Hidden amongst all the flashy new features in El Capitan is a rather elegant and user-friendly tweak that quietly makes your life a whole lot simpler. That tweak is the virtual private network (VPN) functionality built right into the operating system. Let’s take a closer look at how to create a VPN on an El Capitan and what features it offers.
Why Create A VPN?
There are numerous benefits to creating a VPN, and it is far from being a gimmick. The best part is that you get to enjoy all these perks without having to run around with a myriad of extra software or use complex configurations. Think of all the following advantages:
- Safe and Private
- Saves You Money
- Reduces Internet Throttling
- Enables Anonymity
- More Freedom to Travel
All in all, a VPN gives you total control over your personal data and ensures that you are always protected. It is extremely useful for all users, especially individuals who spend a lot of time online. Moreover, if you run a business, you can ensure that all your employees are aware of the importance of security and maintain a safe and private workplace environment.
Steps to Create a VPN on El Capitan
The absolute simplest way to create a VPN on an El Capitan machine is to use the native OS functionality of Settings.
When you click on the cog in the upper-right corner of the account page, you will see the option to create a VPN. Simply follow the on-screen instructions and you will be able to create a VPN connection in no time.
To configure the VPN, you will need to enter a name for the connection (this will be your VPN’s identifier), a protocol (usually OpenVPN or PPTP), a username and a password. You can leave the VPN’s server address as it is by default (it will automatically connect you to the nearest server).
As for the encryption protocol, you can choose from AES-128, 3DES or 512-bit keys.
Once you have configured the VPN, connect to it and you will be prompted to enter a name for the server (this will be the remote computer whose network you are joining). Don’t worry, this part is automatic and will not pose any security risk. Your VPN will then establish a secure connection between your computer and the remote server and you will be able to use the internet as you normally would.
If you want even more control over your VPN, you can download and install an OpenVPN client on your Mac. This will give you full control over the settings of the VPN connection and let you enjoy all the benefits that come with it.
Features of a VPN connection on El Capitan
With a VPN connected, you will notice a few additional options on the system preferences’ network settings tab.
You can enable or disable data roaming, a feature that will let you use the internet on your iPhone / iPad / Mac when traveling internationally. This will be especially useful for those who travel a lot for work or study and have to make frequent international phone calls. Just remember that when you are traveling outside of North America, your service may be slow because of data roaming restrictions imposed by your ISP.
You can also prevent your device from going to sleep when you lock the screen by going to the Settings app and choosing ‘Synchronize Your Devices’. This feature will help save you both power and bandwidth when you are using multiple devices (e.g., a laptop and a mobile phone) concurrently. Just remember that this feature is not without its quirks. For example, when you are using Airplane Mode on your iPhone, your laptop will still be able to connect to the internet and sync your data.
Another neat feature that comes with a VPN is the ability to assign different IP addresses to each of your devices. This way, every time your IP address changes, you can reset all of your connected devices automatically. The Settings app provides you with a one-stop-shop for managing your IP addresses. You can learn more here (Mac).
There are numerous other features that come with a VPN connection. You can read about them all here (the link below points to a document conforming to Apple’s formatting guidelines), however, these features are both advanced and user-friendly, which speaks to their elegance and ease of use. If you are new to Macs, you might want to start with the basics (like VPN) and then graduate to more advanced features (like Keychain) as your comfort level increases.
Like every piece of software and hardware, a VPN has its security considerations.
First off, ensure that the VPN software and server you are using are up to date. Furthermore, make sure that your network and internet connections are secure. You can do this by using a reputable VPN provider and keeping your network settings private (this is especially important if you are sharing a VPN connection with a laptop or mobile device).
Also, ensure that you are deleting all of your VPN logs from your device and cloud storage plans as soon as you are logged off. Otherwise, your network and device could be compromised.
Overall, VPNs are a secure and reliable way to secure your personal data while traveling or using public WiFi networks. For more information, you can refer back to our detailed coverage of VPNs (links below).
How Do I Use A VPN?
The best way to use a VPN is to connect to it directly from Safari before you visit a website that you know is not on the approved list of networks (e.g., a government-censored website). So when you visit a website that you know is not on the approved list of networks, Safari will ask you if you want to connect to a VPN, which you can do by simply pressing the additional button to the right of the question mark in the upper-right corner.
After you connect to the VPN, Safari will display a lock symbol next to the URL of the website you are trying to visit. At this point, you can either click the lock symbol to unlock the page (to access the website) or you can press the esc key to exit Safari.
You can also set Safari to automatically connect to a VPN connection whenever you visit a website that is not on the approved list of networks. Just go to the Safari Preferences and click the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Under the ‘Security’ tab, you will see a VPN additional button. Click this button and you will see a list of websites that can be loaded with Safari (links below). Simply choose the websites you want to whitelist, and Safari will connect to the VPN whenever it goes to one of the sites you have whitelisted.