feature can come in handy in lots of ways as there can be times when you don’t require a VPN connection or when you can’t use an app or program with a VPN connection.
For suppose, if you want to do online banking then you’d need this feature as banking apps don’t work properly with a VPN.
Some ticket booking sites would be difficult to operate if you’re planning to book an airline ticket or a concert ticket and that’s where the split tunneling feature comes into action.
How Does A Split Tunneling Feature Work?
To understand split tunneling, you should know how a VPN works. When you’re connected to your VPN, it establishes a secure tunnel from where your traffic travels and reaches the VPN server.
But what if you have to access your local internet directly? So instead of turning on and off your VPN, split tunneling does the trick.
It creates two channels from your device. One bridge travels your traffic to the internet directly, and the other one travels the traffic through a secure VPN tunnel.
By doing so, you’ll be having two connections in parallel. You can carry out your non-VPN tasks and VPN tasks at the same time without any hassles.
What Are The Different Types Of Split Tunneling?
You might access different programs or apps for which there are different types of split tunneling.
- Split Tunneling for Web Addresses. All your traffic would run through the open network eliminating those URLs or web addresses that you have specified in your split tunneling feature. The specified addresses only would run through a VPN tunnel on accessing.
- Split Tunneling for Applications. Works in the same fashion. All your traffic would run through the open network eliminating the apps that you have selected for split tunneling. The apps selected would only run through an encrypted tunnel.
- Reverse Split Tunneling. It’s the opposite of the first two. In this type, all your traffic would run through an encrypted VPN tunnel. But the URLs or apps selected for split tunneling would run on an open network.
How to Use Split Tunneling?
Firstly you have to make sure you get a VPN that offers a split tunneling feature. To enable the split tunneling feature,
- Launch your VPN app.
- Go to your VPN settings.
- Find the option for Split Tunneling.
- Choose the type of split tunneling you prefer, you can either choose the selected programs to run through the VPN network or the open network and vice versa.
- Selected your apps and save your settings.
How to Disable Split Tunneling?
You can disable the split tunneling feature the same way you enabled it. Launch your VPN app, go to the settings, find the split tunneling option and disable it.
Is Split Tunneling Secure?
Split tunneling is not completely as secure if we compare it to having a VPN connection on your device all the time. But nonetheless, if you play your cards right, it can be a great feature to have.
This feature can be a blessing if you regularly switch off your VPN just to access your local network to use your printer or access a website that wouldn’t be accessed with a VPN connection.
Because clearly, using a split tunneling feature would be a lot better than not having a VPN connection at all.
But still, you have to be cautious if your device contains sensitive data in bulk because it’s still a debatable topic if split tunneling decreases the VPN quality or not.
When To Use Split Tunneling?
Split tunneling can help you in situations when you want to keep your sensitive information protected without losing your internet speed. When you know which program or application needs a VPN, you can make the most out of this amazing feature.
- Keep your device protected without experiencing any speed issues. When you use a VPN, your default traffic routes through its secure tunnel and that eats up your internet speed as your traffic has to bounce through different locations to reach the destination. But you can make some exceptions for apps or programs which doesn’t require a VPN. You can just filter out the applications or URLs in your VPN app in the split tunneling tab. So now you can access them directly with your regular open network without any speed issues.
- To run certain apps smoothly. Not all services work smoothly with a VPN connection. If internet banking is one of your regular activities then you might find it difficult to perform your operations with a VPN as banking apps don’t work properly when they detect VPN traffic. This is where split tunneling pays off. You can easily exclude the app to smoothly perform your bank-related tasks.
- To access your LAN (Local Area Network). You might not be able to access the devices connected to your LAN. But with split tunneling, you can easily access your local network and use your wireless printer or any other local devices connected.
How to Test Split Tunneling?
- Launch your VPN app.
- Go to the Settings.
- Head to split tunneling.
- Add a URL or an app.
- Try to access region-restricted content from that app or URL.
If you are not able to access the website, then your split tunneling is working fine.
Another way to test your split tunneling feature is to simply look up your IP address and check if it’s your original address or not.
Pros & Cons Of Split Tunneling.
- You can exclude the apps and programs which don’t need a VPN connection and improve your internet speed.
- You can stay connected to the VPN and still access your local network. You don’t need to switch on and off your VPN.
- You can easily access your printer connected to your local network.
- Setting up your apps and programs can be time-consuming. You have to set up the right settings for each app or URL.
- Only a few VPN providers offer a split tunneling feature.
- You can put your privacy at risk if you let the feature bypass a sensitive app or program.
Difference Between Split Tunneling & Full Tunneling?
Full tunneling means routing all your traffic through an encrypted VPN tunnel. On the other hand, split tunneling divides your traffic from which one half of the traffic accesses the internet through an encrypted tunnel while the other half accesses through the open network.
But both these methods can have their pros and cons.
With full tunneling, there are no risks as all your traffic is encrypted. But you don’t have the choice of choosing which apps require a VPN or not.
VPNs With Split Tunneling Feature
We have completed the leg work to suggest to you the best VPNs in the industry that come with a built-in split tunneling feature.
ExpressVPN offers a built-in split tunneling feature in Windows, Mac, Android, and routers. You can use split-tunneling on all your apps. You can also choose the inverse split tunneling option for ease while setting up split tunneling.
To use the split tunneling feature, launch your VPN app, go to the settings, under the General tab, find Split Tunneling.
NordVPN split tunneling tool works through the Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox browser. This lets you choose whether you want to access a website through an encrypted network or an open network.
You can use the split tunneling feature on NordVPN’s Windows and Android app.
Surfshark split tunneling works on the Android and Windows apps. You can choose URLs and applications both. It is known as the Whitelister or Bypasser and it’s really easy to use.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs
How to test if my split tunneling feature works okay?
Does split tunneling come built-in with the VPN service?
Can I access my local network with a VPN connection?
Is split tunneling a hundred percent secure?
What is the benefit of using split tunneling?
Which one is better? Full tunneling or split tunneling?
Wrapping it up!
Split tunneling is a must-have feature to keep your sensitive information private and still have access to the open network. It’s great if you want to exclude the not-so-critical apps from your VPN list. But at the same time, you have to be careful while setting up your split tunneling feature as you might provide loopholes to the attackers to hunt your sensitive data. So if you’re really concerned about your online security then it’s better to go full tunneling.