VPN technology has evolved drastically over the years. In response to consumer requirements, VPNs have become much more powerful. Although the core concept of VPN has hardly changed over the years, providers have introduced useful innovations to add more value to their service, like split-tunneling.
Although VPN providers that support this feature usually brand it by different names, networking experts like to call it “split-tunneling”.
In this article, I will explain the concept behind split tunneling, its advantages, disadvantages, and recommend you 5 best VPN for split tunneling.
I shortlisted the best split tunneling VPNs by keeping in mind the following criteria:
- Offers the best split tunneling feature
- A good enough server coverage
- P2P torrenting support
- Best Security Protocols
- Versatile app support
- 24/7 customer support
5 Best VPNs for Split Tunneling in 2021
Split tunneling is a feature provided by very few VPN services. That said, after hours of research and testing, I’ve listed the 5 best VPNs just for you.
So without further ado, here are the 5 best VPNs for Split tunneling in 2021
1. ExpressVPN – Best VPN for Split Tunneling
ExpressVPN is the best VPN for split tunneling. This VPN also comes with a great split-tunneling feature with flexible configurations. These feature works are only, however, available on Windows and Mac apps of the VPN.
There are three different split-tunneling settings that users can configure ExpressVPN to follow:
- All apps use the VPN: This configuration is enabled by default and it basically treats all your traffic equally. Use this setting if you want all of your apps to use the VPN.
- Do not allow selected apps to use the VPN: This setting allows you to choose apps that you DON’T want to be using the VPN.
- Only allow selected apps to use the VPN: This setting reverses the logic used by the above configuration. Here, you have to choose the apps that you DO want to be secured with ExpressVPN.
For details about the split-tunneling feature, you can check out the tutorial page on the official website.
Other than this, ExpressVPN has excellent features for boosting the security and privacy of users like a kill switch. For encryption, it uses the AES-256 standard and supports modern tunneling protocols including OpenVPN, and the latest Lightway protocol.
The 3000+ servers in 94 locations get the job done perfectly well when you want to unblock any censored websites from anywhere in the world.
ExpressVPN is available for $6.67/mo with a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can try it risk-free for 30 days and if you like the service, it is offering a 3 months free subscription on its 12-monthly plan.
Read our complete ExpressVPN review for more details.
2. Surfshark – Budget-friendly Split Tunneling VPN
Surfshark has pretty much every nifty feature bundle in a single package that any other provider has to offer. This includes split-tunneling, which is branded by the company as WhiteLister.
As the name implies, the WhiteLister allows you to select all apps that should use the VPNs. All the apps left unchecked in the WhiteLister function will be left untouched by Surfshark, allowing these to communicate to the Internet directly.
In addition, the 3200+ servers in 65 countries is more than capable of bypassing any censored websites with ease. The subscription rate of $2.49/mo only cements its position as one of the most desirable VPNs out there.
With a single Surfshark subscription, you can connect as many devices as you want, as it supports unlimited simultaneous connections. There are apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and more.
To find out more about this service, explore our Surfshark review.
3. NordVPN – Secure VPN for Split Tunneling
NordVPN is probably the most secure VPN on this list. It offers a split-tunneling feature in its Android and Windows apps only.
Speaking of this feature, NordVPN’s split-tunneling works on the exclusion principle. When you enable this feature, the apps you select will be routed directly through your ISP while the apps left unchecked will stay on the VPN tunnel. This feature works flawlessly with all compatible platforms.
NordVPN offers a server network of 5200+ servers in 60 countries. NordVPN apps are available for multiple platforms, and you can simultaneously connect up to six devices.
Apart from this, NordVPN boasts decent server speeds, 256-bit encryption, and other security features like the kill switch. NordVPN also offers a Double VPN technology that gives you additional security by routing the traffic through multiple VPN servers.
Best of all, NordVPN is based in the jurisdiction of Panama, which is considered safe according to our in-depth Five Eyes guide.
Best of all, NordVPN only costs $3.30/mo (VPN Awareness Month - 2 year plan at 72% off + 3 months FREE) and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee on all premium plans.
To find out more about this service, explore our NordVPN review.
4. CyberGhost – User-friendly VPN for Split Tunneling
CyberGhost is a user-friendly VPN that supports split-tunneling functionality. The feature is available under the Smart Rules section and is called ‘Exceptions.’
Like most other VPNs, CyberGhost split-tunneling works by creating a list of apps that you want to secure. All the apps excluded from this list will remain outside the VPN tunnel. You can even exclude websites by adding their URL in the exception menu.
Along with the well-functioning split-tunneling feature, CyberGhost offers various security protocols such as OpenVPN (TCP / UDP), IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec. CyberGhost also uses AES-256 cipher, with SHA384 hash authentication, and RSA-4096 key encryption.
