VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It is virtual because it establishes a point-to-point connection over an existing network and private since the contents are encrypted. Imagine your laptop or mobile phone connecting to the public internet via another computer (which we'll call server). Now, what if this particular server is located in a different country? It would then appear as if you're connecting from that country instead of where you're physically located. And since your basically using another "computer," your actual IP address is not exposed, making your online activities virtually untraceable.
What makes a decent VPN service? What features should I look for when making my purchasing decision?
It all boils down to what you'll be using it for. Here's what to look for in a VPN provider:
A reliable encryption protocol. Look for a VPN service that offers industry-leading protocols such as OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2, Wireguard, and SSTP.
Fast speed and unlimited bandwidth. Look for one that has been tested and deemed fast enough for day-to-day online activities as well as gaming, downloading large files, and more.
Large server network. This is especially crucial if you travel abroad where the internet is regulated. Having more servers in one location also means you can avoid network congestion during "internet rush hour".
Simultaneous device connection. Various studies suggest that, on average, a single household has access to more than ten connected devices. As much as possible, look for a VPN provider that can protect multiple devices in a single account. Private Internet Access, for example, allows simultaneous connection of up to 10 devices.
Supports multiple OS. Your VPN should offer clients and apps that work with Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Linux, OS X, and more. If they offer browser extensions, even better.
Should you get a VPN? What are the advantages?
Yes, if you want the following benefits:
+ Hide your IP address so you can surf the web in total anonymity.
+ Safeguard sensitive information such as your online banking credentials, email and social media passwords, credit card numbers, and more.
+ Avoid geographical price bias and save money when shopping online, booking flights or hotels, buying apps or online courses, and more.
+ Stop your ISP from slowing your service down when you've reached your data cap for the month.
+ Access your office or school network from anywhere.
I heard that using a VPN slows down your internet connection? Is this true?
Well, yes and no. Connecting to a VPN will always affect your speed as it adds a layer of security measures that were not present in your connection before. It will also depend on your base speed or whether or not you're connecting to a local or long-distance server. However, if you're using a decent VPN, the speed loss should be hardly noticeable. In fact, using a VPN could actually boost your speed during instances when your ISP throttles your data and bandwidth.
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