Just getting started with VPNs? Maybe you are a complete novice and don’t quite understand why (or even if) you need one. The first thing to know is that a VPN is a great way to stay safe and secure while online. It hides your IP and guarantees privacy.
Still not sure how it all works or what you need to do to get started? In this guide, we’ll explore the basics and give you some tips about choosing the right services and getting started using a VPN for a much better Internet experience.
So, Why Do I Need A VPN?
A VPN is a good option for everyone because it is the one way to ensure you have total privacy when online. This is something we should all be guaranteed, but we are, unfortunately not. A VPN, though, is what steps up to deliver that privacy by hiding your IP address.
What does that do? It prevents any site from knowing exactly where you have arrived from. For example, let’s say you are in an area where access to social media is blocked (it could be your workplace, or it could be a country with restrictive policies around the Internet). Either way, the VPN lets you use the site by choosing a server where access is allowed.
Additionally, the nature of a VPN makes it impossible for hackers to gain access to you because they just cannot tell who you are thanks to the cloaked IP. Without a way to trace back to your starting point, they cannot hack any part of the connection.
Tip #1: How do VPNs Work?
How is this magic done? It is actually a very interesting and important thing to know about before selecting a VPN.
Whenever you go online and connect to the Internet, it requires a series of steps. It begins with your Internet Service Provider or ISP. They connect you, via their network, to the different websites. This all occurs on the vast number of servers around the globe, but it starts with the servers belonging to your ISP. This allows them to see what you are doing and where you go online.
Using a VPN, though, lets you use the private servers of your VPN. You are no longer counting on the ISP to take you to your destinations. Not only that, but a VPN also uses encryption with its connections, making you nearly invisible on the Internet. It is limited to the VPNs servers knowing where you are going and what you are doing.
The ISP is, essentially out of the picture. It cannot see what you are doing or even where you are located because everything has been routed through the VPN.
What does this mean for the ISP? It means the ISP is unable to see or know what you are doing since everything is routed through the VPN server. The only thing the ISP will know is that you are going through a VPN service. When you connect, it will appear as though you are connecting from the location of that server.
Therefore, if you want to watch the Netflix American catalog and you are in another country, you would want to have access to a VPN server located in the United States. When you log onto your Netflix account, you will then have access to the shows available in the US because it will appear as though you are logging on from the US.
Many people have tablets and smartphones that they use to connect to the web. In fact, people are using this option to get online as much or more than the computers they have at home. However, when you connect through a public Wi-Fi hotspot, it can be dangerous. Hackers and thieves often target these locations. However, when you have a VPN service, your connection is encrypted. This means that even if there is a hacker who can access the data, they would not be able to read it. Even when you are on Wi-Fi, you are safe.
Tip #3: Know How to Choose the Right VPN
When you are choosing a VPN, you cannot simply choose the first service you find. You need to do your homework. You need to be sure the service can provide you with as much privacy as possible when you are online. This means you want to choose a company that does not record any logs. In addition, you want to work with a company that will allow the types of activities that you plan to do on the web, such as streaming or torrenting. Understand the policies of the companies before you make your choice.
Even though buying a longer subscription is often the cheapest option, you might first want to choose a shorter option to give the service a “test drive”. This will let you know if it really is the right option for you or not.
Tip #4: Connect to the Server Closest to Your Destination
Another good tip to remember is that you should always choose a server to connect to that is as close as possible to the sites or services you want to visit for the best results. With all the encryption and decryption, VPNs will slow down your Internet. If you want to have faster results, especially if you want to stream video, you want to choose servers close to the destination.
For example, if you are located in Asia and you want to connect to Netflix in the US, you would likely want to find a VPN that had servers somewhere on the West Coast of the US. Fortunately, most of the VPN services have multiple options when it comes to the servers you can choose.
Since you want the fastest speeds possible, try to find out the speed performance of the various VPNs. Many of the companies are transparent with their speeds, and you can often use reviews that can give you an indication as to how fast the service will be.
Free vs. Paid VPN
Whether you’re concerned about privacy or just want to download free movies online, you most likely have been tempted to try out a free VPN service. But in the age of Wikileaks and government surveillance, can you truly be sure that your favorite free VPN service can be trusted with your information?
