How Does a VPN Work and How to Choose one

  • By David Lukic
  • Aug 05, 2020

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It allows you to hide your public IP address and browse privately on the internet without being tracked or watched. Basically, a VPN offers you a thick layer of privacy when using your home Wi-Fi or public. With data breaches on the rise, whistleblowers alerting us to the spying eyes of the government, and big retail outlets tracking our shopping habits, it just makes sense to want better security and more privacy these days. 

How Does a VPN Work?

VPNs work by connecting your computer or other internet-enabled devices to a server. Then your browsing and online activities get filtered through that, so it looks like that computer is surfing the web. All the traffic between you and the server is encrypted, making it very difficult to hack or breach.

Why Use a VPN?

Some of the things you can do using a VPN are:

  • Watch streaming content on Netflix and Hulu.

  • Protect yourself while connected to unsecured Wi-Fi hotspots.

  • Bypass geographic restrictions on websites or for streaming audio and video.

  • Hide your actual IP and geographical location.

  • Eliminate tracking while you engage in torrenting. 

If you travel to another country and attempt to access a familiar website, you may be blocked. However, using a VPN and logging into a local server close to home, you will be granted access without delay. These are just a few of the advantages of having a VPN to protect your privacy, encrypt your data, and mask your online activities. However, countries are learning more about this, and Russia and China are blocking VPN use for travelers. 

When you log into your bank to check your balance at the local Starbucks, you definitely should be routing that traffic through a VPN. You never know who is watching on public Wi-Fi networks

VPNs are also used for private corporate networks so you can securely connect to your workplace and grab files, collaborate with co-workers, and get work done online without the risk of hackers stealing your stuff. 

vpn connection

What Are Some Benefits to Deploying a VPN?

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has access to everything you do online. Some vendors actually keep a log of customer traffic, habits, and activities. That information is ripe for breaching but also may be sold to corporate clients for tracking and marketing purposes. Those records also come into play with government investigations. 

VPNs help to protect your identity against theft. If you have a VPN installed on your computer, you become invisible to hackers. With your IP address exposed, you are a much easier target. Once they get into your network and onto your computer, they can have a field day taking whatever they want.

What are The Disadvantages of Using a VPN?

If you have cookies already on your computer, your information will still be tracked by those. You need to clean them off completely before using your VPN. You should also plan on installing it on all your devices.

If you plan on trolling the dark web, a better solution is “Tor,” which bounces your location off multiple servers rather than just one. It is also privately owned by a non-profit organization. VPNs usually cost money and depending on the vendor you choose; some are better than others.

Be very careful to choose a VPN provider that does not log or store your online activity.

How to Choose the Best Option for a VPN

VPN connection

Cybersecurity experts agree that the best VPN providers are the following:

  • NordVPN.

  • IPVanish.

  • Private Internet Access.

  • TunnelBear.

  • TorGuard.

The VPN vendors above offer top-notch security, privacy, they do not store or collect your online traffic, and they are reasonably priced. Some other points to consider when choosing are: 

  • Make sure whoever you choose is using the latest security protocols (OpenVPN is the best). 

  • Research data limits before signing up. 

  • Choose local servers in your country. Overseas servers could slow down your browsing and cause frustration. 

  • Read the fine print to make sure they aren’t tracking or storing your data. 

  • Are they cost-competitive?

  • Can you install the VPN on more than one device?

Privacy is becoming more of a concern for Americans each day. A VPN provides peace of mind and security that can help you sleep better at night.

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