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VPN uses include protecting sensitive information and providing secure internet browsing while using the internet connection. This way, third parties won’t be able to steal personal data or track your online activities. It might sound complicated, but in reality, this makes network connections safe and easier.
Whether it’s for personal or commercial use, there are many benefits when you use a VPN. This guide will help you learn all about the Virtual Private Network—from its origin, different VPN uses, and disadvantages, to common variations. Now let us start at where it all begins.
- 1 Origin
- 2 When should you use a VPN?
- 3 Disadvantages when you use a VPN
- 4 Types of VPNs
- 5 Summary Conclusion
- 6 Related Questions
A Virtual Private Network, acronym VPN, is software that protects your online information by hiding your device’s IP address. VPN uses a tactic called encryption or changing data into a coded format to make it obscured. By this, you can surf online anonymously. The software also uses location spoofing to relocate your data safely to servers in faraway states, countries, or anywhere in the world, making it seem as if you are not available locally.
If you are wondering when do use VPN begins, it all traces back to when we started using the internet. It has been over five decades since the internet was introduced. Back then, communications using computer networks only had clear protocols for standard use in the early 1960s. Due to concerns about how secure our personal online information is, the US Department of Defense called for the encryption of internet communication data.
These efforts led to the creation of ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), the predecessor of VPN. From then on, different early versions of VPN start appearing. Like the swIPe, IPSec, and PPTP. However, individuals, private sectors, and even governments still demand software with tighter and more advanced encryption, one that could hide internet browsing history effectively—leading us to modern VPN uses.
When should you use a VPN?
You can use a VPN to have a better online experience, whether you are gaming, streaming, traveling, or have a business that frequently utilizes remote access. As mentioned, encryption is the main use of VPN. Generally, encryption adds an extra layer of security, particularly when using public or shared Wi-Fi. VPN encryption can perform one or more tasks, including:
- Encryption of your IP address: VPN hides your IP address from third parties and even from your internet service provider. This enables you to send or receive information online, which you and your VPN provider only know.
- Encryption of protocols: Encryption also prevents you from leaving traces online. For instance, auto-deleting your internet history and search history. It also prevents third parties from gaining access to confidential information such as personal data, financial information, and other content on websites via cookie encryption.
If you want to become anonymous from your ISP, use a VPN. Even internet service providers who seem to be trustworthy might share your browsing information with other third parties. Moreso, ISPs can also fall victim to cyber-attacks: If hacked, your online information will be compromised. VPN has two ways to help you avoid such problems:
- Kill switch: VPNs can detect sudden connection interruptions and will instantly terminate preselected programs to minimize the likelihood of compromised data.
- Two-factor authentication: Various authentication methods help check everyone who tries to use your online account. For example, sending a code to your email or mobile device to confirm the user’s identity. This makes it difficult for anyone other than you to access your secure connection.
Aside from the ability to enhance user privacy and online security, VPNs have some extra added solutions you can use in a variety of circumstances. Here are some of them.
#1 Use a VPN while Working Remotely
Before the pandemic, employees depend on an ethernet connection while working in an office. Today, as more and more people are shifting to remote work, VPN uses are a necessary investment. VPN can help you have a secure data transfer and connection when working at home.
A secure connection is crucial for sending and accessing office work resources safely. When you use a VPN, you can connect to your office network and look at confidential materials using off-site devices without worrying that the data will be intercepted by hackers. Encryption adds an extra security bonus, especially for businesses that are frequently utilizing off-site access. Major benefits of VPN to home-based businesses include:
- control access options.
- browse safely anywhere and on any device.
- secured financial transactions.
- connect to public wi-fi confidently.
- prevent social media interference.
#2 When experiencing Bandwidth Throttling
Have you ever experienced buffering or long load times on websites you used while working? That is what we call bandwidth throttling, and VPNs are efficient against bandwidth throttling. ISPs, along with network administrators, usually throttle bandwidth—especially at the end of the month—to keep users within their download limits. Thus, restricting the amount of data users can transfer or download at a certain time.
