The Best VPNs with Split Tunneling | What is Split Tunneling and Why do you Need it?
Split tunneling is a useful VPN feature that allows a VPN user to pick and choose which services are routed through the VPN, and which can connect directly to the internet. This can be useful when you only want your VPN for things like unblocking Netflix, but still want to use other services without your VPN.
We discuss split tunneling and its use cases in more detail further in this guide, but first, let’s take a quick look at the best VPNs that offer split tunneling.
What are the best split tunneling VPNs?
Below we have summarized our top split tunneling VPN picks, but if you would like more information, please keep scrolling for more in-depth analysis.
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For us to recommend a VPN in this guide, they obviously need to have split tunneling as a feature – and only top-tier VPNs tend to offer it. However, besides this, we also make sure all our recommendations also offer:
- Privacy and security
- Good VPN speeds
- A large server network
- Value for money
Only services that meet all the above criteria, including split tunneling, are eligible to be recommended.
So now you know what we’re looking for, let’s take a closer look at our top split tunneling VPN picks.
5 Best split tunneling VPN services | In-depth analysis
Here’s an in-depth look at our recommended VPNs that offer split tunneling.
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What is split tunneling?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have many uses, from accessing content restricted by region to securing information and maintaining privacy. In all cases, the VPN acts as a ‘tunnel’ that encapsulates data passing between the client computer and the remote VPN server.
By default, a VPN client will route 100% of your traffic through a VPN server. Split tunneling is a feature that lets the user select specific traffic to be pushed through a VPN server, while the remaining data is handled by the Internet Service Provider (ISP) as it normally would be. Basically, this allows you to select which apps or websites you want to run through the VPN tunnel and which ones you don’t, as needed for your particular use case.
Different VPN services allow different traffic to be blocked. For example, some services enable users to block VPN use on an individual website using the IP address of the website, whilst other services let users disallow their VPN to access certain Apps.
Picking and choosing these exceptions creates what is known as interesting traffic. You may be interested in specific traffic for several reasons, it may be due to security concerns or simply down to convenience.
Why do I need a split tunneling VPN?
VPNs help to secure internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel, protecting data from prying eyes. This is undoubtedly useful in a lot of cases, but can, unfortunately, be an inconvenience in others. VPNs can often have a considerable bottleneck on bandwidth as all traffic is automatically transmitted, ultimately slowing internet-based tasks down and preventing users from accessing LAN devices such as printers when connected.
Controlling interesting traffic allows users to connect the necessary devices or applications to a VPN, simultaneously remaining linked to their local network to access connected LAN devices. This is the best of both worlds, as some programs can utilize the security and features that only a VPN can provide, while others benefit from full internet speeds.
Consumers might very well want to access the American version of Netflix or download files safely with a remote VPN without sacrificing bandwidth when surfing the local web. It can also be beneficial to those utilizing online banking, which already ensures anonymized data and could potentially flag an unrecognized IP as suspicious. Although there are some VPN services that cater to gamers, latency-sensitive applications such as video games also benefit from the exemption.
Split tunneling is also prominent in the business world, specifically for remote workers that need access to professional services from an unsecured network, such as the home. It allows them to keep webmail private and secure while indulging in personal activities like streaming music from Spotify.
Is split tunneling difficult to set up?
Although there are still many services that don’t include the feature, split tunneling with a VPN has never been easier. Native support for split tunneling means that users don’t need to configure operating systems manually to be able to customize what they want from their VPN. It’s simply a case of setting up the VPN on Windows, Mac, or Android and heading into the settings.
Can you use a split tunneling VPN on mobile?
A mobile VPN is always worth considering, especially if you’re conscious about maintaining your privacy and security online when you’re on the go. Using the right VPN on mobile means that you can unblock games from other countries and play them without putting yourself at risk. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that VPNs can increase your data usage between 5%–15%, depending on the encryption applied to the transmission (so keep an eye on your data allowance if you have one).
