Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are extremely popular with those wishing to protect their privacy.
In the process of developing DotVPN, we at DevTeam.Space noticed how VPN apps are in growing demand all over the world. The reason for this is that they are one of the foremost ways to protect your privacy.
Not surprisingly, many entrepreneurs are tapping into the lucrative market for VPN apps. If you are such an entrepreneur, this guide on how to build a VPN like DOT VPN is exactly what you need.
An introduction to VPNs
Let‘s first understand what a VPN is. VPNs are software that let you connect your computing device to another computer on the Internet.
You consider this other computer as a server, and you can browse the Internet using the Internet connection of that computer. Read more about VPNs in “What Is a VPN, and Why would I need one?”.
The original purpose of creating VPN software was to connect business networks securely over the Internet. In the present days, there are several other popular uses of VPNs, e.g.:
- Users can circumvent geographic restrictions on websites by using a VPN.
- Internet users often consume streaming media like Netflix and Hulu using VPN.
- Using a VPN can protect you from snooping when you use WiFi hotspots that aren‘t trusted.
- VPNs allow you to gain a measure of anonymity since you can hide your location when browsing the Internet.
How do VPNs work?
You can connect various devices to a VPN, e.g., your PC, smartphone, or tablet. When you connect a device to a VPN, the device behaves as though it‘s on the same network as your VPN.
The transmission of the network traffic to the VPN happens over a secured connection. Since your computer acts like it‘s on the same network as the VPN, you can access content on the Internet like you are accessing a Local Area Network (LAN). This allows you to access geo-blocked websites.
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VPNs use data encryption, moreover, they use tunneling protocols to secure the connection. Even if you use a public WiFi, your connection remains secure. You can read more about this in “Virtual Private Network (VPN)”.
The global market for VPN:
The global market for VPN is growing noticeably, and the following market research reports illustrate that:
- In the US, the VPN market was worth $17 billion in 2017, and it‘s expected to grow at a CAGR of 15% between 2017-2024, according to a Global Market Insights report.
- The market for SSL VPN, which is a subset of the overall VPN market, is also growing significantly. This market was valued at $3.077 billion in 2016, and it will likely reach $5.328 million by 2023. Read this Allied Market Research report for more details.
- From $20.6 billion in 2018, the global VPN market is expected to grow to $36 billion in 2022. Read “The VPN market is set to grow from $20 Billion to $36 Billion by 2022” for more information.
An example of a VPN software
Let‘s review DotVPN, which is an example of a VPN software. It‘s an easy-to-use VPN software, and you can use it on your PC, smartphone, and tablet. The following quick facts about DotVPN are noteworthy:
- It has a free version, moreover, there is a premium version.
- DotVPN offers all standard features of a VPN software in its premium version, e.g., encryption, privacy protection, etc.
- It offers impressive speed, moreover, its UI is intuitive.
- DotVPN has extensions for popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.
- It also has mobile apps for Android and iOS.
- The premium version offers impressive features like tracker and analytics blocking, integrated firewall, protection from Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks, zero-logging, etc. You can read more about these features in the DotVPN features page.
You can also explore other VPN software, e.g.:
Building a VPN software like DotVPN
I will now explain the steps to build a VPN software, and these are as follows:
1. Project scope definition
I recommend that you work with the following project scope:
- Build a VPN software with features like DotVPN.
- Offer a Chrome extension, moreover, offer an Android and an iOS app.
You also need a website to market the product and sell it online.
2. Choose an appropriate development methodology
While you can launch a “Minimum Viable Product” (MVP) with the above-mentioned scope, you can enhance the app with more features in the future. Agile is the right methodology for projects like this since it supports iterative development. Read more about Agile in “Waterfall vs Agile: which methodology is right for your project”.
3. Formulate an effective development approach
I recommend that you use the following development approach:
- Use a managed cloud services platform since this will enable you to focus on development, instead of IT infrastructure management.
- Use WordPress, the popular open-course content management system (CMS) to develop the website.
- Implement the core features using application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs).
- Enhance the test coverage using a test automation aid.
I have earlier explained the importance of this approach in “What is the best development approach to guarantee the success of your app?”.
4. Form a project team
You need the following roles in the project team:
- A project manager (PM);
- An IT architect;
- Business analysts;
- UI designers;
- Android developers;
- iOS developers;
- DevOps engineers.
I recommend that you induct a field expert development team for this project since such a team will work cohesively. Read “Freelance app development team vs. field expert software development teams” to learn more about this.
5. Sign-up with a managed cloud services provider
I recommend that you sign-up with AWS, which is a leading managed cloud services provider. This will eliminate the need for you to manage the IT infrastructure, therefore, you can focus on development.
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) offering from AWS, and I recommend that you use it. Additionally, you should use AWS Amplify, which is the Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) offering from AWS. Amplify offers several advantages, e.g.:
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- It handles the cloud infrastructure, persistent storage, etc., therefore, you don‘t need to develop and manage the mobile backend.
- Amplify makes it easy to implement features like user management, push notifications, security, etc.
