The world has become an increasingly terrifying place, particularly in the online realm. While that might sound a bit exaggerated, the fact remains that between governments spying on your every move, large corporations sucking your data away for profit, and nefarious actors looking to steal and sell your data to the lowest bidder, you need to do all you can to harden your browsing habits agonist the myriad threats. One of the most accessible ways for many is to use what is known as a virtual private network (VPN). This article will discuss what this tool is and what to look for.
What Is A VPN?
A VPN is a specialized tool that creates a secure connection between two or more computers. It hides your IP address and encrypts data so that your browsing activity can’t be tracked or seen by anyone. You can also use a VPN to bypass censorship and geo-blocks so you can access content no matter where you are located in the world (think watching your favorite US Netflix shows in Vietnam etc.). There are numerous brands competing with one another on cost, benefits, and more, so it’s often best to perform your own research for more informative reviews that will give you a better overview of what to expect. Not only does a VPN offer complete safety for your data, but it also makes things easier for remote work as well. A VPN service can give you access to websites not typically available in certain regions. For example, if you’re traveling abroad but still need to access specific business tools, using a VPN makes the job a cinch.
Why Might You Need One?
There are plenty of reasons the average user might want or need a VPN, some already mentioned. But let’s take a look at the primary reasons in more detail.
Keeping Your Data Safe
The primary reason for investing in one of these tools is to keep your data safe. But this brings up the question, safe from what? There are plenty of actors looking to steal or use your data for their own purposes and including:
- Governments for censorship reasons
- ISP providers looking to see what you’re doing on their network
- Hackers attempting to steal your data
- Corporations trying to siphon your data into their servers
Moreover, using a VPN can protect your computer from vulnerabilities when using the web on a public wifi signal. It’s easier than ever for hackers to intercept your data as it travels via unprotected transmissions in the ether and use it for whatever malicious reasons they require.
As previously touched on, a VPN is ideal for unblocking content that has been geographically blocked for whatever reason (often due to copyright issues). It can be a real pain to pay for a wide range of streaming services or gaming subscriptions only to be unable to use them while abroad. A VPN essentially spoofs your IP address making the services believe you are in whatever location you decide. However, you should be aware that while fine for streaming TV or movies, VPNs might be unable to cope with streaming games due to the large amount of information required and decreased latencies.
With the rise of remote work, more and more people found themselves needing to access sensitive data from their workplace from a range of locations. Because a VPN essentially generates an “encrypted tunnel” in which all your information can travel unmolested. This is a boon to both remote workers and businesses concerned about their data.
A Guide To Finding The Right One
Finding a VPN should be a straightforward task, but like many other things in life, there are subtle nuances between the top providers and awning chasms between the paid and free options.
- Free vs. paid: While free always sounds like the best deal to go for, this isn’t the case with VPNs. Free options need to make money somewhere, so at best, they will limit your bandwidth and usage; at worse, they will inject ads everywhere and possibly steal your info. Further, paid providers are often highly affordable at only a few dollars per month but provide vastly better service.
- Reliable encryption: Its encryption technology is the alpha and omega of a quality VPN. For the average user, you should ensure that your chosen VPN uses the OpenVPN protocol, which is fast and relatable.
Finding the best VPN for your circumstances isn’t really a challenging task as long as you understand what you’re looking for. The main factor is to make sure you use a reputable company and opt for paid rather than free.