Using a VPN will prevent ISPs and administrators from bandwidth throttling your internet traffic. VPNs encrypt the traffic generated by your device so that ISPs and administrators cannot see your content and filters won’t be able to throttle your traffic.
#3 If Data Privacy is your Concern
Use VPN to hide your IP address from your own internet provider. As stated, even with home Wi-Fi, you are still vulnerable to data breaches. Just so you know, your internet service provider or ISP can access all your internet browsing information. Meaning, the ISP knows when, where, how, and what you browse, even if you use a “private” browsing feature. This data can be collected and sold to the wrong hands if hacked.
Unfortunately, ISP isn’t the only factor for data breaches. Many online apps and services have been called out for the way to handle the data of their users. Good thing VPN can block apps and websites from attributing your behavior to your computer’s IP address. It can also limit the collection of your browser history information.
Although ISPs, apps, and network hubs promised that they won’t sell your browsing data, your information can nonetheless fall into other hands—especially to the government. Since 2013, there have been concerns about internet providers selling users’ internet and phone data to the government. Following this, several laws were enacted to curb government surveillance. However, there are still incidents where government agencies bypassed laws to acquire users’ data. If this makes you uncomfortable, use a VPN to protect your data.
#4 To deal with Fire Walls & Geo-Blocked Content, use a VPN
VPNs are great for with dealing firewalls, opting for you to go through them instead of bypassing them. Personal VPNs have a tunneling protocol that enables users to become anonymous when connected to a remote network. VPNs do this by masking the user’s traffic while passing through the encrypted tunnel. Doing this prevents the firewall from identifying if the incoming traffic should be blocked due to its anonymous content.
VPN uses also involve granting blocked online services to become available in areas where they are restricted. With VPN, you can stop geolocation interference from tracking your true location. Meaning, you can access content freely even if it’s not available in your location. For example, unblocking Google Drive in China using a VPN.
#5 For Smart Savings
Did you know that you can have big savings when you use a VPN? Various types of online services and businesses, such as subscription plans, streaming services, and software applications, have geographical pricing. Geographical pricing signifies that companies set different prices in different regions for the same services and products.
If you are willing to put in a little research, you can find locations where services or products are offered cheaper. Via VPN location spoofing, you can switch your location to the place with the lowest price and make there your purchase. And by doing so, you can avail big discounts of up to thousands of dollars.
Disadvantages when you use a VPN
While a VPN is great in many ways, it doesn’t obscure everything about you completely. Some apps you are using will still manage to know what you are doing, even without knowing where you are browsing from. Similarly, enabled cookies on your computer will permit websites to track your activity while you are on their site—and after.
Plus, since VPNs aren’t perfect tools, they are also vulnerable to malware and cyber-attacks. In fact, a VPN itself should also be protected against compromise. If infected, security benefits become nullified. This is true, particularly with free VPN services. Providers offering free VPN services may sell user data or run ads that could have malware.
If you are aiming to enjoy full data privacy, then investing in a paid VPN is a wiser choice. But this can also be a hassle. Quality VPNs are typically pricy and while not extreme (often around ten dollars per month at the high end) may not be within all users’ budgets.
Even with huge discounts, users are still required to pay for the entire duration upfront. And even more, committing to a paid VPN service might cause an additional problem. This is because there will be no guarantee that the VPN will continue to perform well or that the provider will still be in business until the end of the prepaid period.
More importantly, your VPN service provider might monitor your activity. In reality, whenever you sign up for a VPN, you are entrusting your online data to the VPN service instead of the ISP. Despite terms of conditions stating that they will not sell your data, some still record their users’ activity. In this way, they can update their service, monitor any illegal activities, or in worse cases, sell any data to authorities.
Types of VPNs
There are many types of VPNs depending on the needs. However, these are the three main types that you should definitely be familiar with, especially if you are working from home.
- SSL VPN. An SSL VPN or Secure Sockets Layer VPN uses end-to-end encryption to protect data transition, often between a company-owned network to a private device. Businesses use SSL VPNs so that remote users can securely access company resources, as well as secure the internet sessions of users who are accessing the internet from off-site. This type of VPN usually requires an HTML-5-capable browser, virtually available to any operating system. Access is guarded with a company-provided username and password.
