Tailscale: A Closer Look at the Mesh VPN Solution (2024)

Tailscale is a VPN service that aims to provide a secure way to connect devices and networks using the WireGuard protocol. In this review, we'll take a closer look at Tailscale's features, setup process, and security measures to help you decide if it's the right fit for you.

What is Tailscale?

Tailscale is a VPN service that creates a secure, private network called a "tailnet" to connect your devices across different locations and networks. It leverages the power of the WireGuard protocol to establish encrypted tunnels between devices, aiming to keep your data confidential and protected from unauthorized access.

How Does Tailscale Work?

Tailscale acts as a control plane, managing your devices' public keys and enabling them to find each other, regardless of their actual IP addresses. Once devices connect and authenticate using their private keys, the data session takes place outside the Tailscale network, ensuring end-to-end encryption and privacy.

Tailscale's Approach to Remote Access

Tailscale positions itself as a mesh VPN that simplifies remote access and network management. It uses the WireGuard protocol, which is known for its speed and security, and offers an interface that is designed to be user-friendly.

Pros and Cons

Tailscale has some notable strengths, such as:

  • Relatively easy setup process
  • Support for multiple platforms (Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android)
  • Free plan for personal use
  • Access control and device management features

However, there are also some potential drawbacks to consider:

  • Limited advanced features compared to some enterprise-level VPN solutions
  • Requires a Tailscale account and authentication for all devices, which may not be ideal for some organizations

Setup Process

Tailscale's setup process involves signing up for an account, downloading the app on your devices, and logging in. Tailscale then configures the necessary settings, and your devices can communicate securely.

Getting started with Tailscale is relatively straightforward:

  1. Sign up for a Tailscale account on their website.
  2. Download and install the Tailscale app on your devices (available for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android).
  3. Log in to the Tailscale app using your account credentials.
  4. Tailscale will automatically configure the necessary settings, and your devices will be ready to communicate securely within minutes.

Services and Features

Tailscale offers a range of services and features, including:

  • Remote access to devices and resources
  • File sharing and collaboration
  • Access to self-hosted applications and services
  • Integration with platforms like GitHub and Synology NAS
  • Subnet routers for connecting entire networks
  • Exit nodes for internet access
  • DNS management
  • Access control lists (ACLs) for permissions management

Remote Access and File Sharing

One of the primary use cases for Tailscale is secure remote access to devices and resources. With Tailscale, you can easily access your self-hosted applications, files, and services from anywhere, without the need for complex port forwarding or firewall configurations.

Tailscale also enables seamless file sharing and collaboration between devices on your tailnet. You can securely share files and work together with your team, regardless of their location.

Integration and Compatibility

Tailscale integrates with popular platforms and services, such as GitHub and Synology NAS, making it easier to incorporate into your existing workflow. It also supports a wide range of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, and Android, ensuring compatibility with your devices.

Subnet Routers and Exit Nodes

Tailscale allows you to create subnet routers, which enable you to connect entire networks to your tailnet. This is particularly useful for organizations with multiple office locations or remote teams.

Additionally, Tailscale's exit node feature allows you to designate any device in your tailnet as an exit node, providing a secure VPN for mobile users and protecting their connections on untrusted networks.

DNS Management and Access Control

Tailscale offers DNS management capabilities, allowing you to set up custom domain resolution within your tailnet. This feature, called MagicDNS, enables intuitive access to devices using their names instead of IP addresses.

Access control lists (ACLs) are another essential feature of Tailscale. ACLs allow you to manage permissions at a granular level, down to IP addresses and ports. This gives you fine-grained control over who can access specific resources on your tailnet.

Security Measures

Tailscale uses the WireGuard protocol for encryption and implements a zero-trust security model, requiring authentication for every device and user before granting access to resources.

WireGuard Protocol

WireGuard is a modern, fast, and secure VPN protocol that forms the foundation of Tailscale's security. It uses state-of-the-art cryptography to ensure the confidentiality and integrity of data transmitted between devices.

Compared to other VPN protocols, WireGuard offers several benefits:

  • Simplicity: WireGuard's codebase is significantly smaller than other VPN protocols, making it easier to audit and less prone to vulnerabilities.
  • Speed: WireGuard is designed to be fast and efficient, offering better performance than many other VPN protocols.
  • Security: WireGuard uses modern cryptographic primitives and has undergone extensive security audits, ensuring a high level of security.

Zero-Trust Security Model

Tailscale implements a zero-trust security model, which means that every device and user must authenticate before being granted access to resources on the tailnet. This approach reduces the risk of unauthorized access and helps maintain the security of your network.

