If you lived in a crime-prone neighbourhood, would you invest in a home security system, or would you rely solely on the faith that no one will ever break into your house? Consider a VPN as a home security system for the digital realm. Without it, you may not necessarily get hacked, but it is safer to have the option of keeping yourself protected.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a method of connection that offers safety and privacy on public and private networks. When your device is connected to a VPN, there is an added layer of security that prevents your data from being compromised by potential cyber-threats.
Originally, VPN was created to help businesses safeguard vulnerable data. It also played a role in assisting employees access business networks from remote locations. However, now, Virtual Private Networks are employed commonly for business and personal use.
Now, a VPN can be used to hide your IP address, change your IP address, mask your location, encrypt data transfers and allows you to access websites that are blocked within your region.
A Virtual Private Network is able to offer you security in file transfers, due to its ability to encrypt data. When you wish to send sensitive data to someone, your device would send the information to a VPN server. The VPN’s server would encrypt your data, before forwarding it through the internet. Once the data transmits, the VPN server would decrypt the data, so it could be received and opened by the recipient. Additionally, as VPN servers are located at different geographical locations, they can allow access to the webpages of that region.
Currently, VPNs have several uses. It can protect your privacy and further allow you to access different websites that you may not be able to use, as a result of geographical disadvantage. You can learn more about VPNs with the ensuing guide.
How can a VPN protect your privacy?
If you have ever googled about a product that you would potentially want to buy, you might have noticed a recurring theme in the type of advertisements you see online, on Facebook, Instagram and so on. This is because your online behaviour is constantly- and legally, being observed. It is safe to say, that when you are online, you are not completely alone.
When you visit any website on the internet, cookies are installed on your browser (mobile, laptop or desktop), so that the appropriate advertisements could be sent to you, based on your browser history. Additionally, if you make commands to your Google Assistant, Cortana or Alexa, you must understand that each and every command that you have ever made, is recorded and stored.
Similarly, if your phone’s location is on, Google also keeps track of all the locations you have visited. Hence, the internet knows more about your life than the people who are closest to you.
However, if you are not comfortable with this breach of privacy, VPNs can offer you the opportunity to gain anonymity.
Using a good Virtual Private Network makes it impractical to track your location. When you connect to a VPN, you can allow yourself to be liberated from being tracked. This is because when your location is distinct from your IP, online advertisers would not have sufficient information to build a profile for your online behaviour. For instance, if you live in London, you can connect to a VPN and set your location to a completely different country, such as Germany. This way, when advertisers create a profile for your online behaviour, the information gathered would be incorrect. Hence, connecting to a VPN can allow you to connect to the internet without the fear of being watched.
Essentially, a VPN connection can further provide you with anonymity over the internet. If you visit a website, no information about your location, gender, age or searches would be tracked. This way, there would be no record of who you are online.
Additionally, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can also offer privacy from a business’s perspective. For instance, if your team is working on a project that deals with sensitive data, you can connect to the VPN to make sure that your file transfers, made over the internet, are safe and protected. As the VPN encrypts the data, you have the luxury of knowing that even if your files get hacked, they wouldn’t be easily decoded. Hence, a VPN connection can guarantee your personal or business data safety passage over the internet.
What a VPN can’t do?
While Virtual Private Networks (VPN) offers several advantages, they are not a perfect system or free from all limitations. Before you invest in a VPN service, it is imperative to learn about the limitations they have.
Free VPNs may sell your Information
Virtual Private Networks are created for security purposes, however, if you opt for unreliable service, you may end up compromising your own security. If you use a VPN without a payment plan, there is a very strong chance that your data may be at risk. In fact, research shows that around 85% of free Virtual Private Networks have obtained permission to jeopardize your privacy, whereas, around 35% of free VPNs disclose your traffic, and approximately 18% of these programs are embedded with a virus that could harm your device. Considering these numbers, it crucial to choose VPN service that is deemed reliable.
VPNs cannot protect you from encountering a Virus
A VPN can offer you security and privacy during your stay on the internet. However, it cannot guarantee protection from a virus. For instance, if you are connected to the VPN and choose to visit an unsafe website, the VPN connection would not protect you from malware that could put your device at risk.
Some VPNs may not allow access to Bank websites
For security purposes, many banks have upgraded their cybersecurity to prevent the access of users relying on VPNs. However, there are certain VPN companies that can easily move past the blockade implemented by the bank websites. Hence, if you subscribe to an advanced VPN service provider, you would not have to worry about this issue.
Provide you with internet access without an internet source
A VPN can only offer its services if your device is connected to the internet. If for some reason, your Wi-Fi, or data is unable to connect, a VPN service would not grant you access to the internet.
Some VPNs may not connect to streaming services
If you connect to a VPN, you have the opportunity to watch certain shows that do not have the permission or streaming rights to be viewed in your country. For instance, if you want to watch the classic ‘Mean Girls’ on Netflix, you would not be able to watch the movie in the UK. However, if you use a reliable VPN and switch your location to the US, you would be able to watch the movie easily.
With that said, there are certain VPNs that are detected by Netflix, thus preventing you from streaming movies and shows, which are not available in your region. Hence, choosing a top-grade VPN service can help you navigate through this issue.
What can VPN be used for and why do you need one?
A VPN offers countless advantages. From hiding your location to providing access to websites restricted within your geographic location, a VPN can function as a reliable service in the digital world. You can use a VPN connection to perform a number of tasks, such as the following.
