We’ve written a lot on this blog with regard to the usefulness of a VPN connection. To sum up, it helps you “hide” behind another IP address while keeping the connection encrypted. This is specifically useful for accessing geo-location-limited online resources like Hulu, Spotify or some online TV shows. Indeed, VPN is some “secret” weapon for overcoming those geolocation limitations – and they work pretty well.
VPN disconnects – An unpleasant surprise
However, for those experienced VPN users, they have surely noticed that, from time to time, VPN connections are cut-even though your internet connection isn’t. This can lead to the tricky situation since you may still be surfing some restricted online resources, thinking that you are protected behind a VPN- which isn’t the case anymore.
So let’s see first some reasons why those VPN connections can be cut. In fact, there can be multiple reasons to that, here are the most usual ones:
- You’ve got a bad internet connection between your computer and the VPN tunnel. This may happen if your internet connection isn’t steady enough. One rule of thumb is that, whenever possible, you chose a VPN endpoint that is close enough to your computer. For example, if you live in China, and that you have to choose between a VPN that ends in London or in Los Angeles: chances are that you’ll have a better connection by choosing the London VPN endpoint. Well, I’m oversimplifying things here, but one thing you have to remember is that what actually matters when it comes to evaluating how close VPN endpoint is by counting the number of hops between your computer and VPN endpoint. It’s not about measuring geographically the distance 🙂
- Your internet connection is overloaded: if that’s the case, then it may happen that some of your VPN packets can’t go through. This may happen under, at least, two conditions: you have some applications on your computer that are eating all the bandwidth (think of P2P applications and downloads), or your internet link is saturated (check with your internet service provider if they’re fair enough to tell you the truth :).
How to handle VPN disconnects
Now let’s see some options that will help you handle those VPN connections outages. Most serious VPN providers come with an app that has the “VPN autoconnect” feature. HideMyAss VPN and PureVPN, for example, come with that feature enabled. I’m sure there are other VPN solutions that exist out there who implement that feature too. But the purpose of this article is to show you some solution is your chosen VPN solution doesn’t come with that feature.
Now, it would be great if a “program” monitors the VPN connection for you so that it stops your connection and reconnects if your VPN connection is cut. And that’s what the opensource solution VPN Lifeguard do. VPN lifeguard is a Windows program that can help you specify some programs that should only be launched provided that a VPN connection is established. There are few caveats though to VPN lifeguard: it doesn’t support OpenVPN, and it has to be run in administrator mode.
If you are on a Linux system, you may want to try VPN Auto-connect for Linux. I haven’t yet found a similar solution for Mac, but if some of the readers know some, feel free to mention it in the comment section.
VPN disconnects can and will happen to every user. It depends on the VPN service how they are handled. The best case is provided by services that constantly monitor the VPN connection and, in case, it drops the app immediately tries to reconnect to the same server or another one. This is the VPN autoconnect feature.