CyberGhost offers 7000+ servers in 90 countries and its apps have a user-friendly interface that even a beginner can use. There is also a section with dedicated servers for streaming, torrenting, gaming, and NoSpy servers for security.
It is compatible with all major devices, including Windows, Android, iOS, macOS, browsers (Chrome, Firefox), and more. It also supports 7 multi-logins so you can secure multiple devices at the same time.
5. Private Internet Access – Popular VPN with Split Tunneling
PIA is a popular VPN that packs an excellent split tunneling feature. PIA’s split tunneling feature is built directly into its apps and allows users to select which apps should be using the VPN tunnel and which should directly access the internet.
You can find the split tunneling feature under the Network tab in Settings. One of the most distinguishing features of PIA is its large server network. PIA has more than 35500+ servers in 78 countries.
Aside from split tunneling, PIA offers powerful features like kill switch and IP/DNS leak protection. You can choose from AES 128-bit and AES 256-bit encryption, although 256-bit is recommended as it offers better security. It also offers a feature called MACE, that blocks ads and malware.
PIA is headquartered in the USA (a major member of the 5/9/14 Eyes alliance). However, the provider offers a strict no-logs policy and is safe to use. PIA does not log any identifiable user data, so you are safe with this provider.
If we talk about pricing, PIA is quite affordable costing only $2.08/mo . PIA also gives its users the freedom to secure 10 devices simultaneously and also offers a full 30-days refund policy.
To find out more about this service, explore our PIA review.
What is Split Tunneling?
Although covering all your traffic with the VPN’s solid encryption and tunneling protocols gives you maximum safety, there are tasks that don’t really require the extra security of VPNs. For instance, if WhatsApp isn’t blocked in your country, then you don’t need to use a VPN because WhatsApp already uses end-to-end encryption.
But if you are doing online shopping or accessing a website prohibited in your country, then you might want to switch on your VPN. What split-tunneling does is it creates a virtual split in your traffic, so that only a selected fraction of your data moves through the VPN. The rest moves over the regular Internet, without hopping through the VPN network along the way.
There are essentially two types of split tunneling. One is Inverse Split tunneling and the other one is IP-based routing. Here’s how each split tunneling type works:
1. Inverse Split tunneling:
Inverse Split tunneling or Reverse Split tunneling basically routes your entire network traffic through the VPN tunnel by default and allows users to pick and choose which apps or websites they want to exclude from the VPN tunnel.
2. IP-based routing:
IP-based routing, on the other hand, allows network administrators to customize routing tables to function as a Split tunneling feature. Network administrators can customize data packets based on their size and other matrices.
As amazing as this feature sounds, Split tunneling is only offered by premium VPN services.
Benefits of VPN split-tunneling
Split tunneling is a super-smart feature with tons of use cases. Let’s take a look at three benefits of this awesome feature below:
- Split tunneling offers users the benefit of deploying their VPN in parallel to the regular ISP connection. This is extremely convenient for users that only need to use a VPN for selected tasks and apps, but not for others.
- What’s more, VPN networks have slower speeds than those provided by the ISPs. It is therefore counterproductive to use VPN for all your apps, even when you don’t really need extra encryption and security.
- Split tunneling also makes bandwidth management easier. If you have bandwidth caps, then split-tunneling allows you to divide your online traffic to reserve your VPN bandwidth to only those apps where security is paramount or where access is only possible via offshore servers.
Split tunneling is, therefore, an extremely valuable tool that can significantly streamline the user experience.
Best VPN for Split Tunneling FAQs
Let’s look at some frequently asked questions.
Generally yes, however, some privacy experts believe that unprotected tunnels could allow hackers or malicious entities to attack vulnerable network entry points. Although Split tunneling features offered by premium VPN providers offer a perfect balance between speed and encryption, it’s totally up to the end-user to carefully decide which apps, websites or network traffic stays protected or unprotected.
As a general piece of advice, the Split tunneling feature should be used on trusted networks only and not on unsecured public networks.
No, we don’t recommend using a free VPN for split tunelling because:
- Many services masquerading as “free VPNs” collect data behind your back and even install adware
- They seldom offer additional features other than basic VPN functionality
If you randomly choose a VPN service with the “free” tag attached to it, chances are that it won’t have split tunneling.
But even if you do manage to find a VPN with split-tunneling support, there’s still the nagging doubt regarding the legitimacy of the VPN that you’ll have to live to worry about.
Therefore, it is a much safer bet to avoid free VPN services and stick with premium options with the capability to split-tunnel your traffic based on your preferences.
The VPN industry has offered a few innovations over the years and split-tunneling is one of the most convenient features being offered nowadays.
The ability to create a split in your online traffic – one path routing through the VPN, while the other reaching the ISP directly – has massive practical utility, and users should take full advantage of this feature to streamline their VPN usage.