A Review of the XOnet “Plug-and-Play” Personal VPN Server

by Tracy Knauer •

What if you could bring your entire firewall-protected home network with you wherever you go? With the XOnet personal VPN router from x.o.ware, you can. Here’s a look at how it works.

The XOnet personal VPN server involves two pieces of hardware. One is the XOnet itself, which you plug into your home network using an ethernet cable. The second is the XOkey, a small USB device that plugs into your laptop and contains the encryption keys for accessing the XOnet VPN.

After installing the two hardware devices, along with some basic software that runs on your Windows or Mac PC, you can connect to your home network from anywhere through a personal VPN.

That means you can access any device on your home network from a remote site, even if you configure your network to prevent outside access to said devices. You could send jobs to local printers, for example, or access file servers that are based in your house but not directly connected to the public Internet.

XOnet

The XOnet also encrypts the connection to your home network. That not only provides protection for the traffic between your laptop and your home network, but also encryption for all of your Internet activity while you are outside of your home. That would come in handy in places like coffee shops or airports where you connect through unsecured wireless networks, on which it is easy for eavesdroppers to “sniff” your network traffic. With the XOnet, you always have access to VPN encryption in order to secure unencrypted Internet connections.

You can purchase XOnet product on Amazon for about $108 — it offers an affordable and easy way to set up a personal VPN.

What the XOnet is Not

However, it’s important to understand what the XOnet is not designed to do.

Above all, it is not a commercial VPN that hides your identity. When you browse sites from any location while connected to your personal XOnet VPN, you will appear to be connecting from your home network, not a third-party location. If you want to anonymize your location, you would need to add Tor or a similar solution to the mix — which you could do easily enough, since Tor is compatible with the XOnet, but it doesn’t come built-in.

For the same reason, the XOnet doesn’t circumvent local Internet censorship. Any sites or services that are blocked from your home Internet connection will still be blocked when you are using the XOnet. Here again, you would need to rely on other tools to access censored content if your Internet connection at home is subject to censorship.

The XOnet also doesn’t really do anything that you couldn’t set up yourself for free. You could configure your own personal VPN server on your home network using an open source platform like OpenVPN and connect to it from anywhere in order to access local resources and encrypt all of your Internet traffic. The major advantage of the XOnet in this respect is simply convenience: Since the XOnet hardware is (mostly) plug-and-play, it makes installing a personal VPN much easier than it would be if you set up your own VPN server, which requires a fair amount of technical expertise.

Lastly, some users report experiencing DNS leaks when using the XOnet. DNS leaks make it possible for eavesdroppers to determine which sites you are visiting, even if the rest of your traffic is encrypted. DNS leaks are an issue that affect many VPN services, not just the XOnet — and their cause has more to do with the operating system on your computer and your Web browser than with your VPN service — but it’s still important to be aware of this issue when using the XOnet or any other personal VPN server.

Update: XOnet says they DNS have been fixed.

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