When evaluating a VPN service, free or otherwise, there are several different factors you should look for, such as: Speed, Support, and (most importantly) Privacy. Here’s why:
Aside from how the program itself is written, one of the things that affects a VPN’s speed is the number of servers its using and how many people are using it.
When using a premium VPN (i.e. one that you paid for), you can reasonably assume that the service of your choice will have plenty of servers to handle the traffic generated by its users. But with a free VPN service, that’s not always the case.
You have to remember, operating multiple servers in multiple countries costs money. If you’re not paying for your VPN service, then that means the people running it are most likely on a limited budget; which typically translates to fewer servers for you, and other users, to choose from.
Couple that limitation with the fact that you’re going to be dealing with more users than what premium VPN service handles (because who doesn’t like free?), and you’ve got quite the technological bottle neck. To put it another way: fewer servers + more users = a slower experience for everyone.
An often-overlooked aspect of the VPN experience is customer support. When everything is working great, you hardly notice it. But when things aren’t going quite like they should, that’s when you start to understand its value.
With a premium VPN, you can (usually) rest assured that the service of your choice has a dedicated support staff ready and able to help any issues you may encounter. After all, it’s one of the reasons why you pay your monthly subscription fee.
But with a free VPN, constant support is not always guaranteed. As with our previous example, most free VPN services simply don’t have the funds necessary to keep a dedicated team of support staff to answer your technical questions. You might have one or two individuals, but with thousands of users you can’t be sure that you will receive the attention you require.
This isn’t true for EVERY free VPN, just like not every premium VPN service has a quality support team, but on average you will find that free VPNs offer lower quality customer support than one you would pay for.
One of the biggest reasons people turn to VPNs is for increased privacy. In a word where everything we do it tracked and monitored, privacy is a previous commodity; which is why you need to take a hard and serious look before you start using a free VPN.
Simply put, if you are worried about your online privacy and security, do not use a free VPN.
The first reason why is that many free VPN services use a method for implementing VPN connections known as Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). Without getting bogged down in the technical details, PPTP is essentially an extremely outdated and obsolete method; which means it’s incredibly easy to hack. If you’re worried about your privacy, that’s a big no-no.
But even more troubling is the fact that many free VPN services will actually keep logs of your activity and SELL your data to advertisers. Some free VPN services, like Hola, will even use your bandwidth for other users. Not only does this slow down your computer but if that other user does something illegal online, you may be held responsible.
Remember: if you are not paying for the product, you most likely ARE the product.
In the end, while using free VPN services sounds like a quick and easy way to get around spending a few dollars, you wind up paying a bigger price in the end. You’re much better off paying for a VPN service that you know and trust.
Why use VPN?
Firewalls, virus protection, and anti-malware solutions are designed to keep your computer safe, but they aren’t much help for the information you are sending and receiving on the internet. For that level of protection and online privacy, you need a Virtual Private Network (VPN). Not only will a VPN will help to keep your information private, it will protect your online identity, and allow you access to a free and open internet.
Keep Your Information Private
The main benefit of a VPN is data encryption. As long as you are connected to a VPN, data that flows through the connection is encrypted. Even on public networks like you’d find at the local coffee house or library. Personal information that you want to keep private stays private. And even if hackers were to trick you into using an “evil twin” network, they still wouldn’t be able to bypass the encryption.
Circumvent Internet Censorship
Let’s face it. The internet isn’t as free as we’d like it to be. There is plenty of censorship to go around. Using a VPN will help you to bypass any restrictions placed on your browsing, streaming, and downloading activities. You’ll be able to get the content that you want without Big Brother looking over your shoulder at every keystroke that you make.
A VPN also helps you shake off any internet tracking, from advertisers to social media sites that love to gather every bit of information they can dig up on you and sell to third parties.
Escape Restrictive Governments
But in the end, ISPs are just serving at the whim of restrictive governments. The most restrictive governments, like China, Iran, and North Korea, will not allow their internet users to access to sites that the rest of the world takes for granted. By using a VPN, internet users can skirt around barriers as strong as the Great Firewall of China for access to an unrestricted internet.