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There's are straight forward approaches to connecting securely to remote network, i.e. via software like Hamachi

So my question is, when is it recommended/necessary to have dedicated hardware to facilitate a Virtual Private Network (VPN) for the home?

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Hamachi and services like it can not always do host<->host packet sends, so you may find setting up your own software VPN using OpenVPN or similar to reduce latency on the VPN in such cases. Also remeber that a VPN running via an external provider is only as secure and trusted as the external provider.

You might switch to a hardware VPN:

  1. to reduce latency further by offloading the encryption calculations to hardware. Though with modern CPUs offloading the encryption to hardware will save little CPU time unless you have a lot of VPN traffic, even with the fastest CPU you will see a few more ms latency with OpenVPN than a hardware device (especially with user-land VPNs like OpenVPN as there are context switches between kernel mode and user mode on top of the actual encryption work)
  2. if the amount of traffic you are seeing chews up CPU on the machine running the VPN's server end more than you would like (which will worsen the latency mentioned in point 1)
  3. if you want something that may be easier to setup (though this will vary greatly depending on the quality of the VPN box and your experience to setup a manual software arrangement)
  4. if you don't want one of your big fat servers (that are doing other work too) doing the job, so you don't have to worry about losing the VPN if it needs to be down for a service, and don't want to dedicate a full server to the job because that takes more power and generates more heat and noise.
  5. the hardware solution makes integrating mtwo-factor authentication easier (though a commercial software setup may do this for you too).
  6. some combination of the above.

For all my needs OpenVPN has been perfectly sufficient, but my needs in this area are not at all strenuous.

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