Now VPN is as commonplace as online banking, online payments in online stores, or other things that you can find on the internet. However, many users are confused and ask whether VPN is legal, whether I need it, what it will give me, and whether there are any risks. Let’s find out together what is VPN, what is VPN used for and how it works.
What is a VPN in simple words?
A VPN stands for “virtual private network”. Literally, it means exactly what you immediately think of when you see this wording. In fact, this is your personal network in virtual space.
The simplest way to understand the term is to imagine VPN as a tunnel that connects your device and the internet, which you go to when you open a search engine, log in to social networks or make an online purchase. But it’s not just a tunnel. It is secure enough to hide your traffic from snooping, tampering, and censorship.
It means that VPN service is a protector of your internet traffic, which is responsible for your confidential personal data when working online. By using it, you redirect internet traffic through an encrypted tunnel that no one can see into, not even your ISP. Its purpose and functionality resemble a proxy server, although they still have some differences. Read more in our article “What is a proxy?“.
What does a VPN do? Pros & cons
What does VPN do for you? The VPN service performs the following functions:
- It changes your location.
A VPN changes your IP address, a unique number that can easily identify you (your device or internet connection) and your current location (inaccurate, of course, but anyway). Instead, it assigns a new IP address that you can use as if you were in a completely different place: in another area, city or abroad.
- It protects your data privacy.
Strong encryption blocks access to your traffic from the ISP, mobile operator or somebody else. By changing an IP address, you will be protected from websites, apps and services that want to track your activities.
- It increases security.
Using a VPN is especially important if you’re connecting to an untrusted network, such as a free public Wi-Fi network. VPN protects your device from being hacked.
- It gives you access to websites you can’t access.
Some countries and certain providers have restrictions on access to certain social networks and websites. Using a VPN, you can freely open any web pages, as you will be able to bypass firewall blocking and geo-blocking.
In addition, it means some more benefits:
- Beating price discrimination.
Some companies set different pricing policies for consumers from different countries. For this reason, in one region one price may be shown, while in another the same offer will be priced more or less. Using a VPN, you can compare prices and choose the most fair offer for you.
- Free streaming from anywhere.
This problem may be especially familiar to those who constantly travel. Leaving the home country, the user may meet problems accessing the streaming account. To fix the error, just connect to the VPN by selecting your country from the list.
- Access to the corporate page from different countries.
If the administration of an account in social networks or a website is carried out by specialists from different countries, at some moment access to the profile will be blocked (due to mass authorizations from different locations). In this case, the team can connect to one corporate VPN and avoid such problems.
Are there dangers using a VPN and what are the disadvantages of it in general? The weaknesses of VPN are here:
- It may slow down your internet speed.
As web traffic goes through more steps, the internet speed may be slower. However, it often depends on the location option you’ve chosen and its ping. Moreover, developers of VPN services get it as the most common complaint and work on the improvement of a product.
- There are VPN blocks of some websites.
Some websites, apps and services identify popular VPN IP addresses and block access to content for users. However, it is usually enough to change the location to solve the problem. In addition, VPNs can turn on new IP addresses and trick them again.
- VPN provider provides the protection of your privacy from everyone except itself.
It means that the VPN itself can monitor your internet activity. This is the reason why users should buy services only from trustworthy providers.
What is a VPN on an iPhone or an Android device?
A VPN service is the same for all devices. It encrypts the traffic between your iOS/Android devices and the internet. To run it, the application must be activated and the settings must be correct. Simply installing a VPN on a smartphone or tablet will do nothing.
How to choose a VPN?
A VPN can be either an application for a computer and/or mobile device or a browser extension. Choose what is more convenient for you. In addition, we recommend paying attention to such parameters as:
- data limits;
- the quantity of connected devices allowed;
- the quantity of location options;
- the price of subscription (although it may be free at all).
How to setup a VPN?
Setting a VPN often means the app-based approach when user needs to follow such an instruction:
- Choose the VPN service and go to its official website.
- Sign up and create an account.
- Download the application or specific software on your every device.
- Log in to the account you created when signing up.
On this stage you might be asked for a security key or two-step authentication code. Well-done, now everything is ready for using a VPN.
How to use a VPN?
After you’ve logged in and opened the app you can connect to a VPN server.
Experiment with different location options and go through the different features available to familiarize yourself. You can look for a more detailed tutorial on the official website of a VPN server.