Encryption and Privacy

All data transmitted between devices on a Tailscale network is encrypted end-to-end using the WireGuard protocol. This encryption ensures that your data remains confidential and protected from unauthorized access, even if an attacker manages to intercept the traffic.

Tailscale also takes privacy seriously. The company does not have access to the content of your data sessions, as they take place outside the Tailscale network once devices have authenticated and connected.

Is Tailscale the Right Choice?

While Tailscale may be a viable option for some small businesses and remote teams, it's important to carefully consider your organization's specific needs and requirements. Tailscale's simplicity and ease of use come with some limitations in terms of advanced features and customization compared to enterprise-level VPN solutions.

Use Cases

Tailscale can be a good fit for various use cases, such as:

  • Small businesses and startups looking for a simple, easy-to-manage VPN solution
  • Remote teams that need secure access to shared resources and collaboration tools
  • Individuals who want to securely access their personal devices and services from anywhere
  • Organizations that prioritize ease of use and quick deployment over advanced features and customization


However, Tailscale may not be the best choice for every organization. Some potential limitations include:

  • Limited advanced features compared to enterprise-level VPN solutions
  • Dependence on Tailscale's infrastructure and services
  • Potential concerns about trusting a third-party with the management of your network's control plane
  • Lack of extensive customization options for organizations with complex network requirements

Alternatives to Tailscale

When evaluating VPN solutions, it's worth considering alternatives to Tailscale, such as Netgate's pfSense Plus and TNSR software.

pfSense Plus software is a firewall, router, and VPN solution that offers advanced security features and extensive customization options, including support of OpenVPN, IPsec, and Wireguard VPN protocols. It is available on Netgate devices, as well as on AWS and Azure platforms

TNSR software is a high-performance VPN solution designed for enterprise-level scalability and reliability. Like pfSense Plus software, it also supports various VPN protocols, including IPsec and Wireguard. TNSR software is available on Netgate devices and can be deployed on AWS and Azure.

Both pfSense Plus and TNSR software provide robust VPN functionality and may be better suited for organizations with more complex requirements or a need for greater control and customization.

Additionally, the Tailscale package now available for pfSense, Users can easily install and configure Tailscale directly from the pfSense software package manager. Watch the video below to learn more.

Comparison with Other VPN Solutions

When comparing Tailscale to other VPN solutions, consider factors such as:

  • Ease of use and setup
  • Supported platforms and compatibility
  • Security features and protocols
  • Performance and speed
  • Customization and advanced features
  • Pricing and licensing models
  • Customer support and documentation

It's essential to thoroughly evaluate your options and conduct a comprehensive comparison based on your organization's specific needs and priorities.


In this review, we've taken a closer look at Tailscale, a mesh VPN solution that aims to simplify secure networking for small businesses and remote teams. While Tailscale offers ease of use, fast connections, and a range of features, it's essential to consider your organization's specific needs and compare it with other VPN solutions before making a decision.

Alternatives like pfSense and TNSR from Netgate may be better suited for organizations with more complex requirements or a need for greater control and customization. Ultimately, the choice of a VPN solution depends on factors such as security, performance, compatibility, and cost.

By carefully evaluating your options and considering the insights provided in this review, you can make an informed decision about whether Tailscale or another VPN solution is the right fit for your organization.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Tailscale free to use?

Tailscale offers a generous free plan for personal use, but businesses may need to subscribe to a paid plan for additional features and support.

Can You Run A NAS In A Virtual Machine?

Yes, you can run a NAS (Network Attached Storage) in a virtual machine, although performance may be affected compared to running it on dedicated hardware.

Is Tailscale open-source?

No, Tailscale itself is not open-source, but it is built on the open-source WireGuard protocol.

Is It Time For You to Set Up Tailscale ACLs?

The decision to set up Tailscale ACLs (Access Control Lists) depends on your organization's specific security requirements and network structure. ACLs can provide granular control over device and user permissions.

How do I set up Tailscale on Ubuntu?

To set up Tailscale on Ubuntu, download the appropriate package from the Tailscale website, install it, and log in using your Tailscale account credentials.

How to configure Tailscale on a Linux server?

Configuring Tailscale on a Linux server involves installing the Tailscale package, logging in with your account, and optionally setting up additional features like subnet routers or exit nodes.

How does Tailscale work with existing firewalls?

Tailscale can work alongside existing firewalls, as it establishes encrypted tunnels between devices using the WireGuard protocol. However, you may need to configure your firewall rules to allow Tailscale traffic.

Tailscale: A Closer Look at the Mesh VPN Solution (2024)
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