- VPN Client Server. This type of VPN is a software-based solution that establishes a tight connection between the user and a VPN server. Connecting via a VPN Client can be imagined as if your personal device is connected to your company using an extension cable. Remote employees can dial into their company’s network from their home office using this secure connection and act as if they were on-site. But to use VPN Client successfully, the server must first be installed and configured on the computer. Some VPN clients can work in the background automatically, while others have front-end interfaces that let users interact with and configure them.
- Site-to-Site VPN. A site-to-site virtual private network refers to a connection set up between multiple networks. It is essentially designed to hide private “intranets” and allow each user to access each other’s resources. Also, it allows two separate intranets to transfer files without users from one intranet directly accessing the other. Large businesses are the ones who mainly use site-to-site VPNs, since they are highly efficient in ensuring safe communication within and between large branches.
When you use a VPN, all your data traffic passes through an encrypted virtual tunnel, resulting in a secure connection between your device and the internet. And since only you can access the data in the encrypted tunnel, your data is safe against external attacks. VPN also makes it possible to access geo-restricted content globally.
Yet, keep in mind that only your data traffic on the internet is anonymized and protected. Meaning, the entirety of your data isn’t obscured by only using VPN. The VPN connection does work as an anti-virus or anti-malware software. Above all, VPNs themselves must be protected against compromise. For maximum security, combining the VPN uses with an open-source tool or with trusted anti-virus software is a necessary measure.
How to install a VPN on a Computer?
You can install a VPN in various ways depending on your needs. That being said, you should be familiar with different installation methods.
Method 1: Enable Windows 10 built-in VPN Client. To enable, go to the Start menu, and then type Settings. Select Settings > Network & internet > VPN > Add VPN. Windows 11 also has a built-in VPN client. However, its version doesn’t provide any server, so you’d have to get it yourself. Whereas Mac Operating System does not offer a built-in VPN option.
Method 2: Use a VPN Browser Extension. A VPN can be added as an extension to web browsers. While other browsers, like Opera, already have integrated VPN extensions. VPN extensions are easy to configure and switch on during your browsing time. However, extension VPNs have many limitations, including not being functional outside the browser. They are also not as comprehensive as VPN Clients and are often tools for data harvesters.
Method 3: Company VPN. A company VPN is mostly custom software created for a specific company. Users of company VPNs heavily rely on their company to use the software successfully since the software setup and technical support are exclusively done by their company’s IT team.
Method 4: Use a Router VPN. A router VPN is ideal for a single internet connection used by multiple devices. This VPN can be easily installed directly in the router. It helps devices with complex internet configurations to have security and privacy, as well as prevent the network from being compromised. Router VPNs are also great if you want to access geographically restricted content through your home entertainment systems like smart TVs. However, it may be more difficult to manage routers that don’t have their own user interface, which could lead to blocked connections.
Can I use a VPN on mobile devices?
Of course, you can. Only a small portion of VPNs do not support mobile platforms, and almost all are lesser-known brands. For most VPNs, compatibility won’t be an issue, as long as you have an updated operating system. The majority of VPN providers also offer mobile solutions which can be downloaded directly from any app store.
The installation process is extremely user-friendly, as the enabling option of the VPN is just similar to the light switch. Additionally, you will probably find the option right on your mobile device’s home screen. Also, remember that only data that use cellular internet or Wi-Fi is encrypted. So things like standard voice calls or texts will not be encrypted by your mobile VPN.
Is VPN Safe or Not?
It depends on how you weigh in the VPN uses and disadvantages. Since VPN won’t be able to protect your device from outside intrusion, we can safely say it won’t guarantee 100% protection. Choosing a reputable VPN provider is also necessary for security concerns. Don’t forget that while your ISP cannot see your internet traffic, your VPN provider can. So ensuring that you have a well-trusted VPN provider will give you peace of mind.