What Is A VPN?

VPN is an abbreviation for Virtual Private Network. It is basically a sort of internet tunnel that has the ability to conceal your received or sent data. Using a VPN shields your private information from unscrupulous people who want to poach your data and advertisers attempting to pilfer your search history. It also blocks your internet service provider (ISP) from accessing your private information or data. Corporations/companies used to make up the majority of VPN users. Companies mainly use the service to safeguard their online data but lately, there has been a significant surge in individual use of VPN services. Instances of such personal use include utilizing a VPN to bypass filters placed on public Wi-Fi networks, to protect sensitive data when using financial sites and to access content that are geo-restricted on streaming platforms. A VPN can be used on a tablet, mobile device, smart TV, router or computer. With any of the above, a VPN can aid your anonymity on the web by concealing your location online as well as offering extra security when you’re using public Wi-Fi. To set up this kind of protected connection, you will need a software called a VPN client which links your computer to a VPN server in a different location when installed and activated. Every bit of traffic between the server and your computer is encrypted, blocking prying eyes from seeing your shared data. VPN protocol: This refers to the technology a VPN utilizes to exchange data while blocking unauthorized parties from viewing the data being sent and received. Each protocol has separate rules and operations it uses to establish and maintain communication between a VPN server and your computer. Some protocols are faster, others are more secure and effective for certain purposes. Common protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2 are great examples of protocols that provide a combination of security, credibility and speed. VPN Server: This type of server is a computer situated in a remote locale that your computer links to via the VPN. Other users are connected to this computer as well. When you open a webpage on your computer, the VPN directs the request to the virtual private network server. The request will then be seen by the website as coming from the VPN server rather than you. This way allows you to bypass geo-restrictions by switching your location or country to another. VPN service providers that have more servers as well as server locations enhances the speed of the VPN service seeing as you are sharing the powerful server computer with lesser users. Also, if you can choose a server that is within geographical proximity of your real location, your internet speed is likely to be faster. IP Address: This is the online address of your device that services and sites use in exchanging data with you when a request is made. Your IP address can have information such as your device type, your physical location and possibly details like the particular browser you’re using. Static/Dedicated IP: Having a static or dedicated IP address means your IP stays the same each time you connect to the internet via your VPN. If you don’t have this type of dedicated IP, your address may vary each time you go online. It is very beneficial to have a static IP as it averts problems with shared IP addresses, like when a shared IP is barred because of another user’s misconduct. P2P Functionality:  P2P stands for peer-to-peer. When this feature is functional in a VPN, it means you can use P2P apps to exchange files with other users on the network. This feature is useful in situations where you want to update your online multiplayer game or download open-source software. Kill Switch: The kill switch continually checks your VPN connection and should the connection fail; the switch jams your internet connection so no information is sent until the VPN is working again. The kill switch automatically goes off once the VPN is reactivated so you can continue browsing. Data Logging: The VPN data log can save your IP address, browsing history as well as other such data. VPN service providers have differing logging policies so it is vital to scrutinize these privacy policies because the less information logged, the safer your privacy.

What is the purpose of a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network conceals your online activity from other users and data poachers and it can change your location to a different country or city. Companies and corporations use VPNs to safeguard their information when an employee has to connect to the company’s database while traveling or working from home. This sort of VPN service makes your computer appear to be on the same network as the servers and offers access to data as well as applications that would be available if you were in the office. A lot of individual users depend on a VPN service for privacy or safety. The encryption that secures company data is the same one that can help safeguard your web surfing when you are using public Wi-Fi or at home. It can also shield your online activity from your ISP and IP address from websites. Using a VPN might make some of your streaming and internet surfing faster. This is beneficial because quite a number of internet providers deliberately stifle or delay traffic to particular sites or services. VPNs when activated can change your online location. Users usually do this to gain access to content on a streaming service platform that is geo-restricted or available in only selected countries or areas. For instance, you could change your location using a VPN service in order to stream a sport that your region has been blocked from accessing. However, for this to be successful, you need to ensure there are VPN servers in the location you intend to stream from. It is also essential for you to have a current subscription to the particular streaming service. Additionally, VPNs can be used to bypass filters placed by some governments, schools or companies to prevent certain websites from accessing their content. Finally, you might need to use a VPN to conceal your online traffic from your Internet Service Provider if you use torrent applications of P2P (peer to peer) downloads. This may speed up your downloads/large legal downloads as the ISP may slacken your traffic if it notices heavy bandwidth usage from your IP.

