What is VPN, and Why You Should Use it?

VPN services are growing day by day and so are the reasons to use them. In fact, thanks to the VPNs being easy to use even for a general home user, they are no longer just for geeks or security experts. In case you are wondering, here are some of the reasons why and when you should be using a VPN service to protect your online interactions.

What is a VPN Service and How it Works?

Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short is a simple service that encrypts your connections to and from the internet. Along with encrypting your internet connection, a VPN is also capable of masking your current location with the location of the VPN service provider. A VPN can do this by acting as a middle-man between you and the actual destination.

For instance, if you try to access google.com, the request is first encrypted on your computer and is sent to the VPN service provided. Here, the request is decrypted and forwarded to the actual Google servers. As you can tell, Google cannot see that the request is being made by you, rather it sees the VPN. When Google responds back, the VPN will again encrypt the connection and forwards it back to you.

How VPN works

How to use a VPN?

There are several ways to use a VPN. For instance –

1. You can download a VPN software available for both desktop or chrome browser (we recommend TunnelBear) and then install it on your system like you install any other software. Once done, launch the software, you should see a connect button, click on that and all your connection traffic will now go through the encrypted tunnel.

tunnelBear-on-Mac

2. If your company provides you VPN to connects to its private network outside of the office; then you can create a new VPN connection on your device Wi-Fi settings. On Windows 10, type VPN in the start menu and hit enter. A new window will open, here type in the server IP address and username and password provided by your company. You can find similar settings on all the other OS.

create-a-vpn-connection

3. You can also add VPN in the router level by entering the server IP address and login credentials. This way, all the device connected to that router will have VPN enabled in them.

Why Use a VPN Service?

1. To Mask Your Location and Increase Online Anonymity

The first and most obvious reason to use a VPN is to mask your current location and increase your online anonymity. As I said before, a VPN acts as a middle-man between you and your destination. Thus your location is effectively masked and the websites you access cannot see who you are or where you are from.

Related: 12 Effective Ways to Stay Anonymous on the Internet

There may be any number of reasons why you may want to mask your location, like — to escape the censorship, to exercise your freedom of speech without showing yourself, to stay away from prying eyes, or you are a whistleblower etc. No matter what the reason is, a good VPN can offer all the anonymity you will ever need.

reasons-to-use-vpn-anonymous

However, not all VPNs are created equal. Some VPNs actually log your details, like your real IP address, mask IP address and time, VPN username, operating system, browser signature, etc. to abide by the law. So, if you don’t want others to snoop around your data then make sure that your VPN service is not logging the data. Generally, most VPNs will tell you this upfront, but you can also get these details from their Privacy Policy.

2. To Access Geo-restricted Websites and Services

Apart from masking your current location, you can also access geo-restricted websites and services with ease using a VPN. For instance, there are several services like Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, Pandora, etc., or even some specific parts of those services that are only available to customers in the US. There may be several reasons for these restrictions like government laws, copyright issues, distribution rights, etc.

So, in those situations, you can use a VPN to get access to these services or shows in any part of the world. This feature is particularly useful when you are traveling and want to access your favorite shows on Netflix. Of course, if your main aim for using a VPN is to stream content then make sure your VPN service is optimized for that.

 

3. To Encrypt Internet Access When Using Public WiFi

More often than not, most of us don’t know or ignore the fact that when using a public WiFi hotspot or any other public network (like in hotels or restaurants), your data is at risk due to the terrible security they offer. In fact, using several of the highly advanced yet easy to use free tools available on the Internet, anyone, who is a bit tech savvy can easily eavesdrop on your connection and steal your data or identity.

However, since a VPN encrypts all your incoming and outgoing connections, your communication stays secure. Moreover, a VPN makes it almost impossible for the eavesdropper to compromise your connection.

Note: Since most VPN change your geo-location, some banking transaction may fail if they detect a big transaction from a different country. Also, since most financial services use 128 bit https encryption, you don’t need VPN for that, even on the public network.

Related: Secure Your Wi-Fi Network From Hackers With These 10 Steps

Secure Your Wi-Fi Network -

 

4. To Access Home (or Office) Network Resources Over the Internet

This is one of the most overlooked reason but you can actually use a VPN to access your home network over the internet. Since the connection is encrypted by default, you can safely access all your shared files, stream videos, or even play games as if you are on the local network. Of course, you need a good and stable connection. Not only your home network but you can also configure a VPN to access your Work or Business network. In fact, most businesses and enterprises use their own VPNs to enable employees to access the company network.

For example – a friend of mine works at Uber. And they can only access the Uber server from their office LAN. Now, whenever he wants to work from home, first he connects his computer to the VPN provided by Uber and only after that he can access their network and get any job done.

Related: 7Access Your Computer’s Files From Anywhere In The World

5. To Protect Your Privacy and Avoid Tracking

Every time you visit a website, you are most likely sharing a lot of information like your IP address, browser signature, operating system, current location, etc. Even your ISP tracks and stores all your internet usage and what websites you’ve been visiting. Apart from that, big boys like Google and Facebook can track a whole bunch of things right down to your habits, requirements, and favorites.

So, if you don’t like this type of tracking and if you value your privacy then you should be using a VPN. This enables you to avoid the tracking and sharing some of the personally identifiable information. That being said, using a VPN is not a fool-proof way, but it certainly makes things a bit more tolerable.

Related: 5 Best Private Search Engines That Don’t Track You Like Google

 

How to be anonymous-on-the-internet

6. To Bypass Network Restrictions at Work or School

Generally, the internet connection at your Workplace or School is tightly restricted using various types of monitoring and firewalls. Which simply means that you cannot access all the websites you want. Since a VPN encrypts all your incoming and outgoing connections, you can use it to bypass these restrictions. However, be warned that you might face consequences depending on your school or company rules and regulations.

Related:  How to Access Blocked Websites (Video)

7. To Share and Download Files Privately

It is a well-known fact that most ISPs, Companies, and even governments don’t want people to download content via torrents. In fact, in some places, torrenting is outright banned and may even get you into legal trouble. Moreover, some ISPs even limit the download speed of torrents and P2P sharing.

To avoid this legal trouble and terrible download speeds, it is better that you use a VPN service that is based somewhere the rules are not that strict. However, not all VPNs support torrenting and P2P sharing. So, make sure that your favorite VPN service supports what you need before signing up.

Related: How to Bypass Torrent Blocking by your ISP

Hope that helps and do comment below sharing your thoughts and experiences about using a VPN service and how useful it is in your daily life.

About Vamsi Krishna

Vamsi is a tech and WordPress geek who enjoys writing how-to guides and tinkering with computers and software in general. He also writes his own blog sharing some simple tech how-to guides.