Hide IP address and change geo-locations
Using a Virtual Private Network can mask your IP address, while you are online. This could be useful if you want to avoid advertisements based on your search history. Additionally, you further gain the advantage of being able to access websites that are restricted in your geographical zone. For instance, if you are visiting China and wish to access your Facebook profile, you must use a VPN connection to get access to Facebook as China has geo-restriction on accessing Facebook.
A VPN can provide you with security online. As a result of data encryption, you can feel safe while carrying out business or personal transactions online. For instance, if you need to send confidential files to a business partner living abroad, you can use a VPN to make sure that all the data is encrypted and decoded into a form that makes it unreadable.
Avoiding censorship in China
The Great Firewall of China, or the Golden Shield, is a barrier preventing people in China from accessing certain websites on the internet. This censorship in China prevents users from accessing foreign websites such as Twitter. If you are visiting the country, you can use a VPN service to stay connected over the internet.
Economical flight tickets
Airline websites usually track user behaviours by installing cookies on the web browsers. Due to the cookies installed, when you search for ticket prices, the rates gradually increase. Hence, it is always recommended to search for tickets in the incognito mode of the browser. However, if you use a VPN, you can move past the cookies and buy the most affordable ticket by changing your location. This is because flight prices vary in different locations. You can conduct a personal analysis to find the most affordable flight, by altering locations using a VPN. For example, if you are researching for a flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK with Norwegian airlines. Check ticket prices by changing your location to UK, USA and Norway to see which location gives you the cheapest fare.
Stream Netflix from different locations
Netflix and other streaming services present you with different options of TV shows and movies. This is due to the fact that licence agreements for certain programmes are reserved for specific countries. However, if you use a reliable VPN, you can stream shows that may not be available in your country. For example, if you want to watch Ru Paul’s Drag Race on Netflix, while you are visiting the US, you can switch on the VPN and set the location to UK. This way, you would be able to stream your favourite shows, even on vacations.
How to choose a VPN service?
Due to its increasing popularity, there are a number of different VPN services available for users, worldwide. However, in order to select a service provider that works best for your individual needs, you would need to take the following key features of the provider into consideration.
The number of servers and countries available
Different VPNs offer a varying number of servers and locations to the users. Before subscribing to a service, you would need to see the details of the services it provides. With a large number of VPN servers, you can enjoy a better speed. Additionally, with more servers, a VPN can bypass blacklisting. With a variety of servers, you would be able to access a larger number of geo-restricted domains.
The number of devices it can connect to
Another factor that you need to consider is the number of devices that you can connect to at once. This would be based on your own individual needs. For example, if you are visiting a different country, and require a VPN connection for your phone, laptop and tablet, you would need to go for a VPN provider that allows you to connect to three devices, at the same time. However, if you require a VPN connection for personal use, such as streaming Netflix, you can choose a cheaper alternative that only offers connection to one device, at a time.
Compatibility with mobile devices
If you investing in a Virtual Private Network, it is imperative to select an option that is compatible with your phone and other hand-held devices. Most VPNs are made to be compatible with Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS devices, however, not all VPNs offer a similar service. Therefore, take your devices into account, before making a purchase.
Considering the number of risks involves in using a free VPN, it is essential to choose a plan that affordable price packages. Typically, VPN service providers charge in accordance with the features of the VPN, along with the length of the subscription. You can select a service that you think is affordable for you.
Inclusion of a money-back guarantee
Most of the credible VPN service providers offer users a money-back guarantee. If you select a service offering this plan, you can avoid throwing money at a service that displeases you. Hence, if you decide to switch to another service provider, you can save a lot of money. Additionally, when you are reading the money-back guarantee clause, be sure that you understand the free trial period or specified time frame within which refund would be provided.
What are some of the best VPN providers?
There are several service providers that have entered the game. However, some of the original VPNs have updated their features and managed to stay on top. Here are some of the best VPN service providers that you could choose.
Nord VPN has also gained a favourable reputation in the tech community. It includes more than 5,700 servers and features 80 locations, around the globe. This service can run on a multitude of platforms, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Linux.
With Nord VPN, you can easily stream geo-restricted shows on Netflix. In addition to this, it comprises of 2048-bit encryption, thus making it safe to use. Nord VPN is further inclusive of privacy-enhancing elements such as a DNS leak protection, kill switch, and the option to pay with cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin. Nord VPN can be connected to six devices, at the same time.
Express VPN has been considered one of the top players in the game. The service offers excellent customer support, along with a quick speed. Express VPN is available in 94 countries and features a total of 160 locations. Additionally, it extremely versatile, as it is compatible with Mac, Windows, Linux, but also iOS and Android, and even some models of BlackBerry.
Express VPN further operates on custom firmware and VPN browser extensions. Although it is a bit pricey, it does offer a 30 days money-back guarantee. You can also connect the network to five devices, at the same time.
Surf Shark VPN
Surf Shark is a relatively cheaper, yet an equally effective candidate. It offers fast speed and has no limitations concerning the number of devices you connect to, at the same time. Hence, you can use it on your laptop, phone, tablets and other devices simultaneously. Its design is further engineered to be compatible with Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, along with featuring a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.
Currently, Surf Shark VPN comprises of more than 1,700 servers and include more than 100 server locations. Therefore, if you are looking for an affordable option, Surf Shark is the way to go!
A VPN can allow you to venture online with an added layer of protection. The service guarantees safe travels on the internet while allowing you to access regions that are restricted in your country. Therefore, you can select a VPN service for business or personal reasons. Make sure to choose a service plan that offers you the maximum advantage, in terms of features, price and protection!