What is a VPN?
VPN is a shortcut for Virtual Private Networking. But what does that mean? When you connect to the internet you're connecting using an IP address. This IP address allows companies or goverment, to see where you're connecting from and what sites you're visiting. For example, your internet provider tracks your IP address and knows if you're connecting from your home. It also knows what websites you're connected to, the time you've spent on each, what you're downloading and more. This allows them to build a profile of you regardless your privacy.
A VPN changes everything. You can connect to a remote server that masks your location, identity and what sites you visit. That seems like a great way to take control of your privacy, but it also helps with keeping you secure. There are many VPN services out there and many are free. VPN providers have both private and enterprise solutions to make sure you're staying safe online. If you're traveling abroad, you can also connect to a VPN on a server in your home country. This allows you to use the internet as if you were home. In short, a VPN is a way to increase better your privacy and security by connecting to the internet on a server of your choosing.
What are the pros and cons of using a VPN?
- Security. Enhanced security is the most important feature when it comes to using a VPN. Your data will be encrypted which means hackers won't be able to access it. If you're using a closed network for work, you can keep it completely private. That means security for yourself, your business and any of your data will stay safe. This is important for anyone who uses the internet, but if you're using it to conduct business, it's exponentially more important.
- Online anonymity. If you want to browse websites in complete privacy, you need a VPN for it. The VPN acts like a mask to allow you to anonymously conduct your business online. Unlike web proxies or IP masking software, a VPN will allow you to access websites and web applications undetected.
- Remote access to your network. After you've set up your VPN, you can connect to it remotely from anywhere with an internet connection. You can securely log into your network and access the information, documents, etc you need. For business, this will increase productivity. For users who use a VPN for privacy, this means you won't have to send an email or attachment that can be intercepted. You can keep all of your data in a closed network that only you have access to. And that access can be achieved anywhere.
- Share files in your network. This is similar to the last point, but after you've set up your VPN you can access share files with others. That means members of your network will easily be able to access and transfer files among themselves. This feature is increasingly attractive to businesses who want to allow team members to securely access work product. This is especially true for sensitive materials that you would not want to end up in the wrong hands. A secure connection is the only way to share files without detection or interception.
- Bypass internet censorship. In countries with more restrictive internet access like China, VPN's are extremely popular. In part, this is due to internet censorship that keep native users from visiting social media accounts and spreading dissent or opinions critical of the Chinese government. This may seem like just a Chinese problem, but for people trying to do business with Chinese companies and individuals, it is a huge challenge. A VPN allows users in China to bypass the country's internet ''firewall'' and access a global network. For US or EU citizens, a VPN can allow you to access content like regional social media platforms or videos you might not have access to in the US. You might have encountered "restricted content" or geo restrictions that don't allow you access. That won't happen ever again with a VPN. As our society becomes more global, this feature is indispensable.
- Hiding your IP and location. You can change the location of your IP address or "hide" your IP address/location. If you're connecting from Canada, but want to connect from a country in Europe instead. You can use a VPN to easily change your IP address to an address originating in Germany. Simple as that. And, it allows you more anonymity and security. In addition, you'll also be able to access regional content, websites and web applications that are usually reserved for internet users in Germany. Many businesses in foreign countries do not have websites for each localized market. That means you can access a German website at a .de address without being redirected to a .com address.
- Better performance. Sometimes the servers available to us are not optimal. You might find that connecting via VPN can improve speed and performance as you search the internet. It certainly will be better than a proxy network. VPN services are taking performance very seriously. In the past, VPN's could be slow, lag and you'd lose connections constantly. New developments have made those inconveniences a thing of the past. And, in many cases, using a VPN can result in better performance.