What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that protects your privacy and sensitive data by creating an encrypted tunnel and masking your IP address. VPNs let you use public Wi-Fi safely, hide your browsing activity, access restricted websites, etc.
A Video Explanation of VPN
Using a VPN is the simplest method to secure your internet traffic and keep your online identity under wraps. After all, your communications are passed through an unbreakable tunnel that no one can look into, be it cybercriminals, governments, or internet service providers.
Benefits of Using a VPN
Switches Your Virtual Location
Your IP address tells the internet who you are and where you “live” in the world. With a VPN, you can change your IP address to any country within seconds, allowing you to browse as if you were physically there and unlock geo-restricted streaming content.
Improves Your Security
When you connect to the internet via your ISP, the data you transmit is unencrypted and can be viewed by anyone. Using a VPN is your best bet to stay protected as all your information is encrypted and can’t be deciphered by any prying eyes.
Protects Your Privacy
Governments, advertisers, ISPs, and websites track everything you do online and use that information as they see fit without your knowledge. A VPN masks your actual identity by assigning you a shared IP address, so your internet activities can’t be linked back to you.
Why Should I Use a VPN?
If you care about your privacy, using a VPN whenever you access the internet is a great idea. A VPN app or client runs in your device’s background, meaning it won’t get in the way of your online activities. Here are some scenarios in which a VPN is particularly useful:
Download P2P Files Anonymously
Conceal your true IP address from prying eyes and download and upload P2P files with greater anonymity.
Use Public Wi-Fi Privately
Stay protected on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks in parks, cafes, and restaurants with top-of-the-line encryption.
Better Gaming Experience
Unlock games early, beat price discrimination, play on different servers, and resolve high ping and lag issues.
Get Around Censorship
Evade your government’s censorship efforts and access blocked websites and services in a matter of seconds.
Travel Safely & For Less
Score the best deals on flight tickets, car rentals, hotels, and secure your internet connection while abroad.
Bypass ISP Throttling
Shield your online activities from your ISP and experience throttle-free browsing, streaming, p2p, and gaming.
Avoid DDoS Attacks
Stop DDoSers from getting their hands on your real IP address and ultimately rendering your network unusable.
Limitless & Secure Crypto Trading
Unlock unavailable crypto exchanges and give your transactions the best protection with IP masking and encryption.
How Does a VPN Work?
Knowing how a VPN works can help you understand it better. Here’s what happens behind the scenes when you hit the Connect button. The VPN app (also known as a VPN client) on your device is authenticated with a VPN server in any country of your choice. All your traffic passes through a VPN tunnel and is encrypted using protocols, making it impossible for third parties like your ISP to read it. The VPN server gives you another IP address (thereby masking your geo-location), decrypts your traffic, and forwards it to the intended destination. Once it receives the data you requested from a web server, it’s encrypted and sent back to you. The VPN client decrypts the incoming traffic for your device.
The VPN app (also known as a VPN client) on your device is authenticated with a VPN server in any country of your choice.
All your traffic passes through a tunnel where it’s encrypted using VPN protocols, making it impossible for third parties like your ISP to read it.
A VPN server is a type of server (either physical or virtual) configured to host and deliver VPN services.
What Are VPN Protocols?
VPN protocols are the processes by which a device connects to a VPN server. Some are ideal for security, some are suitable for speed, and some work best in certain situations.
One of the most commonly used VPN protocols, OpenVPN provides a good balance between security and speed.
Like IKEv2, L2TP doesn’t offer any security by itself and is used in conjunction with IPSec for authentication and encryption.
PPTP is the fastest VPN protocol, making it perfect for activities like streaming. However, it’s outdated and not recommended for the security-conscious.
IKEv2 is a rather new VPN protocol that’s secure, fast, and compatible with all major mobile operating systems.
IPSec is often paired with L2TP and IKEv2, but can be used as a standalone VPN protocol on its own as well.
Wireguard is the latest addition in the world of VPN protocols. It’s open-source, speedy, and uses state-of-the-art cryptography.
