A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a group of computers and or networks working together that allow users to use a Private Network to communicate over a public network, usually the internet. This includes not only the WWW like websites but also webmail and FTP transmissions among others. It is created by first establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated connections. Using a set of protocols like tunneling, and traffic encryption, users can transmit data in complete anonymity.
Why Would You Use a VPN
The Number one reason is privacy. A VPN uses an encrypted tunnel to protect transmissions including email, instant messaging, your browsing history and even VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) from or to anyone. If someone tries to intercept your identity, you are protected. Even if an individual or the government were to intercept the message you would still remain unknown because your IP address is masked.
Another reason for using VPN is to mask your presence to prevent an ISP from “Throttling Down” your bandwidth when accessing streaming videos or using programs like BitTorrent or any type of torrent client. In fact, some ISPs will reduce your bandwidth as soon as they detect any torrent client even if you are downloading a legal copy of software.
The next reason for using VPN is in situations typical for students or corporate workers wishing to keep their data private. They might be required to use a VPN, usually provided to them by their company or school. This protects any transmissions and keeps the user and institution safe. This is particularly useful when they are working in foreign countries that might not approve of the content.
A big plus of VPN is when you are using a public Wi-Fi such as those found in coffee shops, hospitals, and airports, to name a few. Users would benefit from the use of VPN to keep not only their data but private information hidden from prying eyes in very public situations. Personally, I would never access any social site from a public Wi-Fi without a VPN.
If you live in a country that does not provide access to some public television, legal software or other media content, using a VPN makes your position on the internet invisible so you are not restricted or censored and therefore cannot be blocked by the service or censoring government.
How a VPN Really Works
As mentioned earlier, using a VPN creates a secure, encrypted tunnel that hides your actual IP address and location. Not knowing these two bits of information makes it virtually impossible for your ISP, hacker, malicious software or even something as benign as a marketing company from monitoring your online activities. In addition, most paid VPN software companies never keep logs so there is no possible way to determine online history. The graphic below is from PureVPN but actually all VPN traffic functions the same. Providers offer different services, speed, and the number of servers used.
There are several VPN providers to choose and it is not hard to get a list from your favorite search engine. There are a ton of sites that offer the 10 or 5 best VPN providers and depending on who is producing the site the top 10 may change. It is important to remember that ALL VPN providers will slow your service slightly. This is because the number and distance of the relays your transmission has to travel through is considerably more than a non VPN connection. We are only talking a second or two but it is noticeable if you do not have a decent bandwidth through your provider.
Normally, I do not single out a right or wrong service and unless I tried every one of them I don’t think I could do it honestly.
However, I have used a few of them and I am personally happy with PureVPN. I am mentioning this because right now PureVPN is offering a 65% discount on a one-year subscription. For only $4.16 a month they will provide service on up to 5 multiple logins with one account. That is basically an unlimited number of devices as long as only 5 are logged in at one time. They claim to have the fastest VPN service and while I don’t know if that is true, it is the fastest I have used.
On their site today I noticed that they have a new feature called Virtual Router for Window applications. This will allow you to convert your Windows-based desktop or laptop into a virtual router and you may use it to connect up to 10 devices.
Should you use a VPN? My answer is a resounding yes. With the increasing number of malicious entities monitoring internet traffic there is no good reason not to. In addition, some ISPs are seriously reducing bandwidth if they monitor video streaming or other large bandwidth usage like those associated with Torrent programs. There are some good free VPN providers that can get you started. I thought of listing a chart showing the pros and cons of using a VPN but the pros so outnumbered the cons the chart was lopsided. Consider everything I mentioned in the article as a pro. The cons are the price, and depending on the VPN provider you use, getting used to it. When I installed my first VPN, I immediately received a message from Google that my email password was stolen from someone in the Netherlands. In reality they were just receiving my request through my VPN relay that happened to reside in the Netherlands.
Finally, in my previous article, I mentioned the use of Tor as a browser for keeping your online activities hidden. When coupled with VPN you may consider yourself a ghost online.
- Further reading: How To Use TOR to Surf Anonymously