Going digital provides users with ease of access and reach to a wide range of data. But with these advantages poses the risk of data theft and security of digital assets. One security measure you can apply is the utilization of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). This service is intended to ensure the privacy and security of your online activities.
What is VPN?
VPNs are paid services that ensure the security and privacy of online activities, such as web browsing, over a public connection. These services can also bypass various regional restrictions on multimedia streaming. VPNs also assist in evading censorship rules imposed by governing authorities, although this part is much more complicated.
How VPN Works?
In its simplest terms, a VPN hides your IP address then encrypts your traffic while allowing you to be anonymous on the Internet. VPN masks the IP address of your computer or your laptop or even your mobile phone. Although, some VPNs can or may leak your IP address. So make sure to read reviews of different VPN providers before availing one. This masking makes you appear that you are located somewhere else.
This entails that VPNs can bypass Geo-blocked content such as Netflix movies or TV shows in the USA, enabling it to be watched by anyone in living in an Asian country. You may also be able to access websites because VPN can uncensored websites. For instance, an online user may be able to see products sold exclusively in China but are not allowed in the USA. VPN masking, in a way, can also assist journalists and privacy activists under authoritarian regimes to escape the backlash, jail time, or worse.
VPN works after masking your IP address by creating a secure tunnel on your entire internet connection. This secure tunnel protects your browser, but can also guard your app activity too. VPNs are mostly using 256-bit AES encryption so that your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will have a hard time or making it virtually impossible to track the websites you are visiting. How VPN works are really meant to achieve the protection of personal data. Privacy is still the main issue since nobody wants to have their personal information divulge or be known to others.
Limitations and Restrictions of VPNs
A VPN can only provide confidential tunnelling between hosts, servers, or networks, but cannot be used to render anonymity nor other benefits from a security standpoint. Large organizations, including corporations and even national governments, can use different methods of VPN blocking, a process where the encrypted protocol tunnelling communications of VPNs are restricted. Some countries utilize this tool for computer security or even Internet censorship, wherein they prevent the use of VPN to bypass network firewall systems. This is done by system administrators wherein standard VPN ports used for common VPN tunnelling protocols such as PPTP or L2TP, are closed for connections and data transfers.
A website can also prohibit access to its content by blocking access from IP addresses that are known to belong to VPN providers. Countries such as China, Iran, Russia, Syria, and Egypt are known by using VPN blocking methods. Corporations including Netflix, Hulu, BBC, and even Wikipedia, are also using methods of VPN blocking. Even though VPN does not provide complete end-to-end security, still VPN is useful for protection which is its primary purpose.
Nevertheless, a VPN is recommended for remote-access users that want security on a public WiFi network. More so, antivirus software and system patches plus proper vigilance are still required for operating system security. A computer user must also have firewalls and other security measures installed to prevent further security breaches.
Different Types of VPN Services
Remote Access VPN
A type of VPN service that is used for connecting to a private network and accessing its services and resources remotely. This type of VPN service involves a connection between the user and the private network and this connection transpires through the Internet with the link that is more secure and private. This is the type of VPN service that is commonly used by business users as well as home users.
Corporate users can connect to the private network of their company while travelling and can then access work files remotely. Private users including home users, use VPN services primarily so that they can bypass regional restrictions on the Internet, as well as access, blocked websites. Conscious users, including those adept in technology, utilize any VPN service for the enhancement of their Internet privacy and security.
Also known as Router-to-Router VPN is ubiquitous in the corporate world. Large companies that usually have different branches or offices around the world use Site-to-site VPN to connect the networks of organizations with different office locations. An Intranet-based VPN includes several offices or departments of one company that are connected via a Site-to-Site VPN type.
On the other hand, an Extranet-based VPN is a term used for companies that utilize Site-to-site VPN to join the office of a different company. In simple terms, a Site-to-site VPN creates a virtual bridge between the networks that are located geographically far away in another location. The Site-to-site VPN connects these networks through the Internet and maintains a private and secure communication between these networks.
Also, this type of VPN is based on Router-to-Router communication wherein a router acts as a VPN Client, and another router acts as a VPN Server. The online communication between these two routers needs to have a validated authentication between the two routers for communication to start.
Paid vs Free VPN Services
The major difference between a paid VPN service versus a free VPN service is that the former has many servers that are provided. Any user can then select from these paid VPN servers and choose the best connection. Paid VPN can even cover even the most remote location aside from the capability of the user to choose from several global servers.
Free VPN, on the other hand, has more traffic because of the numerous connections brought about by the free term. These numerous connections also mean slower speeds with data transfer limits and constant drops in connection. However, this list of 14 best free VPN services provides similar services to paid versions. There are VPN service providers that also provide free trials.