Different Types of VPN
There are four main types of VPN available, including:
These are VPNs that you can use free of cost, but they come with a long list of limitations and downsides like limited server locations and collection of user data (and thus are not secure).
Personal VPNs offer their services to individuals for a fee. You get all the tools you need for a secure, private, and restriction-free online experience.
A business VPN, also called a corporate VPN, is commonly used by remote employees to securely access their company’s internet.
Some tech geeks create their own VPN. However, a DIY VPN lacks must-have features like shared IP addresses and servers locations in multiple countries.
How to Set Up a VPN
Setting up a VPN is not rocket science, really. All you have to do is follow these steps:
What Can I Use a VPN On?
Computers & Smartphones
Whether you have an Android phone, Windows PC, iPhone or a Mac computer, installing an app is all it takes to create a VPN connection. Just go to the respective app store to download it, log in with your account credentials, connect to the server of your choosing by hitting a button, and you are good to go
Are There Any Disadvantages to a VPN?
Like any technology, a VPN has certain limitations as well. Some of these include:
- Due to the encryption process, your internet speed might take a hit when connected to a VPN.
- The anti-VPN measures used by streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are becoming stronger, which means you may have to connect to several servers before you can access the streaming platforms of your choosing.
- If you’re a newbie, coming across terminology such as protocols and servers could confuse you.
- Contrary to popular belief, a VPN alone doesn’t guarantee complete anonymity on the internet.
Some VPN Alternatives
Are there any alternatives to VPNs? Yes. There are other tools that can be used, but they have certain disadvantages too. These include:
A proxy is a server that acts as a middleman between your device and the internet. However, most of them are slow and don’t provide any privacy or security.
Smart DNS is a service that relies on using your Domain Name Server (DNS) to unblock geo-restricted content. Like proxies, though, your data is unencrypted.
Tor is a free network of nodes or servers that randomly move traffic between each other to hide the origin of your data. It offers excellent anonymity, but it lags behind in the speed department.
What Else Does a VPN Offer?
Not all VPNs have premium add-ons available, but some do for things like:
Enjoy instant access to IP-restricted networks, smooth (plus safe) online banking, and more via dedicated IP.
Play your favorite games, access your desktop remotely, and speed up your downloads by using port forwarding.
Stay protected against unwanted DDoS attacks, no matter what their size and intensity.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do I Choose a VPN?
There are literally hundreds of VPNs available, which makes choosing the right one for you a complicated endeavor. To make sure you don’t subscribe to the wrong one, go through our in-depth guide to choosing a VPN service.
Can I Be Tracked If I Use a VPN?
VPNs change your IP address and encrypt your traffic, meaning it becomes challenging for ISPs and other third-parties to link your online activity back to you. Using one, you can minimize your risk of being tracked on the internet, but it also comes down to your digital literacy such as how much you share on social media or whether or not you can identify phishing links.
Why Should I Pay for a VPN?
You should pay for a VPN simply because free VPNs can’t match the service and features of a paid provider. Your experience is likely to be subpar, courtesy of over-crowded servers, poor or no security, irritating ads, and limited bandwidth.
Are VPNs Legal?
VPNs are used by companies and individuals in many countries across the world, which wouldn’t be the case if they were illegal. However, there are some countries that have outright banned VPNs, like China and Russia. It’s also important to mention that using a VPN to indulge in criminal activities will land you in legal trouble.
Will a VPN Slow Down My Internet?
A VPN can slow down your internet connection, but you’ll barely notice a difference with the right provider. In fact, a VPN might speed up your internet if your ISP throttles your traffic. Nevertheless, if your connection has slowed, take a look at these solutions to increase VPN speed.
Am I Completely Anonymous with a VPN?
NO. There’s no such thing as complete online anonymity. That said, a VPN does improve your security and privacy, making it difficult for anybody to decipher your online activities. A reliable VPN provider will only keep minimal information about you like your email address and not store logs of any kind.
Are VPNs Safe?
Absolutely. Using a VPN is entirely safe, provided that you’re using a trusted provider. The same can’t be said for free VPN apps, however, as quite a few of them have been found to contain malware. This is another reason why you should steer clear of these services.