In this post I will be talking about using a VPN on your Surface Pro (Pro, Pro 2, or Pro 3) or Surface 3 tablet.
I’ll be covering this technology because, in the past, both Windows and Internet Explorer had some serious issues with security and, as a result, were often compromised. Microsoft has made some impressive steps in making both Windows and IE more secure (though it’s not perfect) but the reputation for Microsoft software being inherently insecure has persisted.
And so, even computer novices are often concerned about security when using a Windows based computer like the Surface Pro and the question “is my Surface secure?” often seems to come up when someone starts using a Surface for the first time.
The short answer is: “For the most part, YES. However, nothing is perfect so you still have to be smart. Load anti-virus software, keep the firewall on, don’t click on suspicious attachments or web popups, and for goodness sake keep your Surface patches up to date.”
However, even if you do all of that, it is still possible for someone to “listen in” on your network traffic on unknown and public WiFi networks. If someone pulls that off, they could do all kinds of nefarious things, like intercept passwords or read your private email.
The good news is that you can use a VPN to help secure your network traffic no matter whose network you’re using.
VPN for Surface Pro: What is a VPN?
In case you don’t know, a VPN (or Virtual Private Network) is a program you install on your Surface that sets up an encrypted connection (often referred to as a “tunnel”) between your computer and the VPN server.
After the tunnel is setup, all of your network traffic is encrypted and sent to the VPN server. From there, your internet traffic “hops off” and accesses the internet normally (except, to web servers you access, it looks like it is coming from the VPN servers.)
When you’re receiving data, the process works in reverse with the VPN server encrypting the data and sending it through the tunnel to your Surface where it is unencrypted and read normally at the destination.
There is another side benefit to using a VPN besides security. It will often allow you to access blocked sites from behind a corporate firewall. For example, if your company blocks Facebook, you might be able to use a VPN connection to “tunnel” around the corporate firewall and play Farmville until your heart’s content – kidding of course.
I’m not recommending you do it, but I thought you might like to know you could. 😉
VPN for Surface Pro: VyprVPN
Now that I’ve covered what a VPN is and why you might want one. I’m going to give you a recommendation for my favorite VPN – VyprVPN.
VyprVPN is my favorite VPN for Surface Pro tablets because of the following 4 reasons:
- I’ve used their product and like it. I find it easy to use and it works well.
- The folks over at BestVPN.com have rated it their #2 VPN (with it being only 1 percentage point from top spot).
- I’ve found it has a good set of options and works well on the Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3, both of which I have installed it on.
- They offer a free 3 day trial so you can see if you like it.
- And, it’s relatively inexpensive coming in as low as $6.67USD/month for the service.
In addition, VyprVPN offers some really useful features such as:
- Multiple Encryption Protocols: You can select different encryption protocols which will let you trade a bit of security for a bit of speed and vice versa.
- Automatic connection when using untrusted networks: You can configure VyprVPN to automatically encrypt everything any time you connect to a new WiFi network. That way, you don’t have to worry about someone at your local coffee shop snooping in on your internet traffic if you forget to turn on the VPN manually.
- Dedicated DNS Servers: VyprVPN users get access to what they call “Zero Knowledge” DNS servers. By doing so, you get even more privacy and are less likely to have your traffic filtered by your ISP.
- U.S.A based IP addresses – so even if you’re traveling abroad, you can access U.S-only pages, like HBO, Netflix, and some of the sports channels.
If you decide to give it a shot, installing VyprVPN is relatively straight forward. The only real gotcha is that you have to be using a Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, or Surface Pro 3 and have administrative rights.
Unfortunately, you can’t install VyprVPN on a Surface RT or Surface 2 – this is because Windows RT does not allow any software installs outside of the Windows Apps Store.
You can get signed up for your free trial to see if you like it by going to this link with your web browser: VyprVPN Trial Signup – you can also get 50% off the first month there.
After you have your trial account, you can go to this link to download the software: VyprVPN Installation package
Be sure to avoid procrastination when you start your trial as you have to provide your payment information to start the trial and if you don’t cancel it before the 3 days are up, you will get charged you for a subscription.
VPN for Surface Pro: Using VyprVPN
Using VyprVPN is pretty easy. Basically, once it’s installed, just hit the big Connect button when you want to use the VPN and Disconnect when you want to stop using it.
It doesn’t get much more simple than that. If you look at the above screenshots, you’ll notice that the traffic graph goes from red to blue to indicate that your data is being sent over the VPN connection.If you close the main application window, it still runs in your system tray. From there you can reopen the application window or just use it within the system tray.
The VyprVPN icon looks like the one circled in the picture to the right. Just tap or click on it to get to the options menu.
From there, you can do pretty much anything you can do from the full interface, except access the options window.
Here you can set several options, like setting it to connect on start up, configuring it to auto connect when you are on a unknown WiFi networks, and even pick the protocol it uses to encrypt your network traffic.
If you want to make sure that your connection is secure, especially if you move around public networks a lot, then you will want to use a VPN. The VyprVPN product is solid, easy to use, and provides extra privacy. I use it all the time and I recommend it to others. Incidentally, in case you care, VyprVPN also works on Mac, Android, Linux and iOS devices.
Hopefully, you now have a good understanding of what a VPN is and how it can help you keep your data safe.
Please feel free to drop a comment with any thoughts or questions you might have.
Tim Rolston is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director).
He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.