- You can easily integrate 3rd party APIs when you use Amplify, moreover, you can scale your mobile app easily.
6. Find the required WordPress theme and plugins
You need a website to market your VPN solution, sell it online, provide documentation and support information to your customers, etc. I recommend that your UI design team use WordPress to build this website and use AWS for hosting it.
You can use Humbleshop, a responsive WordPress theme suitable for selling digital products online. It‘s easy to customize the site when you use this theme, and you will get its documentation when you buy it.
I also recommend that you use WooCommerce, the popular platform to implement eCommerce features in your WordPress site. Its WordPress plugin has excellent documentation, therefore, you can easily configure it.
7. Find an API solution to build your proposed VPN
Using an API solution will expedite the process to build the proposed VPN app. I recommend PureVPN for this since it offers a comprehensive API solution.
You can access this API on the PureVPN API webpage. This API solution is open-source, therefore, your development team can study the code to understand it better. It offers key features like security, optimization, etc.
You need to register with PureVPN to use its API, and its website offers comprehensive documentation. The documentation covers all key aspects like user authorization, error handling, managing updates, etc.
8. Sign-up with a payment gateway API solution provider
You need to provide a payment gateway integration in your app so that your users can easily buy the premium version of your VPN solution. I recommend Braintree, which is from PayPal.
You should sign-up for its Braintree Direct solution, which supports web, Android, and iOS. Braintree Direct offers all key features you would expect from a payment gateway solution, e.g.:
- Global reach;
- Support for popular payment methods;
- The ease of integration.
9. Get a bulk SMS API solution to implement the push notifications feature
You would want to increase the user engagement, therefore, the mobile app needs the push notification feature. It‘s easier to implement this if you have a bulk SMS API solution, therefore, I recommend that you sign up with Twilio.
You should use the Programmable SMS solution from Twilio, and you can read “Messaging services and Copilot” to learn how to integrate its APIs with your app. Visit the Twilio pricing page to view its pricing plans.
10. Find a test automation aid to improve your test coverage
You need to ensure that your mobile app works with all available devices, therefore, you need to test it against a wide range of mobile devices. This requires a test automation aid that provides mobile devices on the cloud for testing.
11. Use a robust PM tool
I recommend that you use the time-tested “Scrum” technique to manage this Agile project. You can read “How to build a Scrum development team?” to learn more about this technique, which works as follows:
- The PM builds small, cross-functional teams where developers and testers work together. Such teams are known as “Scrum teams”, and the PM acts as the “Scrum master”.
- A “product owner” provides the business requirements in a document named “Product Backlog”, and the team estimates them.
- The team slots these requirements in various iterations, which are called “Sprints”.
- The PM conducts “Daily stand-up meetings” to collect the project status and resolve issues.
- A scrum team conducts “Sprint review meetings” where it demonstrates the app to the business stakeholders, who approve the sprint provided the app works as desired.
- The team also conducts “Sprint retrospective meetings” after each sprint, which is a lessons-learned exercise.
You need a robust tool to manage these activities, therefore, I recommend that you use Trello.
12. Design the website and the mobile app UI
At this point, your UI design team should design the website using the WordPress theme documentation. This team also needs to design a user-friendly UI for the mobile app, therefore, I recommend that you use the following resources:
- “Human Interface Guidelines” to design the iOS app UI;
- “Design | Create intuitive and beautiful products with Material Design” for designing the Android app UI.
13. Develop the proposed Chrome extension
You now need to develop the proposed Chrome extension, which involves the following:
- The first step is to configure the necessary files like the “manifest.json” file;
- You now need to test using the “chrome://extensions” in your browser.
- Introduce the necessary styling elements.
- Publish the extension to the Chrome web store.
Read “How to create and publish a Chrome extension in 20 minutes” for more information.
14. Code, test, and publish the Android app
Developing your VPN Android app involves the following steps:
- Code the app using Java, and use Android Studio, the popular “Integrated Development Environment” (IDE) for coding Android apps.
- Integrate the SDKs/APIs for PureVPN, Braintree Direct, and Twilio with your app.
- Use Espresso and the pCloudy device lab on the cloud to test the app.
- Publish the app to Google Play, and read “Publish your app” for guidance.
15. iOS app development
You need to take the following steps to create the iOS VPN app:
- Use Objective-C, a well-known programming language to code the app, and use the Xcode
- You need to integrate the APIs/SDKs for Twilio, Braintree, and PureVPN with your app.
- Test the app using XCTest and pCloudy device lab.
- Read “Submit your apps to the App Store” for guidance, and publish your app to the Apple App Store.
Planning to launch a VPN app?
You will certainly find the platforms, frameworks, tools, and guides helpful, however, developing a VPN app is a complex project. You should engage a competent software development company for such projects, and our guide “How to find the best software development company?” can help you to select such a partner.
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I love all things blockchain and related to app development. What time I have when I am not busy writing for the DevTeam.Space blog of over 350 articles, I spend sitting around wondering what the future will look like 50 years from now.
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