How Do VPNs Function?

VPNs encrypt your information then conceal it in a tunnel to switch it between locations/areas. A VPN can also make your location different by utilizing a remote server. When activated, the VPN client on your device encrypts the internet traffic then sends it out. This encryption maintains the privacy of your data. Conversely, a VPN server decrypts your information. Next, the server directs your request to a streaming service or a website. As soon as a response is returned, the server encrypts the information again and returns it back to your device. The VPN server and client utilize a VPN protocol to encrypt and send the information. When your data is sent by the server, the service or website gets the server’s IP address while keeping your IP address undisclosed. The IP address has information including the type of browser you are surfing on, your computer’s geographic location and other similar information. Using a separate IP address hinders others from connecting your online activities to your actual IP. Usually, you have to use a VPN service on every device required. However, there are several VPN services that can run on your Wi-Fi router. Setting up a VPN on your router helps ease the connection process of all your devices at home to a VPN without needing separate apps. It also secures your private network. This provides two benefits. One – it typically allows you connect many devices all at once seeing as VPN providers usually consider the router as a single device. And two- it connects media stream devices, smart TVs, baby monitors, game consoles and any device that has a Wi-Fi connection feature to a VPN. It is necessary to select a VPN that allows concurrent connections so you can link your phone, tablet and laptop all at once. Reasons to Use a VPN VPNs work well for:
  • Concealing your internet activities.
  • Helping you appear to be in a different location.
  • Bypassing filters placed on content
  • Utilizing P2P file sharing
  • Protecting you from hackers when using public networks
VPNs do not work well for:
  • Accessing content on streaming services without a subscription to the particular platform/service
  • Totally making your internet activity anonymous.
  • Thwarting and jamming all viruses or malware (unless it’s an extra security feature that comes with that specific VPN service)
Nick Consolo, principal of cybersecurity firm Simple Cyber LLC explains that Consumer VPNs are usually used to deliver privacy shields when the user wants to keep their ISP(Internet Service Provider) from seeing what they’re downloading or browsing. He suggests using VPNs whenever you wish to safeguard your privacy and anytime you are connected to a network with shaky security like public Wi-Fi, hotels, airports etc. Mobile travelers are advised by The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to make use of VPNs when connecting to public Wi-Fi. A VPN aids in guarding you against malicious persons attempting to pilfer your data (such as your password) or exploit you (by directing you to a malicious site). A VPN can also grant you access to sites and services that are usually restricted on a public network that utilizes content filtering. While a VPN is at its most useful capacity when your device or devices are connected to a public network, using one at home is still very beneficial. You can use a VPN at home to boost your internet speed to certain services if your ISP slows down particular services and sites. In addition, you can use it to conceal your internet browsing activity. It is however important to note that using a VPN can reduce your internet speed sometimes, particularly if your computer is already lagging. Consolo discloses that a VPN is condensing all your online traffic via an encrypted tunnel. The overhead added by the encryption and the probable addition of extra network hops to direct the traffic come together to generate extra latency; which can reduce the connection speed. This is the reason it is advisable to find a VPN provider that has many servers as well as current VPN protocols. With a VPN service activated at home, you can change your location to a different one. This allows you to shop other branches of a store in a different country or stream content that is geo-restricted to your location. With this access, you can probably discover nicer deals because websites pricings are influenced by factors such as your browsing history and location. Although people typically use a VPN to access content that is geo-blocked, content providers are continually trying to stop this and are able to effectively obstruct various VPN traffic. For this reason, the smart thing to do is to go for a VPN that offers a money-back guarantee or a free trial; to enable you test its efficacy. Your ISP may reduce the speed of your traffic when you try to utilize a P2P service to download a big file such as multiplayer game upgrade or an open-source software. This is referred to as ‘throttling’. However, if you use a VPN, it’s quite likely the speed will increase. With a VPN, you can switch locations and conceal your online activity from your ISP but it cannot totally make you anonymous online. Technologies such as cookies provide a way for several websites to track your browsing activity.  Some VPNs do not totally conceal your internet activity from a government authority and may hand in your online data log if requested officially. Bear in mind a VPN is not an alternative to malware or antivirus software. A couple of VPN providers add in pop-up ads, tracking and malware blocking features. However, this add-on doesn’t always have the same kind of system scan that a good antivirus product or service has.

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