Yes, You Do Need a VPN. Here’s How to Choose the Right One for You.
Worried about the privacy of your online data?
Having a Virtual Private Network (VPN) keeps all your online activities discreet — even invisible. But the protection it gives is only as good as the VPN you’ve chosen.
Here’s what you need to know.
First things first: How does a VPN work?
A VPN provides a new IP address for your computer or devices to connect to. In most cases, you select a country and the VPN provider assigns you an IP from that country.
Most VPN providers will encrypt your data while using the software. This means, while you’re leaping from website to website, your digital info isn’t tracked. It’s as if you’re “not really there”.
This is great; companies are constantly harvesting information to sell to advertisers. They’ll take anything they can get. But you’re probably not thrilled to have any of your information sold. That’s why a VPN can help; by disguising your ventures online, it’s much harder to track you or your interests.
Why do people use a VPN?
According to PCMag, the majority of VPN users have five main reasons for using VPNs:
1. Access better content
2. Access websites, social media, and news services
3. Maintain anonymity online
4. Access files, websites, and services at work
5. Talk with friends and family abroad.
Let’s break these down further.
1 & 2: Access better content, websites, and news services. Plenty of online resources are gated by region. If you’re not in the country, you can’t access it. But with a VPN, you can choose a server in specific countries, which gives you a new IP from that country. As such, you can peruse region-locked information without a hitch. If you live in a country where social media access is restricted or streaming sites have limited content, VPNs can be a savior.
3. Anonymity online. As we discussed earlier, using a VPN disguises your online presence. No one knows who you are or what you’re doing. Well, except for maybe the VPN provider themselves. Still, if you’re worried about the prying eyes of advertisers and companies, a VPN is your home away from home.
4. Access to files, websites, and services at work. You may want to maintain privacy will looking at certain websites at work. VPNs come in handy here, once again for their “master of disguise” benefits. The same can be said when trying to access files and services while on the job.
5. Talk with friends and family overseas. Depending on where you or your family is, social media access may be restricted. As such, using the IP address from a country where it’s not restricted makes communication much easier.
Encryption is another reason people choose a VPN. Encryption keeps your data safe from prying eyes.
Do you need one?
If any of the above reasons piqued your interest, then yes. Without a doubt, you need a VPN.
However… not all VPN providers are created equally. There can be risks involved.
For instance, although VPNs often encrypt and hide your data, the VPN provider may see your activities. The provider is the middleman between you and the servers you can connect to. And, if they wanted, they could sell your information for their own gains. Free VPN providers are notoriously known for selling user data to third parties.
Some known to be “iffy” include Hola (a “get access to all of Netflix, free!” VPN) and Betternet (has over 10 tracking libraries, which is huge).
Many providers state on their website that they don’t use your information. Truthfully? They could be lying. But it is better than the companies who don’t make such a claim anywhere on your site.
Another risk of VPNs includes legalities.
Is a VPN legal to use?
In most countries, VPNs are completely legal to purchase and use. But what you do while using a VPN can still be illegal. Like torrenting content. Or streaming region-locked content, which is iffy legally.
But if you’re in Iraq, Russia, or China, even using a VPN is illegal.
Choosing the right VPN for you
If you were to search “popular VPNs”, you’d get thousands of hits. But they’re not all equal in the services they provide. Instead of picking what sounds best, keep a few things in mind.
In most cases, a VPN company offers more security for a higher cost. For instance, there are free VPN options. However, those companies can’t promise the security, data encryption, and privacy you’re looking for. The company may even sell your info while you use their VPN. In most cases of price, a VPN worth its salt cost between $4.99 — $15.00 a month.
People who share the same IP address while using the same VPN service provider may have more security. This is because it’s harder to find a specific user if multiple people are using the same IP address. Think of it as an added layer of protection.
Log keeping. Some providers keep records (or logs) of user data. You lose a layer of anonymity because the company could sell your data. It makes you less secure online.
Device support. If you’re going to use your VPN on more than just your computer and phone, you’ll need a provider who offers multiple device installations.
The number of servers. When you have limited servers, they’re more likely to get congested. This will slow down the internet speed, making it laggy or virtually unusable. It’s better to choose a VPN provider who offers many servers.
Usability. You’ll appreciate a VPN that’s easy to install, turn on and off, and connect to servers. If the interface looks confusing, that particular VPN may not be for you.
You can find the perfect VPN for you
Now that you know what it is, why it’s useful, and the risks involved. If I can advise anything more, I’d say to take your time. Research. Read reviews. Then commit.
Kiesha Frue is a technology copywriter with more than 5 years experience writing blog content, landing pages, and eBooks. Contact her if need a professional technology writer at kiesha[dot]frue[at]gmail[dot]com.