If you’re struggling with online privacy or you’re worried about hackers on the net, you’ll want to invest in a VPN.
This is one of the most important things you can do to maintain and bolster your privacy, but VPNs also have a range of other benefits.
What are some examples of other VPN benefits? These include better speeds and the ability to stream content so that you can bypass geographical restrictions.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what VPNs can do to enhance your online experience.
With that in mind, let’s see what VPNs can – and cannot – achieve before you sign up to one. We’ll start by looking at what VPNs are and how they actually work to protect your online activities.
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What, Exactly, Is A VPN?
One of the most important things a VPN does for you is hide your IP address. This makes it more difficult for hackers and even the government to track you online.
Basically, a VPN creates a secure connection between you and the internet. It’s sort of like a buffer, but it directs all your traffic through an encrypted, virtual tunnel.
This essentially hides your IP address from view so that it’s invisible and it also encrypts all your web traffic.
This is important if you consider that your online data has to pass through multiple servers whenever you browse the internet.
This data can include your passwords, financial information, and private messages. If it’s not encrypted, then anyone can access it and use it against you.
What are the benefits of using VPNs? We’ve already touched on the importance of being able to hide your IP address from view so that no one can monitor your online behavior, but there are other VPN benefits.
- You can view content that’s blocked. Some websites or streaming services won’t let you see certain content, such as for political, geographical, or commercial reasons. By using a VPN that hides your device’s IP address, you can hide your location so that you can access the content. When using a VPN, you’ll have to choose a server in your desired location and then it will look like your internet connection originates from a different country.
- You can bypass firewalls. If you’re in a country that heavily restricts people’s online access, such as China, you can use a VPN to bypass those firewalls. This can even help you access content if your IP has been blacklisted.
- You can get fair online deals. When shopping online, you might find that in lower-income countries you can get items for cheaper, such as when it comes to flights, as compared to higher-income regions. A VPN allows you to compare rates from around the world. And, by simply changing your IP address with the use of a VPN, you’ll be able to get better deals. So, the next time you’re booking flights or hotel accommodation, be sure to do so via a VPN!
- You can avoid bandwidth throttling. Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) restrict their users’ bandwidth, which can be frustrating. To prevent this from happening to you, a VPN will encrypt your web traffic so that your activities will be hidden from your ISP’s view.
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money on them. VPNs don’t have to be expensive to use. You can get many different pricing deals to accommodate your budget, plus many VPNs offer money-back guarantees and free trials so you can try them out to see how well they work for you before you commit to one of their pricing plans.
There are some potential drawbacks that can prevent you from making the most of VPN benefits, but there are ways around them. Let’s explore some disadvantages associated with VPNs.
- They can slow you down. When your data gets encrypted and your web traffic is routed through remote servers, this can have the effect of making your internet connection a bit slower. But, it’s worth noting that this is not a problem across the board with all VPNs. If you choose ones that are of high quality, they won’t slow you down because they have strong protocols and a powerful infrastructure in place. An example of a VPN that works fast is ExpressVPN.
- Some VPNs can put your privacy at risk. It might sound strange to say that the very service that’s supposed to be making you more private and secure online is actually putting you at risk, but this happens with free VPNs. This is why they’re best avoided. Free VPNs are known for stealing user data and selling it to third parties. They also have smaller server infrastructures, which results in slower internet speeds.
- Some VPNs can leak your browsing information. What happens if you’re surfing the web when you lose connection to your VPN? A quality VPN that’s worth getting will have what’s known as a Kill Switch. This will effectively shut down the web pages you were using so that your information isn’t exposed. This is therefore a feature to look for in premium VPNs as it’s really important, and you can find it in VPNs such as Surfshark and NordVPN.
- Some VPNs will log your information. If you’re using a VPN, the last thing you want is for the VPN company itself to be storing your data, such as your bandwidth session. This is why it’s important to choose a VPN that has a no-logs policy. This means that it won’t store any of your information.
- There’s anti-VPN software to contend with. Even though you can use a VPN to successfully bypass content restrictions online, such as on streaming services like Netflix, these services are becoming wiser at blocking VPNs. You might find that you’ll have access to the service for a while until it suddenly won’t work. Again, choosing a quality VPN is important here to deal with this problem. If you choose a strong VPN that can bypass VPN blocks, such as ExpressVPN, then you reduce the risk of your internet activity being stopped.
Do You Need A VPN At Home?
This is a question you might have if you’re considering getting a VPN but you’re not sure if it will offer enough value to you.
There are certainly worthwhile benefits associated with having a VPN to secure your internet connection.
It’s also worth remembering that you probably already have other privacy features in place without a VPN.
One of those is secure passwords, and you’re hopefully also practicing healthy, safe habits online, especially when it comes to your financial information and other sensitive data that you don’t want getting into the wrong hands.
As PCMag reports, it’s unlikely that there’s enough traffic in your home to justify someone wanting to attack your devices.
This is because hackers will want to gain as much information as they can from a variety of victims, in order to make those hacks worth it for them.
That said, you can’t only consider the above point. There are many other privacy vulnerabilities that can affect you and put your data at risk, even when you’re just surfing the net at home.
These include ISPs that sell your data, and alarmingly the U.S. Congress has allowed them to do this.
In addition, it’s a regular occurrence that data breaches from major companies make the news and your information could be included in them if you use services from those companies.
So, it’s not just your personal devices that are at risk of privacy vulnerabilities but the services you use from various websites and companies that can cause privacy problems for you.
Using a VPN at home is not just about avoiding privacy issues. VPNs can also be fun!
If, for example, you wish to stream more online content and bypass geographical restrictions that prevent you from enjoying it, they will really come in handy.
Will a VPN Protect You When Using Public Wi-Fi?
A VPN will certainly protect you when you connect to public Wi-Fi so that information such as your email and bank logins, your home address, and other sensitive data is protected.
Can a VPN Reduce Buffering?
There are many times when a VPN can help you decrease how much buffering you experience, such as if your connection experiences high ping, there’s network congestion, or your ISP is throttling user bandwidth.
Is a VPN worth it? There’s no doubt that VPNs are valuable to safeguard your online privacy. They also have many other benefits.
In this article, we’ve looked at what VPNs are and how they work, as well as what their pros and cons are so that you can find out if you really need one or not.