Introduction to Running an OpenVPN Server
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can be utilized for a number of very useful applications. You can securely connect to any public WiFi hotspot. You can overcome geo-blocking restrictions on your favourite websites. And you can even connect to your home or office network from anywhere in the world, as if you were sitting right at your desk. This guide will walk you through the process of setting up your own OpenVPN server, and connecting to it with your copy of Viscosity.
Running your own OpenVPN server will allow you to encrypt everything you do on the internet, so that you can safely do your online banking on the free WiFi at your favourite cafe. If you connect to a public WiFi hotspot without using a VPN, then you are at risk of anyone else connected to that hotspot seeing everything you do, including reading any login details you may use (including your password!). However, with an OpenVPN server set up at home, you can connect to it from a public WiFi hotspot and protect your confidential details from eavesdropping. Anything you send over the VPN connection will be encrypted from your device until it reaches your OpenVPN server at home, where it will be decrypted and sent out to its destination, as if you were sitting in the comfort of your own home. Any files you access on your home/office network will also be encrypted as they travel through the internet. Setting up your OpenVPN server to access your home/office network gives you full access to all your files on your network. It's like having your own personal cloud, where you control it 100%.
The first step to setting up your OpenVPN server is to decide what you want to achieve. There are multiple server configurations that can be used: one that routes all your network traffic through it so you can browse the internet safely (server-internet), one that allows you to communicate with your home/office network from a remote location (server-home), or one that simple allows you to communicate privately with your server itself (server-fileserver). If you are setting up a server to access your files on your home network, then you dont need to perform the steps to setup the internet or fileserver servers. Equally, if you just want to safely access a public WiFi hotspot, then you can skip the steps describing the other servers.
There are also issues around setting up your router to permit VPN traffic. However, in a lot of cases you can skip these router issues. If you are setting up a virtual private server (VPS) such as an Amazon Web Services instance, it will be directly accessible, so you can skip the router steps. You don't need to modify router settings for any case where the OpenVPN server is externally accessible with its own WAN IP address.
You can find some setup guides for OpenVPN in our setup guides section.