What is VPN Split Tunneling?

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Updated September 22, 2022

If you are new to the world of private networking, you may wonder what is VPN split tunneling. Many of the best VPNs, after all, use this technology as part of the overall encryption process. So what exactly is split tunneling, what does it do for VPNs, and what is its benefit? Keep reading to find out.

Insider Tip

Make sure the VPN you are considering subscribing to offers split tunneling as a connection option.

What is a Split Tunnel VPN Connection?

As the name suggests, a split tunnel connection allows you to route only certain applications through a VPN, which is useful when learning about tunneling in networking. The encrypted tunnel receives all of the benefits of a modern VPN if you are wondering what a secure VPN is. The unencrypted tunnel can access the regular old Internet if you are learning about P2P VPNs. Not every service offers split tunneling, which is useful to know when comparing ProtonVPN vs ExpressVPN.

Benefits of Choosing a Split Tunnel Connection

There are many benefits to choosing a split tunnel connection, though there are some security concerns, as your entire connection will not be encrypted. This is worth the risk, however, for many users.

Increased Versatility

Using a VPN server to access the Internet is fantastic for security, privacy, and getting around geo-restricted content. However, it is not the best option for speedy downloads or for, you know, loading websites in under a minute. This “best of both worlds” approach allows you to use a VPN for some services, say downloading files, while leaving the rest of your connection unencrypted to prioritize speed.

Increased Bandwidth

Going with a split tunnel option actually increases the efficiency and speed of your encrypted connection. This is because end-to-end encryption takes up a lot of bandwidth, so switching up certain applications to regular Internet frees up that bandwidth, allowing the VPN to get a little pep in its step. In other words, you will experience increased speed via both tunnels.

Passwords, Cookies, etc.

Using a VPN encrypted connection does not typically allow access to stored passwords, cookies, and other mainstays of the modern Internet. However, when you use a split connection, the tunnel using the regular Internet will still have access to all of that information. This saves you a lot of trouble, as you won’t have to write passwords down, and helps speed up the loading when entering websites you have previously visited.

STAT: A VPN provides users with a secure tunnel through which all data traveling to and from their device is encrypted. This allows them to enjoy secure remote access and protected file sharing while also being able to mask their location if they choose to do so. (source)

VPN Split Tunneling FAQs

What are the VPN split tunneling security risks?

The risks are the same as any unencrypted Internet traffic or Internet connection. Your IP addresses on the unencrypted end will be available for all to see, so be cautious as to which applications and network devices get encrypted and which do not.

Can you choose which traffic goes through a VPN split tunnel?

Yes, in most cases, you can set a variety of parameters to control the split tunnel, such as dynamic split tunneling, IP addresses, corporate network features, and more.

When should you use split tunneling?

This is a good option when looking to make a semi-private network or when accessing a public network. If you are traveling, for instance, and want to access geo-restricted content but still want zippy Internet, go for this option.
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