Countries such as China, India, Iran, and Iraq impose strict censorship on video games, and outright ban some titles (such as Pokémon Go in Iran, and PUBG Mobile in Iraq, China, and parts of India. Fortunately, ExpressVPN offers split tunneling on Android (though sadly it isn’t offered for iOS at present). By split tunneling your VPN on your mobile, you can bypass these restrictions and allow named apps to operate outside of the VPN at the same time.
Is split tunneling safe?
The benefits of split tunneling are clear, but the feature isn’t without its detractors. Although all transmissions sent through the VPN receive the same protection whether split tunneling is enabled or disabled, some businesses fear that the unsecured tunnels could act as a gateway for an attacker or malware to hit sensitive networks. This continues to be debated in the industry to this day.
In the consumer space, it is simply recommended that the user doesn’t use split tunneling when on a public or unsecured network.
Types of split tunneling
Although traditional split tunneling routes all traffic through the ISP by default, requiring a user to choose what runs through the VPN manually, there are a number of other types available.
- Inverse split tunneling – reverses the standard by pushing all information through the VPN by default. Otherwise known as “split-exclude,” users can utilize inverse split tunneling to customize what traffic is exempt from this.
- IP-based routing – This usually dictates that an information packet goes directly to its destination, but network administrators can use policy-based routing as a form of split tunneling. This changes the routing table based on alternative criteria, including the size of the packet and other information in the payload.
Users with a bit of know-how or the desire to learn can instead opt to cover all devices within a home or business at once with a DD-WRT VPN service placed directly on the router.
Do I need split tunneling VPN for Android?
If you want to use protect some apps with your VPN, but allow others to access the internet using your regular unprotected internet connection, you will want to use the VPN split tunneling feature for Android.
Some applications work better when you connect to the internet using your real home IP address. For this reason, you may want to whitelist these applications in the VPN app so that they are always outside of the VPN tunnel.
The benefit of split tunneling is that it can help you to maintain the best performance possible by preventing issues associated with bandwidth and connection speed.
When you connect to a VPN, you may experience slower internet speeds due to the encryption and rerouting of your traffic. By keeping apps that do not require VPN protection outside of the VPN tunnel, you can ensure that they get full use of the speeds you pay your ISP for.
With this in mind, it can be a good idea to avoid using the VPN for apps or tasks that don’t require additional security, which will help to improve overall internet speed and performance on your device.
Another benefit of split tunneling is that it makes some of your traffic appear ‘normal’ to your ISP. This is good for preventing your ISP from suspecting that a VPN is being used to conceal online activities; useful in countries where using a VPN may raise suspicions.
If you want to get the best of both worlds and access local services whilst unblocking content from abroad, then split tunneling is the feature for you. Here’s a quick recap of our top VPNs with split tunneling technology:
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The best VPNs with split tunneling – FAQs
[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Do all VPNs have split tunneling?” answer=”No, they don’t. Split tunneling is still considered an exclusive feature that only a minority of VPNs offer. All the VPNs in this article provide split tunneling, plus many other advanced tools. So if this feature is essential to you, consider one of the VPNs above. ” /]]
[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”How do I know my split tunneling is working?” answer=”Split tunneling will allow you to go to the VPN settings and choose which apps and websites will use the VPN and which you can access directly through the open network. The two easiest ways to check that your split tunneling is working are to:
- Try those pre-selected sites/apps and see if they are working as intended (you’re able to <a href=’/guides/bypass-geo-blocking-with-a-vpn’> access geo-restricted content</a> or open your local work-related platform without difficulties)
- Look up your IP address and see if it has changed. You can simply google – what’s my IP address? Or use any of the <a href=’https://whatismyipaddress.com/’>free websites</a> that do that for you.” /]]
[[post-object type=”accordion” question=”Is split tunneling going to slow down my internet?” answer=”Due to complex security processes happening in the background, VPNs, in general, tend to slow down your connections – some indistinctively, some significantly. Using advanced features, like split tunneling, however, can improve your connection speed and your VPN experience. Since only some of your internet traffic gets routed through a VPN, and the rest use a local network, the result is improved speeds thanks to reduced latency.” /]]