Virtual Private Servers (VPS) offer a myriad of applications beyond web hosting. One of the widespread use cases for a VPS is turning it into a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN allows users to establish secure, encrypted connections to the internet, protecting data from potential eavesdroppers. This article will guide you through the process of converting your VPS into a VPN using OpenVPN.
1. Choosing the Right VPS Before Setting Up a VPN
Before diving into the details of setting up your VPN, it’s essential to select the right Virtual Private Server (VPS) platform. A VPS not only acts as the foundation of your VPN but also determines its performance, reliability, and overall user experience.
a) Why the Right VPS Matters
- Cost-Effectiveness: A VPS can be an economical choice, offering robust performance without the hefty price tag. Remember, affordability shouldn’t come at the cost of quality. For a comprehensive understanding of why VPS pricing is vital and what drives its costs, refer to our detailed article.
- Performance: While many providers offer similar specs, the underlying performance can differ. Our recommended VPS provider offers 4 vCPUs, 8 GB RAM, and options of fast NVMe or regular SSD storage, all for a fraction of the price compared to competitors. A comparison highlighting this is available in our previous article.
- Hidden Costs: It’s crucial to be wary of hidden charges or potential compromises in areas like customer support. Our chosen VPS provider ensures transparency and reliability.
- Maximizing Value: Believe it or not, there are tricks to get even more value from your VPS, such as leveraging currency conversion differences. Learn more about this clever hack and see the savings in action here.
b) Our Recommendation
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2. Introduction to OpenVPN
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN solution that’s lauded for its flexibility, robustness, and security features. Using OpenVPN with a VPS is a match made in tech heaven. The combination allows individuals and businesses alike to establish their own private networks without the need for costly infrastructure or complex configurations.
3. Initial Setup: Accessing Your VPS using PuTTY
Before setting up your VPN, you need to access your VPS. PuTTY is a free, open-source terminal emulator that facilitates this process for Windows users. Follow the steps below to securely connect to your VPS via SSH using PuTTY:
- Download and Install PuTTY: If you haven’t already, download PuTTY from the official website. Once downloaded, run the installer and follow the on-screen instructions.
- Launch PuTTY: After installation, search for “PuTTY” on your computer and open the application.
- Configure the Connection:
- Host Name (or IP address): Enter your_vps_ip in this field. Replace your_vps_ip with the IP address of your VPS.
- Port: Usually, SSH operates on port 22. However, if your provider uses a different port for SSH, ensure to enter that here.
- Connection Type: Ensure “SSH” is selected.
- Initiate the Connection: Click the “Open” button at the bottom of the PuTTY configuration window. If this is your first time connecting to the server from your computer, you’ll see a security alert about the server’s host key. This is normal; click “Yes” to add the key to PuTTY’s cache and proceed.
- Log In: A terminal window will pop up, prompting you for the password associated with the username you entered earlier. Type in your password (note: your keystrokes won’t be visible for security reasons) and press Enter.
- Successful Access: If all details were entered correctly, you’ll be logged into your VPS and should see the command prompt ready for your input.
4. Preparing the Environment
Before we dive into OpenVPN, it’s essential to have the required tools. On a Ubuntu or Debian system, get OpenVPN and Easy-RSA with:
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install openvpn easy-rsa
5. Automated OpenVPN Setup
While setting up OpenVPN manually offers greater control, an automated script like OpenVPN-install can make the process seamless. Here’s how to utilize it:
curl -O https://raw.githubusercontent.com/angristan/openvpn-install/master/openvpn-install.sh && chmod +x openvpn-install.sh && sudo ./openvpn-install.sh
Answer the on-screen prompts, such as your desired protocol (UDP is recommended) and the port of choice.
6. Retrieving the Configuration File using FileZilla
FileZilla is a user-friendly option that offers a graphical interface for file transfers. Here’s a detailed step-by-step guide:
a) Install FileZilla:
Windows & macOS: Visit the official FileZilla website to download and install the client version.
Linux: Use your package manager. For instance, on Ubuntu or Debian:
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install filezilla
b) Connect to your VPS via SFTP:
In the Host box at the top, type sftp://your_vps_ip (replace your_vps_ip with the IP address of your VPS).
In the Username and Password boxes, enter your VPS username and password respectively.
For the port, use 22, the default SSH port.
Click the Quickconnect button.
Note: If your VPS uses a non-standard port for SSH, adjust the port number accordingly.
c) Navigate to the .ovpn file:
Once connected, you’ll see your local files on the left and your VPS files on the right.
On the right side (Remote site), navigate to the directory where the .ovpn configuration file is stored. If you used the automated OpenVPN-install script, the file is likely in the root home directory or wherever you executed the script.
On the left side (Local site), navigate to where you want to save the .ovpn file on your local machine.
d) Transfer the .ovpn file:
Drag the .ovpn file from the right side (Remote site) and drop it on the desired location on the left side (Local site). The transfer will start, and you’ll see the progress at the bottom. Once completed, the .ovpn file will be on your local machine.
Note: If you’re connecting for the first time, FileZilla might prompt you to trust the host key of your VPS. Confirm and proceed.
7. Connecting to Your New VPN using OpenVPN Connect
Once you’ve retrieved your .ovpn configuration file, you can easily connect to your VPN using the OpenVPN Connect client. This client provides a user-friendly interface and is available for various platforms.
a) Install OpenVPN Connect:
- Windows & macOS: Download the OpenVPN Connect client from the official OpenVPN website and install it.
- iOS & Android: Search for “OpenVPN Connect” in the App Store or Google Play Store and install the app.
b) Import the .ovpn configuration file:
Launch OpenVPN Connect and click on the “File” tab.
Click the “Import” button and navigate to your .ovpn configuration file. Select it and click “Open”.
Open the OpenVPN Connect app. In the top menu, select “File” and then “Import Profile”.
Navigate to the location of your .ovpn file, select it, and click “Open”.
iOS & Android:
Launch the OpenVPN Connect app.
Tap on the green plus icon (or “File” on some versions) and navigate to the location of your .ovpn file. On many devices, you might first have to send the .ovpn file to your device, such as via email or cloud storage.
c) Connect to the VPN:
- Windows & macOS: Once the profile is imported, you’ll see it listed in the main OpenVPN Connect window. Click “Connect”.
- iOS & Android: After importing, you’ll see the profile listed. Tap on the profile and then tap “Connect”.
d) Verify Your Connection:
Once connected, OpenVPN Connect will display a notification or icon change. You can also visit any IP-checking website to ensure that your IP address matches that of your VPS.
8. Security Considerations
Setting up a VPN is only half the journey; ensuring its security is crucial. Regularly update your VPS software, utilize strong, unique passwords, and contemplate integrating a firewall. The more layers of security, the better!
Converting a VPS into a VPN with OpenVPN is a straightforward process, especially with tools designed to simplify the task. This guide offers a basic setup suitable for many users. However, the world of OpenVPN is vast, and there’s always more to learn and customize. Dive into OpenVPN’s documentation to further tailor and secure your network. Your private gateway to the internet awaits!