Just be wary that some free VPN providers can also use your contact details and browser history as a product they sell on to others. Free VPN Service has some limitations with regard to data such as getting only 300–500 MB data for 24 hours time period, but a Paid VPN Service allows its subscribers to access maximum data without any limitations.
If you are also one of those who watch live streams of television series, the chances are that you cannot do this using a Free VPN because of the bandwidth limitations. In other words, Free VPN services are only useful for a short term of usage while Paid VPN services are very practical and logical to have especially if you do not want your privacy to be compromised and if you are a heavy data user.
How to Choose a VPN Service?
- What is your primary purpose? Ask yourself the primary reason why you intend to use a VPN. Some use VPNs because of the security it provides while others use it for streaming multimedia files.
- Is it for personal use or a group (family) or corporate use? Look for VPN services that provide packages for individual or group use. Check for the feature each service provided.
- It is also essential to verify the payment modes available. Some services offer a free trial.
- If you intend to use VPN to access corporate data while travelling overseas, it also essential to check the availability of the VPN service in the area you are going to. Do note that some countries have different rules regarding VPN access.
Features to look for in a VPN Service
One of the best ways to ensure the safety of your presence online is by using a VPN or a Virtual Private Network. This is a handy tool for online privacy, security, and speed. Also, using a VPN is legal in most countries, and only “Government Approved” VPNs are supposed to be used in countries such as Iran, China, Oman, Russia, Turkey, and even the United Arab Emirates.
Aside from the apparent reason that some users use this to hide their IP address to gain access from several online services, it is still useful for legitimate purposes. Each computer has its own address which is commonly known as IP address or Internet Protocol address. This is synonymous with having a home address, but this IP address is a combination of random numbers that one can memorize especially for technical persons.
Each VPN provides some features that are useful for accessing content safely or even browsing privately. There are several elements to contemplate before availing of a VPN service. The download speed is critical, especially for those who are streaming media or downloading large files.
Some ISP providers are throttling the download speed, so using a VPN is extremely useful for getting faster downloading speeds. It is strategic to select a VPN with various servers that are strategically located around the world so you can easily choose a server that will satisfy the download speed that you wanted.
Jurisdiction and logging policy is a feature of VPN wherein users can access a website without restrictions based on the country or location. This is useful for online workers who are remotely located in Asia, but their clients are based in another country in Europe. Their clients sometimes require their freelancers or online workers to access a European website without limitation.
This is also true for logging credentials wherein those working online can access a Windows Remote Desktop via a VPN and can then use local file shares and even play games as if they are on the same LAN or Local Area Network of their workplace.
Torrenting is one of the most important features for any user who downloads a lot. Using a VPN is a safe way of downloading legitimate torrent files that are extremely important for your work or even in your studies. They will keep P2P or peer-to-peer activity anonymously. Torrenting is connecting to peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing so that you can download a massive amount of files at lightning speeds. You will leave yourself exposed from the other people on that same P2P connection if you do not use a VPN.
Online streaming which is very popular nowadays is also essential, especially for those who are in the habit of binge-watching TV shows or popular TV series.
Usability and support are another feature because unusual things can happen along the way, such as the inability to connect to the VPN even though you are already a lifetime VPN subscriber. You need to contact the support to use the VPN features such as the underlying connection to a VPN or any other feature, including selecting a particular server. This is because some VPN has separate servers for torrenting and geographical servers that are based on countries such as Australia or Canada. This is also very important for online workers who need to get their tasks done, especially when travelling.
In terms of usability, the VPN must have a user-friendly interface wherein even a non-techie can genuinely understand and can easily navigate and click the necessary buttons to connect to the VPN service. Surely, you do not want to have to click so many buttons just to connect to a server to activate your VPN service. User-friendliness means usability, which is equal to excellent service.
Cost affects any user. The cheaper VPN providers that have the most features naturally will win and will have the most subscribers and users. Of course, that is the ideal way, but VPN providers are also businesses. Expect to have a VPN service that will cost much for having so many outstanding features.
You need to weigh your purposes in choosing to have a VPN. If you only want to browse privately, then look for this feature. Or, if you’re going to download torrents or watch Netflix or Hulu movies, expect to pay more because you will be streaming media which means more bandwidth.
With the numerous benefits and advantages, not to mention a large number of VPN service providers currently available, one can truly say that VPN services are making such a huge hit nowadays! VPN services provide a level of security which can be utilized by everyone, even by those who aren’t tech-savvy. And free services are also available, making this technology available to the masses.